Guernsey Gulls February 2009


Great Black-backed Gull Green A78 ©Barry Wells        Little Gull © Dee Langmead                     Great Black-backed Gull - 0J1 ©Paul K Veron         

The excellent tone set in January 2009, continued into February with a good series of colour ring sightings, some excellent data being obtained for my own cr studies and a few scarce gulls being seen on Guernsey. 

Catherine and I were also delighted to attend the 9th International Gull Meeting in Peterhead at the end of the month (see below).

Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Colour Ring Sightings - Two real highlights for my own research were the sightings of White 7S5 and White 7S6 at Chouet landfill site. The former was present on 14th, and the latter on 20th. Both gulls were originally ringed as adults in early June 2008 in our garden at Ty Coed (1 km from the landfill site). While I knew that 7S5 had not wintered on Guernsey, there were no sightings of this bird over the winter – so its wintering grounds were unknown.

This was not the case with 7S6. This gull had been seen in early August at Chouet landfill (by Mark Lawlor), and then ten days later Antonio Gutierrez saw it at Pantin Beach, Valdovino, A Coruna, NW Spain (see photo below). It was then seen in November by Peter Rock at Matosinhos, Portugal. We therefore knew that this bird had travelled at least as far as Iberia for the winter. It is now back in the Bailiwick of Guernsey…although I do not yet know which island it will nest on.

Another very good record was the sighting in the landfill site of a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which I had originally metal-ringed as a nestling on Brecqhou Island, off Sark on 10th July 1989 – my oldest gull to date at nearly 20 years. (Details of another locally ringed Larus fuscus seen at the landfill are currently awaited).

It was also thrilling to receive news that Alain Fosse had sighted White 1.Z0 (a pullus LBBG ringed on Brecqhou on 8th July 2008) at La Séguinière, Maine-et-Loire, France on 17th and 23rd February. The only previous sighting of this gull was on 30th August 2008 at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey. This was my first cr sighting from France for my LBBG project. Click here for link to Alain Fosse's web site - showing the  movements of 1.Z0

Two colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls from the Severn Estuary Gull Group were seen at Chouet Landfill during the month – Blue ACE on the 14th, (ringed at Gloucester landfill in November 2006 and seen in the vicinity in both of the following Novembers), and Blue CHN on 17th, 21st and 22nd (ringed at Stoke Orchard Landfill, Glocs in November 2007).  One of Peter Rock's Bristol-born birds was also seen  on 24th - White SJ. This bird was ringed as a nestling on 30th June 1997, and has been seen in several summers/autumns back in Bristol and also at Barrow Reservoir. It has also been seen in southern Spain (Medina Sidonia, Cadiz) in November 2001 and November 2007.

Finally, the Lesser Black-backed Gull (White 1DH) reported in the January Gull News as wintering back at the landfill sites in Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire had returned to Grundons Landfill site, Glocs (nr its original ringing site) by 21st February. This bird has twice been recorded on autumn passage through Guernsey...but if it did stop off at the Chouet landfill on its way north this spring...I missed it! Click here for a link to this bird's movements on Alain Fosse's superb web site.

LBBG Counts – By the end of January my peak Larus fuscus counts on Guernsey were Perelle/Vazon nine birds and Chouet/Pembroke 12 birds. Numbers built well in February (earlier than I’d expected) with both the return of Channel Islands nesting birds and also passage birds. By the 14th c 75 LBBGs were present (mainly at Chouet landfill). The maximum daily count was taken on 25th when 110+ birds were present (85+ at Chouet and 25 at Perelle/Vazon). 

Herring Gulls

Colour Ring Sightings Seven visits to Chouet landfill site, and nearby beaches during the month resulted in  198 sightings of cr Herring Gulls (including 16 that I had not previously recorded). The vast majority of these related to locally born birds ringed by Jamie Hooper. However, I managed to find a few of my own birds, and also one from the Severn Estuary Gull Group. Blue BHC had been ringed at Gloucester Landfill on 13th January 2007; with further sightings there in February and November 2007, before being seen at Chouet on 17th February.

On 26th I saw Pale Blue B113 - details of which are currently awaited - but this is a bird from Christine Blaize's project based in Le Havre, France.

