Guernsey Gulls

Annual Report for 2009

Paul K Veron

N.B. This is a web version of the Annual Report. It does not contain any of the appendices giving details of all foreign movements of gulls into/out of the Channel Islands in 2009. It is hoped to add more maps to this web version over the next month or so.

Although I began my gull colour ringing gull studies in 2008 (Lesser Black-backed Gulls), 2009 was the first year that all three gull species breeding in the Channel Islands were included (i.e. also Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull).  While 2008 had been a disappointing year with a very poor breeding season, 2009 was much more productive. Not only was a good sample of gull chicks colour ringed, but it was also possible to colour ring a good number of adults in the breeding season.

Work in 2009 on my gull studies fell into a number of areas as follows:-

  1. Colour Ringing Full Grown/Adults caught in a cannon netting operation run with Paul Roper and members of the North Thames Gull Group at Chouet landfill, Guernsey from 4th- 6th June;
  2. Colour Ringing Full Grown/Adults caught at Ty Coed, Vale Marais, Guernsey during the period 5th April – 5th July;
  3. Colour Ringing Breeding Adults trapped on the nest (on Burhou, Alderney and one of the colonies of Sark); and
  4. Colour Ringing Nestlings (on Burhou, Alderney and a few on the very small colonies on Sark).
  5. Observations of Ringed Birds in the Bailiwick of Guernsey;
  6. Observations of Gulls Ringed in the Bailiwick of Guernsey beyond the Channel Islands, including a number of short trips to France and Portugal in search of gulls colour ringed as part of the Guernsey Gulls studies.

Cannon Netting Session at Chouet landfill 04 June 2009 © Vic Froome

My fascination with gulls has become so great that these studies have effectively dominated my ornithological work, with very little other ringing being pursued in the year apart from the usual seabird ringing (Northern Gannets, European Shag, Great Cormorant and a few auks). When not ringing gulls, I spent my free time in search of colour ringed gulls – mostly at Chouet landfill and the bays on the north coast of Guernsey, but also on a less regular basis Guernsey’s west and east coast beaches. This has resulted in a large number of sightings of colour ringed gulls during the course of the year.


L fuscus Black 0.H5 as a chick on Burhou, Alderney and off NW Spain (Antonio Gutierrez)


2009 proved to be an excellent year for ringing my principal target species. A total of 507 birds were ringed (439 with colour rings). This comprised 204 full grown/adults and 303 nestlings. The colour ring total comprised 210 full grown/adults and 229 nestlings (the total for adults included some colour rings fitted to gulls which had been metal ringed in previous years). The breakdown between the islands was as follows:-

Metal Rings

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Totals
Full grown/adult 123 0 0 16 65 204
Pullus 6 0 1 15 281 303
Totals 129 0 1 31 346 507

Colour Rings

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Total
Full grown/adult 126 0 0 17 67 210
Pullus 1 0 1 9 218 229
Totals 127 0 1 26 285 439

In Guernsey the majority of the full grown/adults were caught in a cannon netting operation at Chouet landfill in early June, while the remainder were caught in our garden at Ty Coed, Vale Marais during the early summer. The nestlings were all ringed on Lihou Island but all were believed to have been predated (probably by the Snowy Owl which had been resident on the island since the previous winter).

Some adults were trapped at their nests on Sark and Burhou, while the majority of nestlings were ringed this year on Burhou, Alderney.

In Guernsey the very encouraging total of 599 colour ring readings was taken on 93 different Lesser Black-backed Gulls that had been ringed in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. This total included 14 of the 16 adults that had been ringed in the summer of 2008 (a survival rate of 87.5%). It also included four birds which had been seen in Iberia over the 2008/09 autumn/winter period as follows: - Spain (three) and Portugal (one). One metal ringed bird ringed as a chick on Sark in 1993, which had been seen in November 2001 in the Algarve, Portugal, and a chick which had been ringed in Sark in 2001, which had been seen in Toledo, Spain in January 2005, were also recorded.

