7/4/17 Shearwater in burrow at the Wick, Skomer

I was just leaving the Wick after listening to the Kittiwakes just before sunset when I heard a little noise coming from the ground.

The Wick is an amazing shear cliff facing a narrow inlet. It has multiple parallel ridges serving as home for all sorts of seabirds. One volunteer explained to me that there is a particular residential hierarchy at work: the lower levels have the Kittiwakes, above them are the Auks including Razorbills and Guillemots, and above them all sit the Fulmars. The other Auks: the Puffins and the Shearwaters live in burrows that cover the entire island. At the Wick these burrows fill the green banks on either side of the path, and extend to the edges that hang over the inlet. Some burrows are used by puffins, some by shearwaters, and of course some by rabbits.

It’s only 5pm and one burrow by the path is already quite noisy. It’s too early for the shearwaters to set off for their evening feeding, so this one has perhaps woken up early!

These little birds have quite a battle ahead every night and early morning. They must fly out under the cover of darkness because the Great Black Backed Gulls take advantage of the shearwaters’ awkwardness on land to attack and eat them. But once airborne, they are mostly safe.

This short recording of this early riser is suggestive of what lies in wait when it finally emerges later in the evening to feed.

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