Monday, 8 August 2016

Scar Rocks

I've had an incredibly busy few months as the seabird breeding season was in full swing. As well as working on a seabird colony at the Mull of Galloway, I have spent my days off on other colonies, mainly assisting with various ringing projects.

Over my next few blogs I will revisit some of the amazing opportunities I have had this year. I will begin with my favourite trip of the year... a visit to the Scar Rocks- islands several miles East of the reserve I work on at the Mull of Galloway.

The Big Scar is home to a small colony of Gannets. The last count in 2014 indicated that 2,376 pairs nest here and at less than a hectare in size, the island is at maximum carrying capacity. Each year staff from the RSPB aim to visit the Scars to ring the chicks and monitor the health of the colony. Unfortunately the weather put a stop to all plans in 2015 however this year we were very fortunate to be able to make the journey.

The Big Scar (photo Laura Shearer)
The Big Scar is home to 2,376 pairs of nesting Gannets, Mull of Galloway in distance (photo Laura Shearer)
Alongside 3 other licenced BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringers, we placed metal rings on the legs of the chicks, each bearing a unique number. The rings are lightweight- similar to humans wearing a piece of jewelry- and do not cause any harm to the birds. These rings however can provide scientists with valuable information on the movements and life span of birds.

Gannet chick adoring a new BTO metal ring (photo Laura Shearer)
Working our way through the colony we ringed chicks as they sat in their nests. Gannets have been ringed here for many years and it was encouraging to see several ringed adults. One of the adult birds remained by its nest and was caught to read the ring number. It was later discovered that this bird had been ringed on the big Scar in 2005 as a chick- this bird was 11 years old! This shows site loyalty- these birds are returning to the same nesting sites each year. With a whopping 145 gannets, 5 shag chicks and 7 Guillemot chicks ringed; we look forward to gaining further insight into the gannets of the Scar Rocks! 

This adult bird ringed here as a chick 11 years ago (photo Andrew Beilinski)
Gannets are incredibly striking birds! (photo Laura Shearer)
Gannets have incredible eyesight (photo Laura Shearer)
Little and Large: Gannet and Guillemot chick (photo Laura Shearer)