Seabirds – the Gwylan Islands

After yesterday’s events (dipping the bird of the century is not very easy to bear), I am feeling a little annoyed. I will write a post on the Cretzchmar’s Bunting in the next few days, but for now here is a load of images from some recent seabird-focussed work that we have been doing.

A few days ago I visited the nearby Gwylan Islands with Steve Stansfield and Steffan Walton. The two small islands are just off Aberdaron beach, and are home to a broad variety of seabirds, and some great numbers too. We were there to carry out the annual survey of breeding bird numbers, as well as to ring as many chicks as we could.

It was a great day out, although tough at times, and we managed to get some good counts. There are well over 700 pairs of Puffins breeding on the islands, along with some 30 Shags, 12 Cormorants, 70 Greater Black-backed Gulls, Razorbills, Guillemots and Herring Gulls. After getting counts of chicks and nests for some of the species, we set about ringing many of the hatched chicks. We managed to ring approximately 30 Shag chicks, 30 Greater Black-backed Gull chicks, 20 Herring Gull chicks, a Puffin and two Razorbills. A good day’s work all in all!

Although they may look very innocent, Shag chicks are very aggressive birds and can do some damage to arms, hands and fingers during the ringing process. A next of three can be lethal! This image was taken with a fisheye lens looking over towards the end of the Lleyn
With over 700 pairs of Puffins, the two small islands have a lot more than are currently present on Bardsey. This allows for some great photo opportunities, as many of the pairs have chicks and are thus regularly bringing in beak fulls of sand eels. We managed to ring one adult, but will have to make a separate trip to do any larger numbers
In contrast to Bardsey’s breeding population of over 1500, the Gwylans have just a few tens of these smart birds. These images were taken on Bardsey’s north-east corner, with a particularly tame population that allow a very close approach

Guillemots are also rather scarce on the Gwylans, due to an absence of large cliff faces with appropriate ledges. We have a good number on Bardsey at the moment, but many have to be viewed from a boat due to the steepness of the ground above
Lesser Black-backed Gulls are not quite as scary as Greaters’ when the attack, but they can still give you a bit of a fright if you don’t expect them coming!!

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