Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

It is more than ten years since a Black Guillemot was recorded in Cheshire and Wirral in winter, so it was good that Jane Turner had decided to do some Atlas recording when one flew west past Hoylake Shore (SJ29A) on 12 February 2005.

To Coward and Oldham (1900) this species was ‘almost unknown upon the Wirral coast’, and it is still a very rare visitor. Bell (1962) could trace no records in the 20th century until 25 November 1961 when an ‘almost full summer plumaged bird’ was off Hilbre. According to the annual bird reports, there were only about 24 records – at any season – in forty years 1964 to 2003, all single birds except for once two together. Only four of those were within our defined winter period, birds on 7 December 1977, 23 January 1981, 18 November 1982 and 26 November 1995.

Black Guillemots feed inshore in sheltered shallow waters all year round and do not move far from their breeding areas: for ringed birds found dead at any season, the median distance of movement is only 10 km, extraordinarily low for a seabird (Migration Atlas). Their winter distribution around the Isle of Man is similar to the breeding map (Sharpe 2007). Nevertheless, with small colonies in Cumbria and Anglesey, and more than 600 adults breeding around the Isle of Man (Mitchell et al 2004), one might have expected more birds to turn up around our coasts.