Most of the above records relate to colour ringed birds. However 36 metal only ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which had been ringed in the Bailiwick were also observed. Their original years of ringing were as follows:-

1987 (one), 1989 (three), 1990 (four), 1991 (one), 1992 (one), 1993 (four), 1994 (two), 1999 (one), 2000 (two), 2001 (five), 2002 (three), 2003 (one), 2006 (five), 2007 (one) and 2008 (two).

Perhaps the most staggering results from 2009 have been the very high reporting rates outside the Channel Islands for Bailiwick colour-ringed birds. This is largely due to the dedication and hard work of a small core of gull enthusiasts in England, France, Spain and Portugal. This includes people (like Catherine and me) who take holidays to go in search of colour ringed gulls on their passage and wintering grounds.

Up until 31st December 2009 there had been 288 reports involving 151 individual Lesser Black-backed Gulls from my study as follows:- Spain (137 involving 74 individual birds), Portugal (110 involving 55 individual birds), France (32 involving 16 individuals), Morocco (six involving four individuals), and England ( three involving two birds).

These sightings have produced much valuable data for my study, and provide encouragement for future years.

 Figure 1 – Movements of 1st year Lesser Black-backed Gulls away from the Channel Islands in 2009

Figure 2 - Movements of Adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls away from the Channel Islands in 2009

Figure 3 Movements of all Lesser Black-backed Gulls out of the Channel Islands to 31 December 2009

In addition 26 Lesser Black-backed Gulls carrying foreign (i.e. not Channel Islands) rings were seen during the year as follows:-.

Gloucester, ENGLAND    10
Bristol, Avon, ENGLAND   2
Cumbria, ENGLAND 2
Lancashire, ENGLAND 1
Flatholm, WALES       1
Calais, FRANCE   2
Oostende, BELGIUM     1
Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS  1
Noord-Brabant, NETHERLANDS   1
Vest-Agder, NORWAY  1
Total 26

Adult L fuscus Yellow 489 (Rotterdam, Netherlands – Norman Van Swelm) & 1st winter Larus fuscus 904N (Calais, France –Philippe Dubois) – both at Chouet Landfill Beach 2009.


Paul Roper and his team were so successful with the cannon netting at Chouet landfill that I rather embarrassingly ran out of my supply of colour rings for Herring Gulls. As I had to retain at least 100 colour rings for the 2009 nestlings, we had to release several hundred Herring Gulls at Chouet landfill with metal rings only. This was very frustrating, but it reflected the incredible success we enjoyed this year. In addition several hundred full grown/adult Herring Gulls were caught and colour ringed at Ty Coed, Vale Marais.

Breeding success for this species was moderate in 2009 so we managed to colour ring a reasonable sample of nestlings as well. By the end of the year we had placed metal rings on 1,040 Herring Gulls (915 full grown/adults and 125 nestlings).  We managed to colour ring 817 of these birds (732 full grown/adults and 85 nestlings).

The breakdown between the islands was as follows:-

Metal Rings

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Total
Full grown/adult 914 0 0 1 0 915
Pullus 28 4 51 34 8 125
Totals 942 4 51 35 8 1040

Colour Rings

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Total
Full grown/adult 730 0 1 1 0 732
Pullus 14 3 38 29 1 85
Total 744 3 39 30 1 817

A total of 3,413 read rings, involving 659 individual Herring Gulls from my project were recorded in Guernsey this year. The vast majority of these were gulls recorded at Chouet landfill, and on the beaches on the north and north-west coasts of Guernsey.

Larus argentatus 6.AA5 (Alderney) at Chouet Landfill and Orange JR.2T from Essex (Paul Roper) at Chouet, Guernsey

There were 21 reports from France, involving 20 Herring Gulls as follows: - Seine-Maritime (one), Calvados (two), Manche (13 involving 12 birds), Finistere (one), Vendee (one), Loire-Atlantique (two) and Charente-Maritime (one). There were also four sightings (involving three gulls) reported from England as follows: - Gloucestershire (two involving one bird), Dorset (one) and Greater London (one). 

This data is helping to reveal dispersal and behavioural patterns in Herring Gulls. It is also building a significant database of records accumulated while Chouet landfill has been operating. It is hoped that the colour ringing studies will help to track changes in the ecology of this species once landfill of organic waste ceases in the Bailiwick early in 2013.

