Today (29th June 2011), I have been training to ring birds for exactly 6 months. What a way to mark this mini milestone by joining Kieran Foster to ring Storm-petrel and Manx Shearwater off Anglesey!
Kane, Chris, Kieran and I arrived at 21.45 and set up 2 nets. One for Stormies and one for Manxies. The latter being slightly higher up and slightly in land. We waited until it was fully dark before checking the nets, which didnt come until almost 11.45pm! A couple of net rounds later and Kieran returned presenting Kane with the first bird of the night, European Storm-petrel!
This was a stunning bird, so delicate and placid. What made the bird even better was when it started shaking and making an enchanting purring noise along with the occasional chirrup. Storm-petrel hold somewhat of a party piece in that they smell naturally of perfume! Such a lovely smell that is still lingering on my clothes! It was a while later until we caught our 2nd stormie at c01.15 which was handed to Chris to ring. This bird was even better as it was 'singing' in the net when we went to extract it!
As we were extracting the Storm-petrel from the net, Manx Shearwater were going mental offshore and even onshore calling frantically and whizzing right over our heads, We opened the 2nd net and it was literally a matter of moments before we could see a dark blog land in the net against the milky darkness of the summer sky. We ran over to extract the bird, shortly followed by 2 more.
For me, this was even better than the Stormies (perhaps because I didn't get to ring a Stormie?) I can honestly say this was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had whilst bird watching. To be sat on a cliff in the North West of Britain and to be able to hear Manx Shearwaters calling all around you and then get to hold and ring some what just incredible!
Looking at photos however, their 'faces' give them an almost placid look, however I can honestly say that these are more of a handful than almost anything else I've had the pleasure of ringing! They kick and bite like a Coot or Razorbill. Incredible!
We caught 7 Manxies in the end and Kieran was planning on ringing this until he suddenly caught sight of a ring. It was a controlled bird, and one we are certainly eager to find out where it was ringed. The first Manxie control that Kieran has had to date.
As many of you will be aware, I have set myself a challenge to see all the Tubenose species in the world. I have said that I would try to photograph every species in order to 'prove' the ID of the birds we see. It was really difficult to photograph the birds in the darkness of last night, without causing too much stress from flash, so I only managed plumage shots of Storm-petrel.
The photos above and below however show a couple of distinguishing features of European Storm-petrel.
Above - The rounded square tail and small round rump
Below - Dark vent, Round tail, white side to rump and most important, the white bar on the underwing which pretty much distinguishes European Storm from any other species.
A truly incredible night and my best ringing and probably birding experience to date. A massive thanks to Kieran for the invite and the knowledge provided on the night and to Kane for doing all the driving! Incredible!