Pembroke Bay, Guernsey at Dawn - © P K Veron                            Larus fuscus White 0.T9 at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey © PKV

August proved to be an incredible month for Guernsey Gulls! The amount of data being accumulated reached record levels with a total of 1,373 colour rings being read on 25 days in the month. Topping the list was Herring Gull with 1,136 ring reads, but I was equally pleased with the 197 reads from Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and the 36 reads from Great Black-backed Gulls. Occasional checking of the small high tide roost of Black-headed Gulls on Guernsey’s east coast also resulted in four ring reads from two different Mediterranean Gulls.  The sheer volume of data being accumulated will be of significant value as these gull studies progress.

August was also a very exciting month for sightings of “my” colour-ringed Gulls – mainly Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but also a few Herring Gulls and the first movement outside the Channel Islands of one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks ringed this summer.

 Lesser Black-backed Gull

                                                         Larus fuscus at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey - 0.Z6 and 1.T6 © PKV

Many thanks are due to the small number of dedicated gull watching enthusiasts in NW Spain who are doing such a superb job in recording the movements of gulls from all over Europe. It is a pleasure to record my appreciation here- especially to Antonio Gutierrez and Francisco (Paco) Giron Veiga – who between saw 16 of my Lesser Black-backed Gulls mainly at Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, A Coruna, Spain.


                           Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, Spain © Antonio Gutierrez                                 Larus fuscus 0.T4 at Esmelle Beach © A Gutierrez

This month there were a total of 33 sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gulls outside the Channel Islands, involving 24 individual birds as follows:-

                                        Spain - 15 Adults and 5 Chicks

                                        Portugal – 6 Adults

                                        France – 1 Adult

It was very interesting that while the first adult had reached NW Spain by 2nd August, the first of the chicks did not arrive there until 26th August. In terms of speed of journey, the title goes to White 8.Z5 which I last saw at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey on 8th August. Three days later Paco and Antonio recorded this bird at Esmelle Beach, Spain.


         Larus fuscus Black 0.X4 on Burhou, Alderney © C Veron         Larus fuscus  Black 0.X4 on Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, Spain

My belief that the largest breeding colony of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Channel Islands – that on Burhou, Alderney  – (750+ pairs in 2009) is a truly “wild” colony is supported by the late breeding season there this year, and the late departure of the chicks. Paco and Antonio were telling me that they were seeing juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls from Peter Rock’s Bristol-based study and from other parts of NW Europe several weeks before the Burhou birds began to arrive in Spain. As Peter Rock has established urban nesting gulls tend to be able to nest earlier than those breeding on wild sites.

Although we do not have an “urban” nesting gull population in Guernsey, the Lesser Black-backed Gulls which nest on and around Guernsey, Herm and Sark regularly visit Guernsey’s landfill site (the only organic waste landfill in the Channel Islands). I believe that this gives them the advantage of an earlier breeding season for it was noticeable that juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the wing in Guernsey and Sark several weeks before those on Alderney.

Interestingly too, although I ringed 67 adult LBBGs on Burhou this summer, only one of these has to date been recorded in Spain. This compares to 19 of the 143 adults ringed in Guernsey and Sark in the summer of 2009 being recorded further south this month. It would appear that the adults from Burhou are amongst the latest to migrate south – which makes sense if their breeding season is later than those birds on Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

In July 2009 Guernsey’s government decided to introduce an Energy from Waste plant to replace landfill, and this is expected to be operational from late 2012/early 2013. It will be fascinating to see how this change in waste disposal practice affects the gulls in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.


           Larus fuscus 5.V3 on Burhou Alderney © C Veron         Larus fuscus 5.V3 on Esmelle Beach, Ferrol

The six Lesser Black-backed Gulls recorded in Portugal this month were seen by Roland-Jan Buijs, while on holiday in and around Costa da Caparica, Estremadura. All six were adult birds ringed in Guernsey in the summer of 2009. Two of them (White 1.T5 and White 8.T0) had been seen earlier in the month in NW Spain. The fastest journey was made by White 8.T7 – recorded at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey on 08/08/09 and seen at Praia de Mira, Beira Litoral, Portugal on 11/08/09.


