In the middle of Luce Bay, around 5 miles from the Mull of Galloway lies the Scar Rocks. The islands are home to a colony of Gannets- the last count in 2014 indicated 2,376 pairs nest here. As part of the RSPB Mull of Galloway reserve, RSPB staff aim to visit the Scars each year to monitor the health of the colony. Poor weather in 2015 halted each attempt to reach the islands however with a period of settled weather, the trip recently went ahead.
The Big Scar is less than 1 ha and only 25m at the tallest point (photo Laura Shearer)
Gannets on the Big Scar with the Mull of Galloway in the distance (photo Laura Shearer)
The Gannet colony on the Big Scar is densely packed! (photo Laura Shearer)
RSPB staff joined 2 other members of the North Solway Ringing Group on an expedition to ring the chicks. All 4 were licenced by the British Trust for Ornithology to undertake this work. Each ring contains a unique number which is assigned to an individual bird. They are lightweight, similar to a person wearing a ring or a watch, and help to provide information on the movements and life span of birds.
The expedition was restricted to 2 hours in order to minimise the disturbance to the colony. A briefing before leaving shore suggested the team would aim to ring around 100 birds during this time- an ambitious target but the team was eager to rise to the challenge! Upon landing, the team split into pairs and began making their way through the colony ringing the chicks sitting in their nests.
RSPB Area Reserves Manager D&G, Andrew Beilinski, ringing a Gannet chick in its nest (photo Laura Shearer)
Gannet chick proudly showing off its new BTO ring (photo Laura Shearer)
Gannets have been ringed on the Scar rocks for many years and one individual from this colony was recorded as far as Senegal in West Africa! Several adult birds were seen on the Big Scar with rings around their legs- a positive sign of survival rate. One individual remained on its nest and was caught in order to read the ring number. It was later discovered that this bird was ringed as a chick on the Big Scar in 2005- this bird was 11 years old! This also proves site loyalty- these birds are returning to the same nesting site each year. It is therefore critical that the RSPB continue to look after our seabird colonies for many years. Learn more about our work here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/scotland/archive/2016/07/22/a-sea-of-birds.aspx
This adult gannet was found to be 11 years old (photo Andrew Beilinski)
The team managed to ring a whopping 145 Gannets, 7 Guillemots and 5 Shags. What a fantastic team effort and we look forward to gaining further insight into the Gannets of the Scar Rocks!
Gannet family photo (Laura Shearer)
Gannets are magnificent seabirds with fantastic eyesight for catching prey (photo Laura Shearer)
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