Operation Auk 2012

Monday, July 9th 2012

Last week saw the 20th 'Operation Auk', the annual bird ringers' expedition to the seabird colonies at Cape Wrath, on the north west coast of Scotland.

The journey up was eventful, with a stay at Balmacara House, and a day spent out on Loch Torridon, visiting the many islands with nesting birds. The cheese scones provided by Sally (thank you!) were delicious.

The views from these islands were spectacular but only a taste of what was to come as we headed further north.

Common and Arctic Terns, Herons and Shags were among the birds ringed on these islands.  Above you can see Roger, Ian and Rosie at one of the Cormorant nests we found in the Inverbain colony..

As we headed back to the shore some of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an otter.

The highlight of the second day was undoubtedly finding this Corncrake chick in the thick vegetation as we were looking for Common and Herring Gulls.

The 10ft swell meant the sea was very rough at the start of the week, preventing the Marines from landing us on several of the areas we had planned to visit.  We still managed to visit the odd stack and and a beach or two where we were able to ring Fulmar and Black Guillemot, and where we saw this Ringed Plover.

While we were waiting for the sea to calm we were able to visit a Kittiwake colony on the cliffs just below Faraid Head where we were staying.

Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Puffins and Shags were all seen around the cliffs here, while a group of Gannets were spotted out to sea diving into the water to fish.

The swell finally subsided and we were able to get out on several of the islands in Loch Eribol.  Great Black-backed Gulls, Shags, Fulmars and terns were all ringed here.  On Eilean Hoan six adult Bonxies were spotted circling; after some searching the nest was found.

The seas were calmest on the final day and we were able to land on the boulder field at the base of Clo Mor cliffs, the highest cliffs on the UK mainland.

Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins were found here in large numbers, Rosie, Robert and John can be seen ringing some of the chicks on the higher slopes.

Bridled Guillemots, with a white line encircling the eye and continuing down towards the nape are not regarded as a seperate sub-species of Guillemot.

This was a fantastic and exciting week visiting the islands, stacks and boulder field where the seabird colonies are found.  Thank you to all who helped and supported us during the week.


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