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Bird of The Month. Manx shearwater. By John McEwen. Illustrated Carry Akroyd

Regulars | By John McEwen

The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) spends most of its life at sea. It is largely invisible on land by day, despite the dense colonies that exist on certain British islands, where it migrates from the south Atlantic to breed in summer. The world’s largest colony (300,000) is on Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coast. For a daytime visitor, puffins and guillemots are the avian attraction. Only burrow-riddled ground hints at the hidden presence of shearwaters. Ronald Lockley (1903-2000) took a 21-year lease of the neighbouring island of Skokholm in 1927. He established the first British bird observatory there in 1933 for his pioneering research on breeding colonies of Manx shearwaters (‘cocklollies’), puffins and storm petrels. In The Island, he described the shearwater’s predatory-gull-avoiding nocturnal arrival. ‘By midnight, thousands of cocklollies arrived from the ocean. Their crowing vibrated into a crescendo from every quarter of the island, above and below ground.’ At...

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