05 September 2015

Fulmar Success Story

I am very pleased to be able to follow up my earlier post with good news. The Fulmar chick at the nest site on Lewes Castle is now flying. Since I first saw the chick on July 30 I have visited the site every 3-5 days and, if possible, photographed the chick as it developed. The nest site is the area behind a boulder on a ledge, and the gap between the cliff edge and the boulder edge is only a few centimetres, so unless the bird lines its head up with the narrow gap it is impossible to get a decent shot. Although I have visited 11 times, sometimes staying for over an hour, I have never seen an adult feeding the chick, or present on the nest ledge. Clearly being a Fulmar chick is a lonely business.

Every time I have visited there have been no climbers on Lewes Castle, which has been a great relief to me. I would like to thank any climbers who have deliberately kept away from the site in order to help to ensure this bird's survival. It is now OK to climb there again for a few months.

This is the chick when I first saw it at the nest site on July 30:

Three days later, on August 2, the chick had visibly developed:

A further five days later, on August 7, the bird was substantially larger and had some staining which may indicate that it had recently been fed:

At this stage it is showing signs of losing some of the downy feathers on the head. On August 12 a lot more had been lost from the back of the head:

When I next visited, on August 16, the bird was almost bald:

I have never been able to follow the development of a Fulmar chick before, so I was surprised to see this apparent avian alopecia. I wondered if the bird had a problem of some kind. The next time I was able to get a decent view of the bird was on August 22. I was pleased to see that, over the course of six days, it had grown a good covering of feathers on the head:

At this stage the bird was very preoccupied with preening. This was still the case on August 27, and the bird was now looking quite mature and only very slightly smaller than adult-size:

At this stage (August 27) the bird still had some fluffy down on the head. I caught glimpses of the wings, which appeared to have well-developed coverts and secondaries. I did not see the primaries. When I next visited, on August 31, the bird looked very much like an adult:

On this visit I could see that it had well-developed primaries. It looked as though it should be able to fly perfectly well. It was therefore no surprise, when I visited on September 2, to find the nest site empty. This suggests that it took about 48 days from hatching to fledging, which is about normal, I understand. I returned to the nest site early on September 5 and found that the young bird was present again: I presume it had roosted there. It was preening and doing a lot of wing-stretching, showing a perfect pair of wings:

It has been very interesting to watch the development of this bird. I hope there will be a repeat performance next year.

1 comment:

Barry Stewart said...

A diligent bit of observation work Philip and nicely documented. The fine weather should ensure the bird gets a good start in life at sea.