Each year a Guillemot field worker arrives on Skomer in April to continue the project. These elusive creatures spend most of their time at the Amos in the company of around 2,500 Guillemots. The season begins with re-sighting of individually colour ringed Guillemots to enable estimates of annual survival. Then as breeding pairs start to form, a sample of around 100 breeding sites are mapped and their progress monitored throughout the season. This includes recording the timing of egg laying, chick hatching, fledging and breeding success.
|A Guillemot with Sand Eel|
A Guillemot field worker in her natural habitat
Once the chicks have hatched their diet is recorded over a 13 day period by identifying fish in the adults’ bill before it is fed to a chick. The grand finale of the season occurs in late June and involves the arrival of Tim, his ringing team and lots of climbing gear. This means it’s time to abseil onto the Amos where we colour ring around 300 Guillemot chicks and collect fish samples.
The Guillemot colony at the Amos
This year was a slow start with fog, wind and rain but gradually the Guillemots arrived and faithfully returned to their respective breeding ledges. The first egg of the season was seen on 1st May. When drawing comparisons we use the median lay date as this is a more accurate representation of what’s going on. This year the median lay date was 11th May which is 6 days later than in 2017. Often the first egg is an outlier and tends to be lost, however, this year it survived to yield the first chick which was seen on 31st May. The median hatch date was 13th June which is 7 days later than in 2017. In comparison to last year, chicks were fed more sprat and but fewer sandeels and Gadids (cod). This is a promising finding as sprats are a much higher quality prey.
|The ringing team|
|A Guillemot chick|
Unfortunately in 2014, the funding for this project was cut and it has since relied upon donations. To find out more and help secure the future of this invaluable study please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Guillemotsskomer
By Hannah Meinertzhagen – Guillemot field worker