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 Monday, 5 August, 2002, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Gannets thrive despite weather threat
Gannets on Grassholm
Grassholm is home to thousands of gannets
An island's bird reserve has increased despite atrocious weather which threatened new chicks, a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) survey has found.

Grassholm, 10 miles north-west of St Ann's Head, Pembrokeshire, boasts 10% of the world's gannet population.

Ian Bullock
Warden Ian Bullock carried out the survey

Over 100,000 of Britain's biggest sea bird nest and breed on the island.

But adverse conditions early on in the season meant this year's chicks were unlikely to survive.

A team of RSPB wardens went to the island to see how the gales and stormy weather patterns had affected the birds.

The wardens expected to find a dwindling number of healthy chicks.

But, after counting a sample of 500 nests, they discovered the progress of the young birds was increasing.

Appalling weather

Ian Bullock, an RSPB warden, took part in the survey.

Gannet and chick
Gannets raise one chick a year

"We were particularly worried this year," he said.

"There has been appalling weather early on in the season and we feared we might have a high percentage of nests abandoned.

"But I am relieved to say that only 20% of the nests were empty.

"The rest of them have got very healthy looking, white downy chicks - which is good news," he added.

Wildlife haven

Grassholm is the third largest gannet colony in the world.

Its isolation from humans has meant that nature and wildlife has prospered.

Seals and porpoises live in the surrounding waters and it has become known as a wildlife haven.

Gannets
Have a five and a half-foot wing span
They lay just one egg a season
They dive for fish from heights of up to 30 metres
They are brilliant white in colour
The Grassholm gannet is known as the morus bassana

The birds have a highly structured and organised community with its own rules and disciplines.

However, the threat from man is ever present on the island.

More than 90% of gannet nests on the island contain plastic litter.

Many birds die after swallowing or becoming entangled in marine debris.


More from south west Wales
See also:

06 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
08 Mar 00 | Scotland
07 Jan 00 | Science/Nature
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