Monday 10th May Comments: The weather continues to be a talking point (today we had heavy downpours and stunning sunshine all in the same hour) but the most noticeable event occurred with our Kittiwakes.
Kittiwakes are a gentle looking member of the gull family and get their name from their call, a shrill ‘kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake’ (listen out for their calls when you next visit a colony). The birds have a white head and body, grey back, grey wings tipped solid black (look like they have been dipped in ink) and a yellow bill. They are 40cm (16 inches) in length with a wingspan of 90–100cm (35–39 inches). Most Kittiwakes have dark black legs but some can show pinkish-grey to reddish legs, making colouration a somewhat unreliable identifying marker.
Our breeding birds returned to the cliffsides of the Isle of May in late March and early April but have been pretty inactive until today. Following the rain, the island is now muddy (after a long dry spell) and as a result, the Kittiwakes are taking complete advantage. Both parents take part in nest building and nests are constructed on the sheer cliff sides and are made up of mud, vegetation and even feathers. The first eggs will hopefully be discovered in the next few weeks and each pair will lay 1-2 eggs (very occasionally three). Both parents will incubate on average for 27 days before chicks hatch.
So the breeding season takes another step forward and soon we’ll be reporting more incubating species, so watch this space…