                Larus fuscus 9.U0 on Burhou June 09 © P K Veron                                           Larus fuscus 9.U0 on Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, Spain


          Larus fuscus 8.Z5 L'Ancresse Common, Guernsey © PKV                    Larus fuscus 8.Z5 on Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, Spain

One other bird deserving a special mention is White 7S6. I am very fond of this gull. It was one of the first LBBG I ringed for my cr project which began in the summer of 2008. It was then the first gull to be seen outside the Channel Islands, when Antonio Gutierrez saw it on 21/08/08 at Pantin Beach, Valdovino, A Coruna, Spain. It travelled further south for the winter, being recorded by Peter Rock at Matosinhos, Portugal on 28/11/08, before returning to Guernsey again this year. I saw this bird on 23 occasions between 20/02/09 and 01/08/09 – before it moved south again for Antonio to see it again this time at Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, A Coruna, Spain. It is building up life histories such as this that make the colour ringing studies such high value compared to simply metal ringing.

The only report from France came from Alain Fosse, who recorded White 5.T0 on 26/08/09 at Champteusse-sur-Baconne, Maine-et-Loire, FRANCE.  Visit Alain’s web site for details of this movement


               Larus fuscus 5.T0 on Chouet landfill Beach © P K Veron                             Larus fuscus Black 0.V3 on Pembroke Bay, Guernsey © PKV

Full details of all the Lesser Black-backed Gull recoveries from my ringing are included in the Recoveries Section of this web site at

With such good coverage at Chouet landfill and the northern beaches this month, it was not surprising to record a few “foreign” colour rings. These included two birds from Gloucester landfill (White 1DH – see July news and Alain Fosse’s excellent web site for details of this well travelled gull  ) and Blue HLZ, as well as Blue CHN (which had summered and probably bred in the Bailiwick of Guernsey).

Two gulls from further afield were Blue L.LAN seen on Chouet landfill Beach on 27/08/09, having been ringed as a chick at Ostend, Belgium on 26/06/09 by Eric Stienen; and Blue V.773 seen at Chouet landfill on 21/08/09, having been ringed by Tommy Pedersen at Langli, Wadden Sea, Denmark as a chick in the summer of 2009.


                 Larus fuscus L.LAN - Chouet landfill Beach © P K Veron                               Larus fuscus Black 0.P2 Esmelle Beach, Spain

Finally…I took great pleasure in finding, on the north coast beaches of Guernsey, seven of the 218 Larus fuscus that I had colour ringed as chicks on Burhou on 10/07/09, along with one (from only nine) ringed on Sark on 27/06/09. Interestingly only one of these gulls was seen in the landfill, and this gull was resting on the roadway at first light. It took off and left the site immediately. None of these juvenile gulls was observed feeding at the landfill.


Great Black-backed Gull

The highlights for the month for Great Black-backed Gulls have been locating on Guernsey’s beaches six of the 47 colour-ringed chicks that the Guernsey team ringed this summer. In addition one of the pulli (Yellow 0L1) – originally ringed on Crevichon, Jethou on 9th June was seen by Martin Cade at Portland Bill, Dorset, England on 28/08/09.

 Several of the well-known French-ringed immature Great Black-backed Gulls continued to be seen this month (Blue 30C, Blue 74C, Blue 77C and Blue 47D – all from Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France and Green B.09 from Chausey Islands, France).

 In addition two juvenile birds ringed as chicks on the Chausey Islands, France in the summer of 2009 were observed for the first time– Green E.31 (Chouet Beach on 06/08/09) and Green E.76 (Chouet Landfill Beach on 25/08/09).

