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Cries in the dark

Manx shearwaters come to land under cover of darkness.

Bardsey Island is known for its seabirds, but there is one species that Simon King will have to wait until night to see. Surrounded by their burrows in darkness, Simon can hear their unearthly sound, but not see them, so he uses a thermal imaging camera. These are Manx shearwaters. One lands clumsily near him. Their legs are very far back on the body, which is great for swimming but rubbish for walking, and thus makes them vulnerable to attack. Their strategy is therefore to come back to the colony under cover of darkness. You can get close to them with a torch, but by using a thermal camera you can see them relaxed and in their element. These birds returning now may have flown thousands of miles in the search for food and been away for four or five days or more. All that time their partners have waited patiently, incubating the eggs. Some of the birds may be over 50 years old and have travelled in excess of 5 million miles in their lifetime, and yet look as fit and young as the day they first took to the wing.

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4 minutes

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