Friday, September 11, 2009

A Fulmar

Someone phoned. A Fulmar found near Garstang after the recent gales was doing OK, eating food spontaneously and looking fairly perky. Could I take it and release it at Knott End near the sea where hopefully it would return to where it should be?

It’s good few years since I handled sea birds on Bardsey Island. Nights spent catching and ringing Manx Shearwaters near their burrows, deciphering worn and ancient ring numbers, or fitful naps in the tractor shed while waiting for periodic lighthouse attractions to deposit waves of birds on the ground where they might be rescued in one piece.

As soon as I saw the Fulmar and caught that unmistakable smell, that unique musty, oily but not unpleasant aroma that seabirds alone possess, it transported me back there to Bardsey and the Manxies, the Razorbills and the Gullemots.

Of course the name "Fulmar" comes from the Iclandic for a foul gull and refers to the smell that comes from the fishy oil in its stomach. The Fulmar is closely related to the Albatrosses in a group of birds sometimes referred to as "tube-noses". This name is derived from the tube that lies along the top ridge of the bill which contains the nostril and gives this group of birds a remarkably keen sense of smell used for finding food out at sea.

But this Fulmar wasn’t going anywhere, having taken a turn for the worse in just a few short hours. I took the obligatory photo before placing it in an overnight box.

This morning it was gone.

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