It is the time of year of chicks growing fast so a lot of hard work is being put in by the CEH researchers to ring as many chicks as possible. Yesterday was the turn of the guillemot chicks and I was lucky enough to go along. The CEH researchers try to ring nearly 300 chicks each year and each chick gets a metal ringing with individual number put on one leg (see in first picture below) and a darvic ring with an individual letter /number / colour code on the other leg (see next photo down). The darvic ring is especially important as it enables the birds to be identified when they start to return to the colony once they are 2 to 3 years old. It is only through hours and hours of observations each year using telescopes on cliff tops that the timescale of a guillemots progress to start breeding and also breeding success can be plotted. Knowing the details of a guillemots life is important but even more important is knowing if that the usual life history is changing and why.
The chicks are brought off there ledges in a very systematic way that means they are always put back onto the same ledges. They are then processed quickly and put back for the parents to come back and claim them. This years chicks have obviously been feeding very well as they all seemed huge. They are rather pear-shaped and in fact they seem to be just a hairy fish-filled belly with a head on top. This is very encouraging as it means that there are good fish available for the parents to bring back and this hasn’t always been the case. In past recent years many guillemot chicks have starved before even reaching the age to leave the island so it is good to see well-fed chicks this year.