Saturday, 10 May 2014

Skomer Day 6: Storm on a Cliff

The forecasted storm has hit Skomer over night, 40 knot winds and massive swell pound into the narrow inlet at Bull Hole, it is just as well that the guillemots have not yet laid as the biggest waves scatter the kittiwakes lower on the cliff and spray begins to lash even the tops where the guillemot are. Looking in detail through the telescope life in the colony goes on unperturbed, the guilemots as usual seem consumed in a storm of their own whipped up by strong internal urges, released through bouts of behaviour contrasting either aggression or pair bonding. For me though the raging storm heightens the experience.
I am determined to complete an entire scroll today and decide to work in the way I have developed, minimising the marks I make to capture each individual. I also start from the bottom of the scroll this time so always drawing the guillemot in front of the next. I mark out large areas of cliff for reference then individuals in a group using circles so I do not loose track of numbers and scale as the birds shuffle and reshuffle.
I complete the drawing by 6pm, having covered a large cascade of guillemot stage left of the Bull Hole 1 drawing. I am now familiar enough with the birds to be able to draw one after just one glance through the scope, meaning I have really been able to enjoy capturing the dramatic behaviour seen today, highlights below:

Guillemot with a fish greets it's partner, the interaction seems aggressive to start with then they settle into allopreening
Grappling rivals tumble down a steep ledge, one flings the other who, possibly caught in the wind falls approximately 60m to the ledge shown at the bottom of the main drawing. After knocking the birds breaking its fall off like skittles, it stands up and begins to preen.

Mating on the steepest ledges, requires a lot of frantic wing action

All the bridled bird in this section were found to be in the top left area of the drawing. One bridled bird B4 was possible to track, and I noticed it moving between two different birds, preening both.
The complete Bull Hole Scroll 2
Bull Hole Scroll 2, detail

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