Posted by: orcaweb | July 1, 2009

I haven’t heard so many ooohs and ahhhs since firework night.

Beth – King of Scandinavia

Guillemots on a nest site

Guillemots on a nest site

We see lots of guillemots out on the North Sea.  They are birds that are penguin like in appearance but are able to fly, quite franticly too with whirring wingbeats.  When we see them at the moment though why are we hailing them with lots of gushing oooh’ing and ahhh’ing?  Well it’s because it is early summer and the chicks are fledging.

Striking little birds, sometimes called the penguins of the northern hemisphere (although these birds can fly).

Striking little birds, sometimes called the penguins of the northern hemisphere (although these birds can fly).

Guillemots nest on cliffs in quite dense colonies and one of the first challenges in any young guillemots life is the first time they leave the nest.  They do this by launching themselves off from the cliff into the water below, spurred on by the calling parent.

It looks like a long way down!  Unlike the adult guillemots in this picture, fledglings are unable to fly when they make the jump.

It looks like a long way down! Unlike the adult guillemots in this picture, fledglings are unable to fly when they make the jump.

When they make this leap they aren’t actually able to fly which is why guillemot chicks are sometimes referred to as ‘jumplings’.  Now both parents would have looked after their chick but after fledging it becomes the duty of the father.

For the next two months or so dad will teach his chick how to dive and catch fish.  So, what we are witnessing are real father and child moments.  As the ship approaches we can hear them calling to each other, a high pitched call being answered by the deeper call of the adult.  They are often looking at each other and bobbing about side by side.  I know you are not supposed to put emotions onto animals but I’m sure anyone would find it hard not to when you find yourself fortunate enough to get a brief peek into this caring behaviour as the male prepares its offspring for life out on the North Sea.  Aaahh.

Photos courtesy of HJ & M Luiten

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