Thursday, 2 June 2011

Nest-Count Day

Wednesday morning began with a drive to Whiterock, near Killinchy in County Down, where I parked the two-seater and met Hugh, Craig and the others.

We boarded the National Trust's Strangford Lough cruiser Carbo, with its 100 horse-power outboard, and made off towards Round Island, our first destination.

The day was spent nest-counting on Round Island, Bird Island, Drummond Island, Great Minnis's Island and Little Minnis's Island.

The National Trust has special permission to monitor bird numbers on the Lough, even on private islands. As far as I am aware, the general public is not allowed on the islands during the breeding season.

Bird numbers must be monitored on behalf of government agencies. Nest counts do, indeed, disturb breeding birds for a very short period; though, of course, the Trust does it sensitively and with the least disturbance possible.

Most of the nests on these islands belonged to Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Eider Ducks, some Oystercatchers and Common Gulls.

Bird Island, near Kircubbin, has a large colony of cormorants and I acted as a scarecrow in order to deter the gulls from swooping down and taking cormorant chicks, while the others counted the nests.

When we left the island in our boat, one juvenile paddled out and followed us. It was struggling, so we motored along and grabbed it; swathed it in a towel; and took it back to Bird Island, where there are 437 cormorant nests in 2011.

That's me, squatting on the bow above. Our boat, Carbo, is named after Phalacrocorax carbo, the cormorant species.

It was a wonderful day.

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