The Bank Cormorant Project – Diary Of A Keeper – Part II
Published: Apr 9, 2015Living Coasts’ senior keeper Lois Rowell has gone to spend 6 weeks in South Africa with SANCCOB – the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – to help with our joint bank cormorant project. Here’s her second blog post.
The collection of bank cormorant eggs was quite successful. We managed to collect ten eggs, though we had a permit for twelve. A lot of the nests were still empty as it is quite early in the season. We had to collect from a different area because the birds at the original collection area had been disturbed and abandoned their nests. We suspected that someone had been fishing there, even though it is fenced off.
Transporting eggs is a tricky business! They were in a cool box with towels and a hot water bottle to keep them warm and we were able to put them in a portable incubator while we waited for the evening ferry back.
While we were waiting I got the chance to accompany a researcher as she checked African penguin nests in the Robben Island colony. Robben Island is quite a strange place, with many derelict bungalows among the inhabited ones. The population is about 100, all employees of the Robben Island museum. It is very hot and scrubby with introduced fallow deer, partridges and peafowl as well as the local species. The penguins nest in the scrub under the bushes and in some of the buildings.
We combined the egg collection with the release of about 50 swift terns. These were rescued birds from the mainland – we released them near the Robben Island colony.
The bank cormorant eggs had quite a bumpy ride back to SANCCOB; the sea was rough and then there was the road journey as well. But they all made it! As soon as we got back I weighed them and placed them in an incubator.
We measured and candled the eggs. Candling means holding a bright light behind the egg to show details through the shell, and is so called because originally candles were used. We could see that nine of the ten eggs are fertile. The tenth egg may be newly-laid or infertile – only time will tell. Five of the eggs are more than half way through incubation, with one possibly due within the next week. The other four are in the earlier stages of incubation. We can see movement in most of the eggs, indicating that they are alive and survived the journey.
Lois Rowell, senior keeper, Living Coasts