Guillemot

I’ve been saying for quite a while that I would write about my job this year so I thought I would actually get round to it!  This year I am the Field Assistant on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.  This means that I am responsible for quite a bit of seabird monitoring on this amazing seabird colony- mostly Great Blacked Gulls, Guillemot, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmar.  And as the Guillies take up the majority of my time I thought I’d start with them and follow up with posts about the others over the next couple of weeks.

guilly swimming

A bridled Guillemot – a plumage variation of a white line behind the eye which occurs roughly once in every 40 birds in this area.

Guillemot are Auks, a type of seabird that is quite stocky and specialises in diving underwater and catching small fish as they go.  To do this they have short stubby wings which are very good for swimming whilst still just about letting them fly- although when they do it does look like quite an effort!  This lifestyle means they can spend most of the time at sea, and only come to land to breed (because eggs don’t do very well in the sea…).  This is where I come in!

guilly ledgeGuillemot breed at very high densities on sea cliffs where they are free from land predators and their sharp beaks (and those of their neighbours) help to deter flying predators such as gulls.  I have five study plots scattered around Skomer which contain some breeding pairs and I spend many, many hours watching them to determine which ones have eggs, which ones have chicks and which ones have nothing!  From this I can work out how successful the breeding attempts are and how many new guillemots are fledged each year.  Unfortunately, the birds are very close together (each territory being as small as 15cm of ledge!) and look identical so it is a bit tricky to tell them apart at times…  But hopefully at the end of the year my numbers will make sense and I will be able to report back that the Guillemots have had a good year.

 

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  1. Another Season | YatesPhotographic

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