For the second consecutive month I managed to record more than 1,000 colour rings, providing much valuable data for the Guernsey gull projects. These birds were, of course, in the main, Herring Gulls (1,078) - most of which had been ringed during the summer of 2009. However, in amongst the "local" birds there were a few highlights with several foreign rings recorded. A new day total for colour ring observations was set at Chouet Landfill on 19th when 159 rings were recorded.

September also proved to be an excellent month for the receipt of reports of Guernsey ringed gulls from abroad - mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen in Iberia, but there were also several interesting reports from France.

                             9S7 Chouet landfill  19/09/09 © PKV                                               Gulls at Chouet Landfill Beach, Guernsey 03/09/09 © PKV

Lesser Black-backed Gull

It was very noticeable from early in the month that Lesser Black-backed Gulls had thinned very dramatically at Chouet landfill and the beaches of Guernsey's north coast. From the late spring/early summer peaks of c 700 Larus fuscus at any one time, I struggled to find more than 20 each day. There was a scattering of juvenile and immature L. fuscus throughout the month - including six of the nestlings ringed on Burhou, Alderney on 10 July 2009. In common with the previous six seen, most were observed on north coast beaches. With only a couple of exceptions (of birds which stayed for a week or more) these juveniles quickly continued their migration.

              6.V0 on Burhou, Alderney 10 July 2009 © Catherine Veron                               6.V0 on Perelle, Guernsey  27 September 2009 © P K Veron

I did not visit the west coast beaches until the third week of the month and was therefore surprised to find 150-200 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the roosts at Vazon, Perelle and L'Eree beaches. Amongst these birds I did locate two adults from my colour-ringing projects - including White 6S6 (which I had originally ringed in our garden at Ty Coed, Guernsey in May 2008). This bird had been seen at the Perelle roost for much of September 2008, before it disappeared. It was then seen on 16 November 2008 by Juan Ma Dominguez Robledo in Cantabria, Spain. I had not seen this bird all summer in Guernsey, and so was thrilled to have recorded it back in Guernsey (presumably very shortly before it moves south again for the winter). The sighting of 6S6 also meant that I had managed to see 14 of the 16 adult LBBGs that I had ringed in the summer of 2008 (i.e. 87.5%).

Only two foreign-ringed LBBGs were seen this month. Red 904N was first seen on 5th September, and then again on 8th, 10th and 12th (all at Chouet landfill or Chouet landfill Beach). This gull had been ringed as a pullus on 27/06/09 at Calais, Pas-de-Calais, France by Arnaud Govaere. Blue V.C1H was recorded at Vazon Beach on 22nd September. Details of this (presumably Danish?) bird are awaited.

             Blue V.C1H on Vazon, Guernsey 22/09/09 © PKV                            Red 904N at Chouet landfill, Guernsey 05/09/09 © PKV

It was another very exciting month for reports of Guernsey-ringed LBBGs. Antonio Gutierrez and Francisco (Paco) Veiga recorded no fewer than 10 of my Larus fuscus at Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, A Coruna, Spain.  Most records involved new sightings of juvenile gulls that had been ringed in the nest on Burhou, Alderney on 09/10 July 2009. It is interesting to note that, with one exception, all the Guernsey-ringed Larus fuscus that Antonio and Paco have seen on Esmelle Beach in August and September have moved on very quickly. The exception is White 9.T9 which was ringed as an adult male on 06/06/09 at Chouet landfill. Since its first sighting on Esmelle on 02/08/09, 9.T9 has been seen on 19 separate days. It clearly likes the area...and presumably may winter there?

                                                                                9.T9 on Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, A Coruna, Spain - September 09

                    Black 0.J6 Burhou, Alderney 10/07/09 © CMV                                                            Black 0.J6 Esmelle, A Coruna, Spain

                                                                              Black 0.R0 Esmelle Beach, A Coruna, Spain  01/09/09

There were 13other sightings of Guernsey-ringed Larus fuscus in Spain :- Asturias (seven), Asturias to A Coruna (one bird),  Lugo (one), Pontevedra (one) Madrid (one) and Malaga (two), as well as four in Portugal (Costa da Caparica, Extremadura) and five in France  Maine-et-Loire (three), Mayenne (one)  and Vendee (one) - the latter White 6.Z7 ringed as a chick on Sark in July 2008 and recorded at Les Sables d'Olonne by Michael Fouquet on 30 & 31/07/09 before being seen at Llanes, Asturias, Spain on 02/09/09 by Javier Gil Vaquero.

                      Black 0.K0 Burhou, Alderney 10/07/09 © CMV                     Black 0.K0 Lago Fish Factory, Lugo, Spain 05/09/09

                                   Black 0.K8 on Burhou, Alderney on 10/07/09 © CMV and at Caravia, Asturias, Spain  04/09/09

     7.V1 on Burhou, Alderney 10/07/09 © CMV                                 7.V1 on Caravia, Asturias, Spain   15/09/09

         3.T3 at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey  13/07/09 © PKV                3.T3 at Champteusse-sur-Bacon, Maine-et-Loire, France 21/09/09  © A Fosse

               6.Z8 at Chouet landfill Beach - July 09 © PKV                                         6.Z8 at La Seguiniere, Maine-et-Loire, France 25/09/09 © A Fosse

It was remarkable to receive details of very fast re-sightings of  two foreign-ringed Larus fuscus seen in Guernsey last month. Blue DCD had been ringed as an adult on 16/04/08 at Gloucester Landfill, England.  On 01/08/09 I saw this bird on Pembroke Beach, Guernsey. Then eight days later Paco saw it on Esmelle Beach, Spain. It remained there (or at nearby Doninos Beach) until at least 19/08/09, before then being seen by Juan Cabeza at Boca do Rio, Porto do Sol, A Coruna, Spain on 05/09/09. On this same day, and at the same sight, Juan also saw Blue V.773 - which had been ringed as nestling on Langli, Wadden Sea, Denmark by Tommy Pedersen - and which I had recorded at Chouet landfill, Guernsey on 21/08/09.  These two records help to illustrate the high value that colour ringing brings to scientific studies.

