Gull News from Guernsey

January 2009

The month...indeed the year… got off to the best possible start with Catherine and me getting married on 2nd January.  After a really enjoyable wedding in Guernsey we escaped south for a week of warmer weather in the Algarve, southern Portugal.

Most of the week was spent chilling out, relaxing and exploring the countryside of the western Algarve. We did manage, however, to fit in some gull watching – principally at Portimao Fish Port/Ferragudo and at Quarteira Beach (near Faro). The flocks of Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Portimao were very impressive with several thousand gulls in the vicinity, while Quarteira held several hundred birds on the sandy beach and in the small fishing harbour.

A total of 48 colour rings were read successfully – 45 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and three Yellow-legged Gulls. By far the most exciting of these was a 1st W Lesser Black-backed Gull (code 3.Z9) which we saw at Portimao Fish Port. Catherine and I had ringed this bird at its nest on 8th July 2008 on Brecqhou Island off Sark, Channel Islands. Considering that we only ringed 68 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in what was a very poor breeding season in the Channel Islands, the chances of relocating one of “our” gulls appeared to be remote – making it even more thrilling when it happened!


(Photo of 3.Z9 courtesy of T and D Hiemstra)

 Details of some of the colour rings are currently awaited. However, the tally included the following:-

 Lesser Black-backed Gull

Iceland          Two birds - both ringed as adults at Hvaleyrarlon, Hafnarfjorour, SW Iceland in August 2008 by Gunnar Thor Hallgrimsson.

Norway         Four Birds – all ringed as pulli in Vest-Agder in the south-west of the country. The oldest bird was in its 10th year, having been seen in two previous winters in the Algarve, and once on passage in the German Friesian Islands. Two of the birds were in their 3rd winters – both having previously wintered in the Algarve (with one also being recorded on passage at Gloucester Landfill Site in the UK). The final gull was in its 1st winter with its 1st sighting abroad.

Netherlands Three birds from Rotterdam Port (details awaited – although it is known that one had been ringed in 1997 (with previous  sightings in the Algarve)).

                        Two  birds from Moerdijk – a pullus from 2006 with its 1st sighting on its wintering ground, and a bird ringed as a 4th yr female  in May 2007 with several sightings in France. In fact it had been seen in Maine-et-Loire, France only 18 days before we saw  it on the Algarve.

                        One bird from Ijmuiden (Nord Holland) ringed as a 1st year male in September 2007, with a sighting later that autumn in Nord,  France.

Belgium       One bird, ringed as a 4th year male, at Zele-Heikant, Oost-Vlaanderen in April 2008, which had been seen in September 200 in the Algarve.

                        Four birds ringed at Zeebrugge, West-Vlaanderen. Three ringed as pulli (one in 1999 and two in 2007). The oldest bird has a long sightings history with records from the Algarve in several years, as well as many from Zeebrugge and one from Suffolk, UK. One of the other pulli had previously been seen in Belgium, France and Spain before we saw it in the Algarve, while the other had only been seen at Quarteira Beach since leaving Zeebrugge. The bird ringed as an adult in 2006 had previous sightings history from Zeebrugge (Belgium), Nord (France) and the Algarve (Portugal).

Germany      Five birds – all ringed as pulli on the German islands of Amrum (three) and Helgoland (two) by Dr Sonke Martens. Two of the                        Amrum ringed birds (one from June 2007 and the other from July 20008) had both been seen at Westkappelle, Netherlands in                        October 2008. The third chick from Amrum was ringed in July 2008, and seen on that island until 15th August. It was then                                reported from Calvados, France in mid-September.

                       The two birds from Helgoland were ringed in July 2007 and July 2008. The 2007 bird had been seen in Estremadura, Portugal                         in November 2007, and Chipiona, Spain on 19th December 2008; while the 2008 nestling had no sightings history prior to                             our  seeing it on the Algarve, Portugal.

UK             Six birds from Flatholm in the Bristol Channel – the oldest of which carried a class ring from 1992. Two of the others had sightings in previous years from the Algarve, while the other three had been seen in both Spain and Portugal.

                       Three birds from Bristol – ringed as pulli in 1993, 1999 and 2002. The oldest bird had not been seen for 12 years, but was then seen twice at Barrow Reservoir close to Bristol. The Algarve sighting was the first foreign report for this bird. The 1999 bird had begun breeding in Bristol in 2002, and is still going strong! It was in Matasinhos in November 1999, Portimao in November 2000 and Faro (all Portugal) in December 2007. The youngest bird had been reported from Agadir, Morocco from January-March 2003, with a sighting nr Biarritz in November 2003, before being seen many times at Gloucester Landfill in the UK.

                        One bird from the Ribble Estuary, Lancashire. Ringed as a pullus in 2000 and seen in November of that year at Portimao, but not again until we saw it at Quarteira in January 2009.

Two birds from the huge colony on South Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria. Both pulli – one ringed in 2000 and the other in 2007. The older bird had previous sightings from Portugal as well as one from NW Spain, while the younger bird had been seen in two previous winters at Matasinhos, Portugal before travelling a little further south in Portugal by January 2009.

Five birds ringed by the Severn Estuary Gull Group at the landfill sites around Gloucester – all but one of which had been seen previously on the Algarve.

