At this time of year I’m normally looking forward to some great close encounters with the breeding Kittiwake colony on Mumbles pier. In the past I’ve taken some excellent photos and watched several generations of chicks hatch and finally fledge from there, and it’s always been a treat. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog however, the chance to repeat those magic moments is no more. Mumbles Pier has been closed for a complete rebuild and the traditional nesting sites netted off to prevent the Kittiwakes returning and subsequently being disturbed. Before you get the wrong impression I fully support the restoration project as it’s something the area is crying out for. In the mean time the owners have gone to some lengths to provide alternative nesting sites on the adjoining lifeboat station. This weekend was my first chance to see how well those have been adopted, and after some initial scepticism when the plan was first announced I am pleased to report that at least some of the birds have started to nest.
Closer inspection of the above photos reveal at least fifteen nests with the majority located on the concrete structure itself rather then the newly provided shelves. There do appear to be signs that the Kittiwakes are starting to move onto those as well, but at the moment the number of nesting pairs is far below that which I used to see when they had access to the full pier. I do have one possible theory for the lack of uptake and that is that the surface of the wooden shelves is too smooth. I have no scientific reasoning for this beyond general observations, but the fact that they are gravitating towards the rough concrete and even the tops of posts suggests this could at least be a factor. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable on the wood as of yet, and next year it would be interesting to cover a couple with alternative surfaces to see if the birds have any preference. The spacing between each shelf could also be a bit tight but again only further experimentation will shed any light. It is early days so lets hope they become more used to their new accommodation and the colony can continue to go from strength to strength.
While we were there it seemed rude not to pop down to the beach and look for my favourite Turnstones. A relatively high tide and masses of people meant that we saw just the one, but it did pose relatively well on one of the rusting pier supports. Lighting was that bright grey which seems to have been hanging over south Wales for much of the last week, hence the rather washed out background.
Over in Bracelet Bay a male Stonechat and several Cormorants drying their wings was about as good as it got, with the usual Mediterranean Gulls nowhere to be seen. I suspect they’ve moved out of the main hustle and bustle and are unlikely to have gone far.