         Larus marinus 0R5 Chouet landfill Beach © P K Veron                           Larus marinus 0P1 Chouet Beach © P K Veron

Herring Gull

With the success of the cannon netting operation run with Paul Roper and members of the North Thames Gull Group at Chouet landfill from 04-06 June 2009, when 642 Herring Gulls were ringed (mostly with colour rings), and the success of Jamie Hooper’s cr project ringing chicks over the period 1998-2007 inclusive, I am now recording c 70-80 cr Herring Gulls on most of my visits to Chouet landfill and the north coast beaches.

 While making the field work and the administration of this colour ringing project harder work, it is excellent to be able to follow so many individual Herring Gulls over time. Having said that, I am amazed at the small percentage of Herring Gulls which are presently colour-ringed (probably less than 1% of adult birds and only a fraction of this for juveniles).

It was noteworthy that several of Jamie’s adult birds had not been recorded over the spring/summer period, but they have reappeared from late summer. I imagine that these birds have bred in the islands, but not visited Chouet landfill (at least not regularly). However, it is of course possible that they left the islands to breed elsewhere, or in some cases did not breed at all.

 While no “foreign” colour rings were observed movements out of the island were noted as follows:-

White 6.AA2 ringed as an adult male in our garden at Ty Coed, Vale, Guernsey on 05/07/09 and observed at Portland Bill, Dorset, England by Martin Cade on 01/08/09. After a relatively short trip away this gull was back at Chouet landfill, Guernsey on 31/08/09.

             Larus argentatus 6.AA2 Portland Bill © Martin Cade                             Larus argentatus with deformed beak - Guernsey © J Hooper

 White 3.PP1 ringed as a 1st summer bird on 05/06/09 at Chouet landfill was observed at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France on 13/08/09.

Of the 83 chicks that were colour ringed in the islands this summer, I have so far seen 48 on Guernsey’s beaches or Chouet landfill. In fact the sighting of these youngsters has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the colour ringing observations this month. It has been interesting to review the photos I took of some of these birds as chicks and to see them now fully grown and fending for themselves.

                Larus argentatus 5.NN0 Jethou © C Veron                           Larus argentatus 5.NN0  Chouet Landfill Beach © P K Veron


                Larus argentatus 5.XX1 Pleinmont © P K Veron                           Larus argentatus 5.XX1 Chouet Beach © P K Veron


           Larus argentatus 5.RR2 Jethou © C Veron                                          Larus argentatus  5.RR2 Mare de carteret, Guernsey © P K Veron


                            Larus argentatus Jethou © P K Veron                            Larus argentatus Chouet Beach © P K Veron


             Larus argentatus 5.VV8 Pleinmont June 09 © P K Veron                               Larus argentatus 5.VV8 Chouet landfill Beach © P K Veron

Mediterranean Gull

Checking the high tide roost of Black-headed Gulls at Bellegreve Bay continued my run of failure in trying to read metal-only ringed gulls. However, there was reward with the re-sighting of Mediterranean Gull White 3E90. This bird was first recorded in Guernsey in August 2006. It was then sighted at Costa da Caparica, Portugal in January 2007. In September 2007 it was back at Bellegreve Bay, Guernsey, where it was seen again the following year – again in the early autumn (July and August). By October 2008 this well-travelled gull was recorded off north-west France (Finistere). It was very good to record this site-faithful bird again at Bellegreve Bay in August 2009.

As if to encourage my attempts to read metal rings on small gulls, I finally managed to read a metal ring on another Mediterranean Gull, Bruxelles E 911988 had been ringed as an adult by Renaud Flamant on 24/06/2008 at Noordelijk Insteekdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium. It was present in Bellegreve Bay, Guernsey on 16th and 18th August 2009.

 Larus melanocephalus  3E90 Bellegreve Bay, Guernsey © P K Veron                 Larus marinus B.09 Pembroke © P K Veron

Paul K Veron

04 September 2009