Friday, 16 August 2013

Cormorant crash

A strong and healthy Cormorant chick


Ringing team in action

Friday 16th August: As the breeding season starts drawing to a close, we’ve started crunching numbers, chewing data and discovering exactly what the season has brought for our breeding seabirds. Over the next few weeks we'll bring you a review of the main breeding species and tonight we'll start with the Cormorants.

Cormorants have nested on the Farne Islands for centuries although unlike their smaller cousins; the Shags, Cormorants are very wary birds and nest well away from people. The Farnes support three small colonies as birds next on  the East Wideopens, North Wamses and Big Harcar. As with all the breeding seabirds this year, the season started late as low temperatures and heavy seas resulted in the first nesting attempts in mid-April.

To make matters worse, this year saw the lowest breeding total on the islands since records began with only 87 pairs nesting (a drop of 48 pairs from last year). This decline continues the recent trend with over 280 pairs nesting as recent as the mid-1990's. The reasons behind the decline are not clear, although poor breeding success and persecution are suspected.

Despite the small numbers nesting, breeding success was relatively good and for the first time in over thirty years, the team gained access and ringed a small number. Hopefully this research will allow us to start to piece together what exactly is happening to our population. Overall the final term report would read 'a reasonable season but could do better'.  

1 comment:

Project Member (DWT) said...

In the late 1960s/early 1970s there used to be a big cormorant colony on the Megstone - what's happened to that now?
ps. I remember seeing a family group of killer whales from Inner Farne in that period too. They were close inshore and had a big bull among them. Have there been any more recent sightings?