It was a stormy netting night. This means we were after storm petrels, probably the most mysterious seabird found in the UK. These are tiny seabirds, only about the size of a house martin and they spend the day far out at sea out of sight of land and their biggest danger, gulls. Under the cover of darkness they come closer to land and that is when we can catch them. By playing a tape of their calls we can attract them into mist nets to ring and release them.
So midnight found us lying on a tarp under a mist net listening to the island sounds of the night while desperately trying to keep eyes open and brain awake. Suddenly a silent shadow appeared in the net and our first stormy was caught. Once up in the ringing hut and in the light of a head torch we could see the dark chocolate black colour, a clear white rump, an eye like a black bead, a shiny black beak and the smallest webbed feet you can imagine.
Six birds were caught over a 3 hour period, 5 were ringed but the sixth was most interesting. This bird already had a ring and this small marker showed the benefit of all this night netting. By looking back in the records we found that this bird was known to us. It had first been ringed in August 2010 on the island. It was then caught again on the island in August 2011, 4 times in 5 days and one of those times by myself!. In 2012 it was back and caught 4 times in 6 days and here it was again in 2013. There are no records of storm petrels breeding on the Forth islands that have been confirmed but in 1904 a bird was found in a cleft on the Bass Rock and a pair flushed from a crack on the Isle of May in 1922. So more investigation is needed to see if this bird is part of a vanguard of birds starting to breed on the island but regardless it was great to meet up again with this tiny bird 2 years later that in the meantime has clocked up thousands of miles across the oceans including twice to the coast of Namibia in the winter.