I haven’t really written much about Manx Shearwaters here, which is a bit odd because I live on an island with an estimated 600,000 of them!

Manx Shearwaters love it on Skokholm and Skomer, between them the two islands hold a third of the world’s population of these seasbirds.  But day visitors to the island will rarely see one of these birds alive.  this is because they are so well adapted to life at sea that when they return to land to breed they are a bit out of their element.  Legs placed at the rear of their bodies for efficient swimming can barely hold them upright so they waddle/stumble/fall over as they make their way along the paths.  They are also quite podgy birds, they bulk up on long fishing trips before fasting for a while so can be nice plump birds.  This all makes them very convenient food for the Great Black Backed Gulls out here so the manxies only come in under the cover of darkness.

In the evenings you can see the birds amassing on the water, forming huge rafts of birds simply waiting until it is dark enough and safe enough to return to their burrows to feed their lone chick.  The parents take it in turns and can spend up to a week out at sea collecting fish for their hungry offspring, feeding them so well that they become too fat to ever fly!  They then abandon the youngster whilst it turns all that fat into muscle and finishes replacing its thick fluffy down with its adult plumage.  After about ten days of solitude the fledgling exits the burrow, climbs to a nearby summit and flutters off into the night.

After this the birds will migrate a short way, just to South America, and spend our winter feeding of the East coast.  Until next season when the adults will return and attempt to raise their next brood of one!

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  1. Another Season | YatesPhotographic

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