At the beginning of the breeding season, guillemots and other auks spend a few days at their breeding ground competing for territory and mates, before heading out to sea again to forage for food. This coming-and-going occurs several times until they lay, so the first few weeks of fieldwork are always a bit of a rollercoaster between spending time with the birds and laptop-based preparations for the season ahead.
When the guillemots are on the cliffs, the Amos is covered in birds jostling, preening, copulating, fighting and squawking noisily. We have had glorious sunshine for two weeks and it has been such a pleasure to be outside watching the guillemots, as well as watching raven chicks and nest-building choughs. One day I even took off my thermal base layer it was so warm!
When the guillemots head out to sea again I have a few days to catch up on laptop-based tasks – seeing which birds survived the winter, whether they appear to be in the same breeding spot as last year, using the database to find birds which will be useful for my research questions, and other such jobs. The island is strangely quiet, and I have time to cook dinners, go for a run and do some laundry. And just when I’m settling into this routine, the guillemots suddenly appear back on the Amos and I go to see what they’re up to all over again.
We’re keeping out eyes peeled for the first beautiful blue egg. The timing of laying tends to vary with environmental factors, such as air or sea temperatures. Researchers at Bempton Cliffs have seen several guillemot eggs already, so the first Skomer egg should be soon…
Rising early, for the guillemots and the stunning sunrises
Julie has joined me! Our fantastic new post-doc will be monitoring guillemot productivity and recruitment. (This is us shopping for food in Haverfordwest. Skomer has much less concrete!)
Sunrise on the Amos, the view from my hide
Bird of the day: a stonechat. The call of these cute orange-chested birds sounds like two stones being hit together, but mainly I like this one because apparently their Spanish name means ‘poo sticks’, because they are always found at the top of hedges as if they had pooed out the sticks below them. You’re welcome!