It seems that the Mumbles pier Kittiwakes always get a good response on here whenever I write about them, so I thought I’d share a few more of my favourite photos from our recent visit. As I mentioned in my last post there are now at least 275 individuals on the pier which means that almost all of the available nesting sites have now been taken. As you can imagine with so many birds breeding in such close proximity to each other, squabbles and disagreements are a regular occurrence. Trust me when I say that you can hear this colony long before you see it.
When visiting the Kittiwakes I like to focus in on a particular bird or a pair as this often gives you the best chance to observe specific behaviours that otherwise get lost when watching the colony as a whole. This was well demonstrated by the pair below. The bird on the right, which I presume is a female, adopted this very submissive pose every time that the male returned to her. The crouching with head upturned was often accompanied with a short, high pitched call, that if I was to place a human interpretation on it sounded almost like the bird was begging. Now if the female was sitting on eggs I would have expected this behaviour to result in its partner regurgitating some food, but we are not yet at that stage of the cycle and I saw no meal forthcoming. Instead I wonder if this is all part of the courtship ritual, with the female bird showing that she is ready to be mated.
The next photo is of a Kittiwake that I really enjoyed watching. As you can see its chosen nest site is right on top of a deep crack in the wooden beam where no other nest has been built previously. I watched this birds partner bring in a beak full of fresh nesting material and drop it into the crack where, as you can probably imagine, it disappeared out of sight. The birds looked at each other with an expression that seemed to say “I told you this wasn’t a good spot to build on” before the returning bird headed off on another sortie. This little scene was a perfect example of why being an early arrival at a colony is an advantage, as it saves the extra effort that this pair are having to go through with a less than optimal nesting position.
Other Kittiwakes had nests that were virtually complete other than for some final adjustments. In the past I have seen these birds use everything from seaweed to fishing wire as construction materials, but they seemed to be sticking to grass from the two islands off Mumbles head during my visit.
Amongst all the noise and chaos it is possible to catch these birds in slightly more intimate moments, and it is with a couple of these that I shall leave you.