The results are in, the seabird breeding data has been collated and it appears we are having a mixed season at the Mull of Galloway.

The number of breeding Guillemots and Razorbills are down compared to last year. This is most likely due to mixed weather conditions at the start of the nesting season when the birds were settling onto the cliff ledges to lay. It’s not all bad news though as the productivity (ie. The number of chicks fledging per pair) is much higher this year. So although fewer birds have nested, more chicks will take the leap of faith, jumping off the cliffs and heading out to sea. As with the auks, the number of Shags nesting is lower however they have successfully fledged more chicks than last year.

1, 2, 3, 4...... (photo Laura Shearer)

Guillemot bringing in some food for it's chick (photo Laura Shearer)

The Kittiwakes are having a tough time this season at the Mull of Galloway. The number of nesting pairs is significantly lower and although able to lay up to 3 eggs, few birds are feeding more than one chick. Nationally Kittiwakes are in decline due to changes in their maritime environment including a reduction of sand eels (food), pollution and changes in commercial fishing practices. Research is urgently required to establish the causes of these declines so measures can be set out to reverse them.

The Kittiwakes at the Mull of Galloway are currently feeding a single chick (photo Laura Shearer)

The large gulls- Herring and Lesser Black-backed- have had poor nesting seasons at the Mull of Galloway over the last few years. No chicks fledged in 2015 and no chicks will fledge this year as they have been lost to poor weather.

Herring gulls have had another unsuccessful nesting season at the Mull of Galloway (photo Laura Shearer)

At the top of the food chain, seabirds can act as indicators of the health of the marine ecosystem. It is vital that we understand the causes of seabird population declines so we can develop procedures to conserve these species. The RSPB has been tracking seabird movements and has amassed some of the largest datasets of this kind in the world. We wouldn’t be able to conduct this research without the support from our members so we would like to thank you for your generous donations. To learn more about our seabird tracking research please see:  http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/science/research/details.aspx?id=365020

Anonymous
  • Thanks Laura - all good stuff to get future involvements off the ground.

  • Hey Dennis,

    The RSPB have various outreach programmes and we encourage the local schools to visit the reserve in order to engage with the seabirds. So far this year we have engaged with 160 school pupils on the reserve alone with more school visits planned for later in the year.

    There is also links on our website for teachers with learning outcomes and resources available to download: www.rspb.org.uk/.../teachers

    Laura

  • Yes, after my first spot of residential volunteering at Mull of Galloway (visitor engagement) my desires are well set on learning more. I like the blog and am getting better informed; the link to the science and research was really useful. Question is - how can we, or do we already, disseminate this to local primary schools in approachable ways to help spark their curiosity?