UK - the Farne Islands, guillemots

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3 years 8 months ago #86680 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: UK - the Farne Islands, guillemots
Almost as numerous as the puffins in the Farne Islands are the 20-25,000 breeding pairs of Common Murre a.k.a. Guillemot. Guillemots nest on the flat rocky areas adjacent to the clifftops. I use the word 'nest' loosely as they simply lay an egg on the ground and squat over the egg. The eggs are a 'pyramid' shape to prevent the eggs rolling far if knocked or pushed. Whether you are on a boat looking at the rocks, on the island looking out over the rocks or even scanning the sea you will see thousands of guillemots.

To give an indication of the size of a guillemot, here is one next to a puffin, which from my previous post you will recall is not much bigger than a Feral Pigeon.

A bird with which it can be confused, especially at a distance is the Razorbill.

The Guillemot of the Farne Islands are of the sub-species albionus which is a paler and distinctly more brownish colour relative to its more northern cousins. Guillemot also have variable streaking on the flanks, from completely unstreaked to heavily streaked, with the streaking either feint or dark. Each of the three birds in this image shows a different degree of streaking.

Some 2-3% of British guillemots are of the 'bridled' form, with a white line backwards from the eye and a white eye ring, making the bird look goggled front on.

Of all the thousands of individuals I saw, one in particular stood out - a bird still in winter plumage, most likely a 1st winter bird.

Guillemots look even more ungainly that puffins in flight.

Like the puffins they head out to sea in search of sand eels to feed their partner watching over the egg or nestling.

How they find their partner in the noisy throng is baffling, but they land unerringly amidst the chaos to deliver their food.

Well he's different - did his chute fail to open?

Most of these birds are looking after either an egg or a chick. In the first of these photos you can see both a chick and an egg.

Some stand very precariously and a slip can be punished by a peck from a nesting Kittiwake

This is nothing, however, to the terror unleashed by marauding Herring Gull. The gulls are constantly harassing the guillemots on the edges of these large colonies in the hope that an egg or chick will be left unguarded. What happens then is shown in the next series of shots - and I warn you these images are not for the squeamish.

Success - we have an egg.


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