In addition to the above, I have also recorded Herring Gulls from Jamie Hooper’s colour ringing study which ran from 1998-2007 (inclusive). During the year I recorded 2,090 sightings of Jamie’s colour rings involving 309 individual gulls. The years of ringing for these birds was as follows:-

1998 (29), 1999 (23), 2000 (36), 2001 (29), 2002 (18), 2003 (40), 2004 (44), 2005 (59), 2006 (23) and 2007 (eight).

64 of the above gulls had previously been reported outside the Channel Islands as follows:-

France  (41) – Pas de Calais (one), Seine-Maritime (five), Calvados (three), Manche (seven), Cotes d’Armor (three), Finistere (three), Morbihan (one), Loire-Atlantique (one), Maine-et-Loire (one), Vendee (13) and Charente-Maritime (three).

England (21) – Somerset (one), Devon (two), Gloucestershire (six), Bristol (one), Dorset (five), Hampshire (three), Isle of Wight (two), and Kent (one).

Spain (two) – A Coruna (one) and Vizcaya/Basque Country (one)

Portugal (one) – Douro Litoral (the same bird as seen in Vizcaya, Spain).

A total of 20 colour ringed gulls from Jersey was recorded as follows: - Jersey (south coast cliffs) 1998 (two), 1999 (four), 2000 (two) and 2001 (seven). These gulls were ringed by the late Bob Burrows. Five Herring Gulls ringed by Ian Buxton on Les Ecrehous Reef (off Jersey’s east coast) were seen: these birds were ringed in 1997 (one), 2000 (two) and 2001 (two).

Finally I recorded eleven Herring Gulls during the year which had been ringed outside the Channel Islands as follows :-

Belgium – West Vlaanderen (one)
France – Seine-Maritime (four), Cotes d’Armor (one)
England – Gloucestershire (three), East Sussex (one) and Essex (one).

L argentatus – 1.AA0 (Chouet), 5.FF0 (Cobo) & 5.LL8 Jethou - Guernsey


A total of 79 Great Black-backed Gulls was ringed, and of these 63 were colour ringed. These totals comprised 16 full grown/ adults (all of which were colour ringed) and 63 nestlings (47 colour ringed).

  L marinus Yellow 0R5 (Guernsey) and Green E.30 (Chausey Islands, France) – Chouet

The breakdown between the islands is shown below.

Metal Ring

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Total
Full grown/adult 15 0 0 1 0 16
Pullus 23 14 15 4 7 63
Total 38 14 15 5 7 79

Colour Rings

Age Guernsey Herm Jethou Sark Alderney Total
Full grown/adult 15 0 0 1 0 16
Pullus 19 10 9 2 7 47
Total 34 10 9 3 7 63

These birds gave rise to 145 sightings over the year, involving 30 individuals. The majority were seen in Guernsey, but there were 19 reports from outside the Channel Islands involving eight individuals as follows:-

Englandsix  - Cornwall (two), Devon (one) and Dorset (three).
Francetwo -  Manche (13 involving two birds)

I also saw 37 Great Black-backed Gulls which had been colour ringed outside the Channel Islands. The majority came from projects being run in France by Sebastien Provost (Chausey Islands) and Gilles Le Guillou (Seine-Maritime), with the remainder being Norwegian birds.

France32 Chausey Islands, Manche (14) and Seine-Maritime (18).
Norwayfive all from Vest-Agder.

In addition Blue JEU0, which had been ringed as an adult at Vardo, Finnmark in the north of Norway in May 2002, and which I had seen at Vazon Bay, Guernsey on 27 November 2008, was re-sighted back at its breeding grounds on Hornoya, Vardo on 15 May 2009.

Several of the birds from the Chausey Islands and Seine-Maritime had originally been recorded in Guernsey during the autumn/winter 2008. It is fascinating to see how these gulls wander around the English Channel coasts as they mature, visiting Guernsey periodically rather than spending the whole of the winters here. 


Three ringed Mediterranean Gulls were recorded during the year – two from Belgium and one from France. One of the Belgian birds (White 3E90) has been a regular visitor to Bellegreve Bay, Guernsey during the past four autumns. Unusually I also saw the French colour ringed gull back in France during one of my short visits to France in the autumn of 2009.