I was also very pleased to hear that the well-known bird White 1DH (a bird ringed as an adult at Gloucester, England in March 2004, and which has been seen on passage in Guernsey in several autumns - including 2009 (from 13 July to 18 August)) - is now back at its usual wintering grounds at the landfills in Maine-et-Loire, France.  

Great Black-backed Gull

I was rather surprised to record 12 French-ringed Larus marinus in September. Three of these records refer to long-staying birds from Gilles Le Guillou's projects at Seine-Maritime, France - Blue 30C (first seen in Guernsey on 18/09/08), Blue 47D (first seen in Guernsey on 05/02/09) and Blue 74C (first recorded in Guernsey on 29/09/08). A fourth bird from Gilles' work at le Havre, Seine-Maritime (Blue 33C) had also been previously recorded in Guernsey - but only once on 25/01/09. I am quite certain that this gull had not been on Guernsey over the spring/summer. In addition the following four new gulls ringed by Gilles in Seine-Maritime were recorded - Blue 31D (2nd winter), Blue 73D, Black 13E and Black 38E (all 1st winters).

In addition a further four 1st winter gulls ringed by Seb Provost on the Chausey Islands, Normandy were seen - Green E.04, Green E.33, Green E.71 and Green E.79.

Over the past 12 months I have now recorded 15 Larus marinus from Chausey and 14 from Seine-Maritime - indicating that Guernsey may be an important site for gulls of this species dispersing from their breeding grounds on the Channel coast of France.

Perhaps the most surprising record this month (because it seems relatively early) was the sighting of Black JE312  at L'Eree on 27th. This gull had been ringed as a nestling in June 2009 at Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway.

On 30 September I located an adult Great Black-backed Gull which had been ringed in July 2000 on Les Ecrehous Reef, Jersey, Channel Islands.

            Green E.79 L'Eree 27/09/09 ©PKV                                                          Green E.04 Pembroke Bay, Guernsey 08/09/09 © PKV

              Metal Jersey J 0097 Chouet landfill, Guernsey  September 2009 © PKV              Black JE312 at L'Eree Bay, Guernsey 27/09/09 © PKV

Herring Gull

The sheer number of juvenile Herring Gulls at Chouet landfill this month has been impressive. Peak counts have exceeded 700 birds - with very few being ringed. I believe that (as with Great Black-backed Gulls) Guernsey acts as a magnet for juvenile gulls which have fledged from colonies outside the Bailiwick and even outside the Channel Islands. I suspect that many French-bred birds visit the island to take advantage of the only organic landfill for many many miles. It has also been interesting to see how hundreds of juvenile gulls remain on the landfill even when the site is closed. Very few adult gulls pick through the refuse when it is covered and there are no further arrivals of waste. I suspect that the closure (or severe scaling down) of  landfill in Guernsey from 2013 onwards will have a marked effect on the survival rates of Herring Gulls in their first winters. Hopefully my studies will ultimately reveal if this is true or not.

The vast majority of sightings of Herring Gulls this month refer to birds caught in the cannon netting sessions at the beginning of June 2009. The majority of the gulls colour ringed then are still on Guernsey. However, as expected a minority has begun to move short distances away from Guernsey. There were reports this month of gulls moving to the Cherbourg Peninsula, Manche, France (four birds), as well as Calvados, France (one). In addition a bird recorded at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime in mid-August had returned westwards to Calvados, France by mid-September.

A few more of the Herring Gulls ringed as chicks this year were seen for the first time this month - bringing the total sightings to 51 of the 84 pulli colour-ringed seen so far. In addition one of the few metal-ringed nestling Herring Gulls ringed on Burhou, Alderney on 10 July 2009 was seen at Chouet landfill on 06/09/09.

                            Catherine with 5.LL8 on Jethou - 25/06/09 © PKV                                 5.LL8 on Chouet Landfill Beach 08/09/09 © PKV

                6.AA5 Burhou, Alderney 10/07/09  © C M Veron                                         6.AA5 Chouet landfill Site, Guernsey  05/09/09 © PKV

                       5.UU7 Fish Quay, Guernsey  16/09/09 © PKV                                               5.FF0 Cobo, Guernsey 22/09/09 © PKV

I was pleased to see 5.FF0 again - as this is the French-ringed gull that we caught and colour ringed at Chouet Landfill back on 06/06/09.

Mediterranean Gull

Guernsey is not a great place to look for colour ringed Mediterranean Gulls,as we seldom ever have more than half a dozen birds present across the whole island. However, it is always worth looking at these birds carefully as the upsurge of work on this species means that there is always the chance of spotting a colour ring. On 29th September I did see a 1st winter bird on Pembroke Bay (Green 671), which had been ringed in the nest at Conchil le Tempil, Pas-de-Calais, France. I did not see this month the regular passage bird from Belgium (White 3E90) which frequents Belegreve Bay for a few weeks each autumn, but I never managed to catch the small roost of Black-headed Gulls there at a suitable time to scan for this bird.

Black-headed Gull finally long last I managed (after several attempts) to read the complete ring number on a metal-ringed Black-headed Gull...and to make all the frustrations of partially-read rings seen previously worthwhile it turned out to be a very interesting bird. Details are currently awaited for the Polish-ringed bird seen at Mare de Carteret, Cobo on 05 September.

Paul K Veron

01 October 2009