We left Liverpool at 7 O'clock yesterday evening and — via St Helens to pick up Kieran Foster — headed to Anglesey. We arrived at Point Lynas at dusk and set up two nets; one for storm-petrels and one for Manx Shearwaters.
It took until after 1 a.m. before we heard the first shearwaters calling offshore; we put on the tape. At first, nothing happened; then a few birds flew over the net... but it didn't look like they were going to hit. After a while, we changed the CD track playing in the other net from European Storm-petrel to Manx Shearwater. The speakers were louder than those under the shearwater net and, within minutes of changing the track, several birds began circling low over the headland calling as they did so — a really magical experience, expecially as the birds came so close that you could hear their wingbeats. It didn't take long for the first bird to find the net, quickly followed by a second and then a third.
In a short space of time we managed to catch no less than 14 individuals. We needed to get all of the birds ringed and processed before it started to get light again so we made the decision to turn the tape back to storm-petrel, which put an immediate end to catching shearwaters.
Manx Shearwaters are one of the most difficult to handle birds I've ever held. The bite, they scratch, and they're an awkward shape — they're surprisingly bulky with long and narrow wings that easily get caught up in the net; plus they never stay still. Added to that, their legs are a weird shape — like a very elongated oval in cross-section — so the rings can't just be squeeze on in the usual (round) way. Still, despite the blood and the scratches, they were great birds to ring.
Faab & I busy processing two of the fourteen Manx Shearwaters
Unfortunately we weren't so lucky with storm-petrels. Kieran saw one bird bounce out of the net when he went to check it but that was as close as we got to catching one.
We packed up just before dawn and left Point Lynas at about 3 a.m. — then there was just the drive back to Liverpool left. Thanks to Kieran for organising what turned out to be a hugely successful ringing session.
We arrived back home at 6; after a few hours sleep we were up again to take Tammo to the airport (bye Tammo, hope to see you again soon!), then we ate some lunch and headed off to Cheshire where we met up with David Norman for some pullus ringing. Totals for the afternoon were 13 Tree Sparrow, three House Sparrow and four Great Tit — the visit also helped David complete 12 nest record cards for the boxes.
Young Tree Sparrow — © Fabian Meijer