Sunday, 15 May 2011
Seabird research on the Isle of May - kittiwakes
Bethany Hawkins, Kittiwake researcher with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) writes about why she is spending the summer on the island:
"I’m back out on the Isle of May this summer for the second field season of my PhD. For my PhD I’m researching how climate change is affecting the body condition of breeding kittiwakes as a result of reduced availability of their prey, the lesser sandeel. Warmer seas mean less sandeels, which mean hungry kittiwakes and hungry kittiwake chicks. Birds in poor body condition are less likely to breed successfully due to the high energy demands that raising chicks puts on their parents. This means that I can relate climate change to the condition of breeding kittiwakes and to their overall success or failure. So what am I doing day to day at the moment? Well, the kittiwakes, like all the seabirds this year on May are breeding earlier than they have for years. So many have already laid their eggs and some have clutches as large as 3. Each day I’m checking nests at various sites all around the island to see who’s laid and how many eggs they have. I’ll continue this monitoring throughout the season so I can get an idea of when birds fail or how many chicks they manage to hatch and fledge. I’m also catching adults to take measurements like head and bill length, wing length and mass, which give a good indication of body condition. But for now, back to my egg-spotting... "