Of Jamie’s Guernsey-born birds no fewer than 12 had previously been recorded in France or England as follows - France - Cotes d'Armor (1), Manche (1),  Calvados & Seine-Maritime (1), Calvados (1), Seine-Maritime (1), Vendee (3) and Morbihan (1);  England -  Dorset  (1), Devon (1) and Glocs (1). (bold = not previously seen back in Guernsey)

Although I am not currently making detailed counts of Herring Gulls, it was noticeable this month that the population of 1st and 2nd winter gulls visiting Chouet landfill appears to have swollen significantly.

Cr ProjectMy own project commenced again this month, albeit in very modest fashion, with the ringing of two adult birds trapped in a garden in St Saviour’s. At this time of year the gulls remain very wary and are difficult to catch.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Colour Ring SightingsAnother excellent month for cr sightings. The highlight was a 2nd winter bird which appeared on Chouet Landfill Beach on the 20th. Black J61Y had been ringed by Morten Helberg at Valloyytaklene Kollholmen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway (my sixth Norwegian Larus marinus of the 2008/09 winter).

In addition seven French-ringed Larus marinus were recorded – with three from Sebastien Provost’s project on Chausey Islands and four  from Gilles Le Guillou’s project based at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime. Of Sebastien’s gulls two had previously been seen in Guernsey over the 2008/09 winter (Green A78 and Green B.09), while B.36 (which had been ringed on Petit Romons Island in June 2008) was seen for the first time on 12th February; it was still present on 26th.

Again only one of Gilles’ gulls was new (Blue 47D) which was seen on 5th and 8th. This bird had been ringed as a nestling in Le Havre on 28th June 2008. Blue 57D was recorded again on 4th at Perelle Bay (having been seen originally on 14th October at the Fish Quay St Peter Port by Richard Keen). Blue 94C (which had been ringed on 23rd June 2008 on the roof of a nuclear power station at Paleul, Seine-Maritime) was spotted on 5th at Chouet landfill. I had first seen this bird on 4th December on Rousse Beach. Finally, after a two month gap in sightings Blue 77C was recorded at Chouet landfill on 25th and 26th. This bird had originally been ringed at Le Havre on 26th June 2008. I had first seen it on 4th September 2008, and then again twice in October, and once each in November and December.

Cr Project I was thrilled to get my own cr project off the ground with the ringing of a superb adult male Larus marinus, which had been found ill and nursed back to health by the Guernsey Society for the Protection of Animals. I hope to spot this bird on Guernsey’s shorelines very soon!

Scarce Gulls

Iceland Gull – a 3rd winter bird found on Chouet Beach on 19th had clearly been feeding at the adjacent landfill, as its head and neck were sullied with red food dye (from dumped commercial food). 

Glaucous Gull - a 2nd winter bird at Chouet landfill early morning on 25th, and again on 27th.

Yellow-legged Gull – an adult (presumably the same bird) on Chouet Beach and Pembroke on 8th, and another adult at Chouet Landfill Beach on 19th were the only records this month.

Little Gull – An adult bird seen at Bellegreve Bay (on the east coast) from 1st to 6th; and a 1st winter bird at Perelle on 14th.

          ©Antonio Gutierrez                                    

Little Gull 1st W - ©Barry Wells                              Herring Gull Adult - White 1.AA9 © PKV         White 7S6 at Pantin Beach, A. Coruna, Spain Aug 08

…and finally

The 9th International Gull Meeting in Peterhead, Scotland 26th February – 1st March

Catherine and I were delighted at the end of the month to be able to attend the above meeting to meet other gull enthusiasts and to hear a series of interesting presentations on varied aspects of gull identification and ecology.

The full agenda for the meeting can be viewed by visiting Dr Christopher Gibbins’ web site ( Chris very kindly hosted the meeting and made all the arrangements to ensure the success of the event.   It was a particular pleasure for me to meet some of the gull enthusiasts who have helped me to get my own gull projects off the ground, and also to meet some of the  people whose cr gulls I have seen (and vice-versa).

An abbreviated version of the presentation given by me will shortly be available on this site:-

“The Changing Fortunes of Gulls Breeding in the Channel Islands”

More details of the meeting (including a few photos) will appear in the March report.

Paul K Veron

1st March 2009