Monday 7th August comments: After a dip in the population last year, the Shag population is back up with 474 breeding pairs this season. This is the highest count since 2012 when 648 pairs bred on the island, during that following winter there was a sudden crash in the population, with lots of Shags being washed up dead along the coast. The following breeding season only saw 322 pairs breeding, reflecting this crash over the stormy winter. Since then the population has slowly started to increase.
The researchers on the island from CEH (Centre of Ecology and Hydrology) make a concerted effort to ring all the young, putting a BTO metal ring on one leg and a colour ring with a three digit code on the other. This all helps to track the Shags’ winter movements and survival rates to adulthood. If you do happen to see any Shags whilst out and about please look at their legs for any rings and then send your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shags feed on the benthic layer of the sea and are prone to winter storms, as the bottom layer is churned up they find it very difficult to find food and that’s when large numbers of birds wash ashore. We hope that the monitoring work carried out on the Isle of May will help elucidate the mysteries of their movements and help us gain an insight into what happens to our breeding birds when they leave the island. This can help us look at ways of conserving them and building conservation plans for the future.