We are back on Ramsey for the new season after a short winter break. The island is very wet but everything is in good order. I was going through some paperwork on my return and found a blog which our 2016 and 2017 intern Sarah had written about last year's Manx shearwater season.....and I had clearly forgotten to publish!!

Given that our birds will be winging their way up the east coast of the USA as I type and the earliest breeders may even have started the Atlantic crossing I thought it was as good a time as any to make amends for my tardiness and post Sarah's blog now! So here follows a brief summary of how our nest box Manx shearwaters fared in 2017 (written by Sarah Parmor)

100% success for shearwater nest box chicks! - Sarah Parmor

The Manx shearwater season on Ramsey is over for another year. The first adults started leaving over a month ago and the last chicks have now gone and are well on their way to South America. Some will already be there!

It has been a tough start for the youngsters this year, 10 days of storms and gale force winds during the peak fledging time has meant many have been blown in shore as they looked for shelter. We can only hope that they have enough fat reserves to carry on their maiden journey now.

So how did the nest box chicks do this year?

Since my previous blog post, the five nest box chicks continued to do really well. Steadily gaining weight each week (some more than others) and each of them developing a character. One of them was always very feisty during handling (good to see fighting spirit), another was extremely placid and quite enjoyed a little ‘head rub’ before going back in the box! Number 17 was the ‘nosiest’ of them all and would spend the whole time looking around at the big wide world.

If I had to have a favourite though, it would be box 38 (aka Chubster). Chubster started off as the heaviest chick and continued to put on weight quickly the entire time. This did tail off towards the end of the weighing period which is entirely normal as the adults reduce their feeding rate. The feeding eventually stops altogether when the adults’ own deteriorating condition means they need to return to South American seas and recover from a long tough breeding season. After a week to ten days of no longer being fed the chicks steadily lose weight and hunger drives them to leave the burrow and start their long migration south.

Me with 'Chubster'!

The good news is that all our nest box chicks fledged which is an amazing success rate given that their parents are all likely young, inexperienced breeders. For a few nights before they take that leap of faith and leave the island all Manx shearwater chicks will venture outside their burrows to exercise their wings. Greg, Lisa and I had many a late night during this time as we went out to ring as many of them as possible. It is always exciting and important to know when one of these fledglings returns to the island to prospect and breed themselves.

 Let’s hope that one day we will find a nest box bird back on Ramsey and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the mighty Chubster was one of them.

Graph showing chick growth rates from birth to fledging

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