Friday, 17 August 2012

A dark and stormy night.....

Well it was dark, but not stormy in the conventional sense! Last night, at around 11:30pm, in pitch black, we headed down to the coast for a night of Storm Petrel ringing.... I can't tell you how excited I was! The nets were set up before it was dark and our makeshift ringing station (generator room) organised. So the nets were unfurled and the tape turned on to attract any passing birds. Within seconds we had four birds in the net. And this was a sign of things to come. In just under four hours we rang 120 Storm Petrels! It was quite incredible.
What is more incredible is the life of these little birds. Not much bigger than a sparrow, these birds are pelagic, spending over half their lives at sea of the coast of South Africa, a life by the way which can be 40-50 years long! They only come onto land to breed and this is a precarious business for a Storm Petrel as they are less than useless on hard ground, hence why they only leave their nest sights at night; burrows or deep crevices in rocks out of the reach of predators such as skuas. As can be seen in particular in the bottom photo, Storm Petrels have beaks very similar to those of the Fulmar, allowing them to be able to extract the salt from sea water.

European Storm Petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus

European Storm Petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus

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