Northern gannets on Les Etacs off the coast of Alderney may focus on different areas in search for food

July 1st, 2011 by Louise Soanes

Northern gannets, Morus bassanus, on Les Etacs, Alderney on 1 October 2010 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

A recent pilot project conducted by the University of Liverpool, with the support of the Alderney Wildlife Trust, The British Trust for Ornithologists and funded by the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy (ACRE) attached GPS data loggers to 23 gannets, Morus bassanus, breeding on Les Etacs, Alderney.

Within six days 17 loggers had been retrieved, revealing the locations of 34 foraging trips. Interestingly individuals seemed to specialise their feeding in different areas with some flying to the South Coast of England, some southwards to Jersey and others towards Le Havre on the French coast.

Foraging trips taken by three gannets breeding on Les Etacs, Alderney in June 2011 (click map to expand - image courtesy of Louise Soanes)

Amazingly on one occasion a gannet made a 340 kilometre round trip, and several gannets made two trips to the South Coast of England within 72 hours. Preliminary analysis suggests that Alderney’s gannets make longer foraging trips than gannets breeding at UK colonies but are comparable to the distances travelled by their closest neighbours breeding on Les Sept Iles, Brittany.

Northern gannets, Morus bassanus, flying over Les Etacs, Alderney on 1 October 2010 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Alderney supports a breeding population of 7,500 pairs of Northern gannets, the largest concentrated population of seabirds in the Channel Islands. This pilot study has revealed some potentially important foraging areas of this population, which with further analysis and data collection could be related to commercial fisheries in the area and to the development of wind and tidal renewable energy projects not just in the Channel Islands, but also to future offshore marine developments in Northern France and the South Coast of England. It is hoped that a three year study of Alderney’s gannetry might be initiated in 2012, to support the ongoing work of the Alderney Wildlife Trust and ACRE to gain a better understanding of island’s diverse marine wildlife.

Gannets flying off Les Etacs, Alderney on 1 October 2010 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)


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