Thursday, 10 May 2012

A bill for all Oceans

A walk along the cliff top was a little disappointing with very few birds about. A small passage of Swallows and House Martins reminded me that despite the weather we are now at the high point of spring and we should be seeing and hearing all our summer visitors and resident birds signalling their intent to breed.

One noisy pair did grab my attention with a raucous noise, a pair of Fulmars were sitting on a ledge just behind one of the bushes on the edge of the cliff. Trying to overcome my dislike of heights I managed to get a decent view of this pair billing and cooing.

The complex bill of the Fulmar designed for a life style devoid of fresh water and a diet of  fish, fish waste and crustaceans. They are a member of the Order of birds known as the Procellariiformes, that consists of Albatrosses, Petrels, Shearwaters and Storm Petrels. After a month cruising the Pacific Ocean, when we saw about 42 of these "tube noses" it was good to see Kent's only breeding representative of this fascinating group so close.

On the second day of the trip we had some very close views of several species from a small boat in the Hauriki Gulf, New Zealand, before the main cruise started. This Black or Parkinson's Petrel shows the similarity in structure of it's bill, with a sharp hook for dealing with it's prey and the tubes that exude salt. This order of birds has been highly successful and is found from Antarctica to the Arctic, but new many species are amongst the most vulnerable in  the world. The problems Albatrosses have with long line fishing have been well publicised, but less well known is the destruction of many nesting colonies by accidentally introduced mammals, such as rats, mice and cats to their breeding islands. Currently there are several projects in the Pacific to rid some of the most important breeding colonies of these intrduced pests.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I seem to remember reading a while ago that the successful removal of the cats on Macquarie lead to a trophic cascade and now they have a terrible rabbit problem (also introduced, of course).