Thursday 30th June comments: Our small, kind-faced gull, the Kittiwake, builds small bowl nests on the side of cliffs, in which they lay between one and three eggs, incubating these for 30 days before the chick hatches. At the moment on the island most of the eggs have now hatched and the adults are busy feeding their young.
The Isle of May Kittiwakes have seen a 15% decrease on last year’s count with a total of 2,912 pairs nesting this year. This decrease has been reflected on the other Forth Islands as well. And what could cause this decrease? Well, it all depends on what occurs over winter when they are out in the North Atlantic and North Sea; winter survival depends on weather and food supply. Kittiwakes are highly oceanic and can travel far and wide, with one bird reaching Greenland within six weeks of it leaving the nest!
It is worth noting that many colonies in the north of Britain have suffered huge population declines in the past few decades and they have all but disappeared from some parts of Shetland. This is a much wider issue and the main field of thought is that there is simply not enough food in local waters to sustain their populations. This could be down to factors including changes in the marine environment, over-fishing and pollution.
It will be interesting to monitor the progress of the Kittiwakes on the May to see if they follow the same pattern. Hopefully they will have a good year for productivity and the young will return to the islands to breed in future years.