Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Shearwater Week on Skomer!

This week is Skomer Island’s Shearwater Week - celebrating everything to do with the amazing Manx shearwaters!

As many of you may know, despite Skomer being home to the largest population of Manx shearwaters in the universe, you probably won’t see them on a day trip.  However, our overnight guests this week have been able to see the adults, the (not very graceful, yet) fledglings and have even been lucky enough to see some of the burrow inhabiting bundles of fluff!  Throughout their stay, our shearwater week guests have the opportunity to come and see some of the shearwater research taking place on Skomer, learn all about these amazing birds and their behaviour from talks given by the Oxford University researchers and explore the island that these birds call home.

Ollie Padget giving an evening talk before going out to look for shearwaters

Manx shearwater chicks start as big balls of fluff!

Throughout most of this year’s season the island has been home to researchers from the Oxford Navigation Group (OxNav) who have been investigating different aspects of the Manx shearwaters navigation and breeding behaviour. 

Part of the OxNav research on Skomer involves monitoring the weight changes in growing Manx shearwater chicks which, earlier in the season, were fed supplementary food as part of an experiment looking at how this might affect the behaviour of chicks and their parents. Chicks are being weighed daily to keep track of their progress until they fledge – and this week our guests have been able to come and help out.

Every other day our shearwater week guests have been able to come down to North Haven to see the chick weighing – even getting to help out with taking measurements, scribing and sticking their hand down a burrow to get a bird!

Sticking my arm underground to try and find...

...a shearwater chick!

Chick weighing out in the colony – this chick was starting to lose his fluff for adult feathers

Ollie Padget the PhD researcher – explaining the difference in wing colouration between an adult and a fledgling.

As well as getting to see the Manx shearwater chicks, our guests have also been lucky enough to see some flying and rafting adults out to sea through our office scope – which come nightfall were all over the paths and looking a lot less graceful scuttling around and flying into our legs!

An adult Manx shearwater having a rest on land

There are definitely more fledgling chicks starting to wander out of their burrows at night to practice using their wings now.  Soon they’ll all be flying 10,000km all the way down to the Patagonian coast in Argentina!

Alex Dodds - Long Term Volunteer

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