 Yellow-legged Gull

Spain             One ringed as a chick in July 2008 at Tarifa Island, Cadiz was seen on 5th and 7th January at Ferragudo and Portimao Fish    port.

Portugal       One ringed as a chick in July 1997 at Berlenga Islands, Portugal was seen in October of that year at Figueira da Foz, Portugal before we saw it more than 11 years later at Portimao Fish Port.

A British metal-ringed adult Lesser Black-backed Gull seen at Quarteira on 9 January was ringed as a pullus on Flatholm, Wales on 23 June 1989.

Several combination style colour rings seen have proved impossible to trace – presumably in several cases because some of the rings are no longer present.



After such a fabulous week, with so many foreign colour-ringed gulls, it was always going to be hard work getting going in Guernsey again. However, I managed to fit in three one hour visits to Chouet landfill Site, on the north coast of Guernsey over the period 17th- 30th January. In addition I counted the Lesser Black-backed Gull roosts on the north and west coasts several times and checked out a few other gull hotspots.

I managed to see 67 of Jamie Hooper’s colour ringed Herring Gulls (nine of which were new to me) as well as five of my own (one of which was new).  Three of Jamie’s birds that I saw had been reported from outside the island (one in Vendee and one in Manche, France and one in Gloucester, UK), but were new records of birds returning to Guernsey. In addition I saw another eight Herring Gulls which had been seen out of the islands, but which I had already recorded back in Guernsey in the period August – December 2008. These involved birds returning from France - Vendee (2), Loire-Atlantique (1) and Manche (2), England - Keyhaven, Hampshire (1) and Jersey (2).

I saw two of the colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls from Gilles Le Guillou’s study in (and around) Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France, which I had seen several times before this winter. These were Blue 36B which had been ringed as a chick in June 2005. Shortly after fledging, this gull had been seen several times in Seine-Maritime and Calvados, France, before moving westwards down the English Channel to Ouessant Island, Finistere, France in January 2006. It was then seen at Dungeness, England in March and April 2007, before re-crossing the Channel to Veules-les-Roses, Seine-Maritime by June 2007. I first saw this bird on Perelle Beach on the west coast of Guernsey in September 2008. I recorded it again in September and October; but had no further sightings of it until the 22nd January 2009 (Vazon Bay).

Blue 74C, which had been ringed in June 2008 at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France, was seen at Chouet Landfill Beach on 29th January. I had first seen this bird in September 2008 at the Fish Quay in St Peter Port Harbour, and again on 19th November 2008 at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey. I also found another of Gilles’ birds for the first time – Blue 33C – a 1st winter seen at Perelle Bay on 25th January (originally ringed on 26th may 2007 at Le Havre).

I recorded another of Seb Provost’s Great Black-backed Gulls from his study of the gulls on Chausey Islands in the Bay of St Malo, France. This was Green B.09 seen on 29th January 2009 at Chouet Landfill Beach. It had been ringed on Les Huguenots Island, Chausey in June 2008.

I was particularly pleased to find another two Norwegian-ringed birds on the west coast this month. Black JA602 was seen at Vazon Bay on 22nd January - having been ringed at Landekilen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway as a chick on 28th June 2008 by Finn Jorgensen.

Blue JH2Y was observed at Perelle Bay on 25th January. It had been ringed at Lyngholmen, Lyngdal, Vest-Agder, Norway as a chick by Marton Berntsen on 17th June 2006.

I was also thrilled to find my first cr Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year on Guernsey on 22nd January on Vazon Bay. This bird (Blue 956) had been ringed as an adult at Gloucester Landfill Site in October 2005. It had then been seen in February 2007 at Ouessant Island, Finistere, France, before being resighted at Grundons Landfill Site, Glocs in October of that year.

I also learnt that one of the cr birds I’d seen on autumn passage at Chouet on 16th August 2008 (White 1DH) had been resighted at its regular wintering sites at landfills at La Seguiniere, Maine-et-Loire, Champteusse-sur-Bacon and Sonzey, Indre-et-Loire, France over the period from 13th November 2008 to 29th January 2009. This gull had also been ringed originally at the Gloucester landfill sites (Stoke Orchard) by the Severn Estuary Gull Group.  A sightings history (including map) of this bird can be found at Alain Fosse's excellent web site

Lesser Black-backed Gull Counts

After a lean winter for Lesser Black-backed Gulls with minima of three birds at both Chouet/Pembroke on the north coast and Perelle/Vazon on the west coast, I was delighted to see the vanguard of migrants begin to trickle through by the third week of the month, growing to 12 birds at Chouet/Pembroke on 31st and nine at Perelle/Vazon on the same date. This trickle should now slowly grow as the weeks go by leading to peak passage (I think) in mid-late March (we’ll see!).


Records of Scarce Gulls in Guernsey

Surprisingly, given the relative abundance of records of white-winged northern gulls in France this winter, there were no reports of either Iceland or Glaucous Gull in Guernsey in January. In fact it was a mainly quiet month with only two records of scarce gulls as follows: -

Common Gull – Ten feeding in fields at Rue des Hougues, St Andrew’s on 9th January (no doubt drawn to the island by the cold weather snap in the UK and on the nearby Continent); and

Ring-billed Gull a 1st winter bird feeding in fields at Rue Francis, St Saviour’s from 20th- 26th January (click here for Mark Lawlor’s excellent annotated photographs of the bird)




Paul K Veron

10th February 2009