Larus melanocephalus 3E90 Bellegreve Bay, Guernsey (Belgium - Guido Goris)


Although several metal-ringed Black-headed Gulls were seen during the year, only one ring was read completely. This was on an adult bird ringed as a chick at Opolskie, Poland in May 2005.

Although permission to extend my gull colour ringing studies to Black-headed Gulls was secured this year, I was not able to start this project during the winter. It is hoped that I can get this study off the ground in 2010.


During the year Catherine and I managed to make three trips outside the Channel Islands where we spent some time looking for gulls from ours (and other) colour ringing projects. Two of these trips were to the Algarve in Portugal (January and December), with the other to Normandy, France in October. I also made a short trip to Brittany, France in October with my daughter Sophie, where we found a few colour ringed gulls.

A total of 243 rings were read abroad as follows:-

Portugal (167)
  1.  Lesser Black-backed Gull – 159. Iceland (five), Norway (19), Germany (seven), Denmark (seven), The Netherlands (30), Belgium (21), France (seven), Channel Islands (seven), England (38), Wales (16), Spain (one) and Portugal (one).
  2. Yellow-legged Gull – five. Spain (three) and Portugal (two).
  3. Mediterranean Gull – one. Belgium
  4. Eurasian Spoonbill – two. The Netherlands (one) and France (one).

France (76)

  1. Mediterranean Gull – 61. Poland (two), Germany (two), The Netherlands (one), Belgium (36), France (14), Hungary (two), Czech republic (two) and Serbia (two).
  2. Herring Gull – eight. Norway (one), The Netherlands (one), France (three) and Channel Islands (three).
  3. Great Black-backed Gull – seven. Norway (two) and France (five)

Many of the above birds already have extensive sightings histories from their breeding and/or passage/wintering grounds. However, the most rewarding of the sightings related to the gulls which I had colour ringed in the Bailiwick of Guernsey and then seen in Portugal (six Lesser Black-backed Gulls) and France (two Herring Gulls). There is something very special in seeing your own birds so far from home!


In conclusion it remains for me to thank everyone who has helped with my gull projects in 2009. This includes a special “thank you” to the Public Services Department, States Works and the management and staff at Chouet landfill who have given me free access to the site throughout the year, and who gave superb co-operation when we ran the cannon netting operation at the landfill in early June. My sincere thanks too to Paul Roper and his colleagues from the North Thames Gull Group who came over to run the very successful cannon netting operation at Chouet landfill.

I am also indebted to Margaret Austin for all her work in keeping the official records as part of the Channel Islands Bird Ringing Scheme. As anyone involved with colour ringing knows there is a tremendous amount of administrative work required in servicing the projects. In this regard I am also grateful to Mrs Carole Kinnersly for data input to the largest of my gull databases. Guernsey’s Bird Recorder, Mark Lawlor, has kindly produced the maps for this report, along with many others for my research.

The small Guernsey Seabird Team, principally comprising Jamie Hooper, Chris Mourant along with Catherine and me, expended considerable effort in 2009 on the gull work. We were also helped by Afra Skene on Burhou. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work.

The seabird research, including the gull studies, would not be possible without the help of several expert boatmen who land on us the rocks and islets. Richard Keen, Roland Gauvain and Andy Cook all deserve special thanks – along with the crew of the Jethou boat.

My sincere thanks too to the owners/administrators of the islands visited as part of this research – including the States of Guernsey, the States of Alderney, and Dr Peter Ogden (Jethou).

I am very grateful to La Société Guernesiaise and the Guernsey branch of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, along with Creaseys (the local Marks & Spencer franchise) for financial support in 2009 with the price of the colour rings and the seabird monitoring in general.  My thanks too to Risto Juvaste in Finland, who has supplied very good colour rings and ring plates for my projects.

Finally I am indebted to all the observers scattered along the coasts and landfill sites of Western Europe who take the time and trouble to faithfully record (and in many cases photograph) my colour ringed gulls. Without their interest and hard work gull research would be very much the poorer!

Paul K Veron
Channel Islands Bird Ringing Permit No 129
 18 January 2010