At least 285 bird species have been recorded on the Island, many of them rarities which mostly turn up during the migration periods of Spring and Autumn. There are several Heligoland Traps and and ringers use mist nets to capture, record and ring birds. In June though very few vagrants are expected. During our week a Grasshopper Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Spotted Flycatcher were ringed but that was about it as I recall. I spotted a solitary Curlew, there were resident Barn Swallows, a few Sandwich Terns and Cormorants were nesting, otherwise the only birds were those in considerable numbers that I write about and post here.
Kittiwakes nest on tiny ledges clinging to sheer cliff faces which looks extremely precarious. particularly for the chicks, but there always appears to be a parent bird present to protect them from falling.
They make a fine sight as they tumble aerobatically up and down the vertical cliff faces, using the updrafts to act as an elevator.
Unlike gull chicks, which wander about at a very young age, Kittiwake chicks instinctively remain still to avoid falling. It is apparently instinctive, but one look at the sheer drop below would make me sit still too, perhaps they are just too terrified to move.
Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are very numerous. They nest on the grassy hillsides amongst the Puffin burrows. Puffins are left alone except when they return from a fishing expedition, when they are at great risk of being robbed. Gulls will not follow a Puffin down a burrow, which is narrow and over a metre in length. In there they would be at a severe disadvantage, susceptible to being bitten by a big, brightly coloured bill.
Here's a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls engaged in a tug-of-war, no idea why but they seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps a trial of strength.
Greater Black-backed Gulls are at the top of the food chain on the Island, the apex predator. Elena was quite upset by the sight of a G B B Gull brandishing a herring gull chick at the raucous mob of gulls around it, before swallowing the chick whole. It is the largest Gull in the World. The only predators that routinely take them are large Eagles and Killer Whales, none of which are present here. In spite of their physical superiority there are far fewer of them on the Island than the other gull species.
The Fulmar Petrel is not related to the gulls even though it resembles them in appearance. It is in a group with other tubenoses, the Petrels and Shearwaters which are all allied to Albatrosses.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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