JULY 2009

                                                          (Ringing Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks on Burhou, Alderney - 10th July  2009)

After the considerable disappointment of the 2008 breeding season for Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Channel Islands, when during a visit to the main breeding colony of around 1,000 pairs on Burhou, off Alderney we only found three chicks which had been raised to near fledging, we were concerned to see if the gulls would enjoy more success this year. I am pleased to report that the colony in 2009 (which numbered around 750 pairs) was experiencing a successful season (if a little later than expected).

The Bailiwick of Guernsey Seabird Team (represented by Catherine and Paul Veron and Chris Mourant) managed to ring 281 Larus fuscus chicks (of which 218 were large enough to take colour rings). It is hoped that these gulls will give many sightings and good data for my research project for many years to come. During this visit we only saw gull chicks regurgitate fish, thus supporting my belief that the Burhou colony acts as a truly "wild" colony, with a minority of the adults visiting landfill sites on an irregular basis. This is also backed up by the sighting at Guernsey's landfill site of only two of the 67 adult Larus fuscus colour ringed on their nests on Burhou this summer. By contrast the Sark colonies are clearly using Guernsey's landfill site, with 12 (of 17) colour ringed 2009 breeding adults being seen at Chouet Landfill this summer. As I write this page, at the end of July the juvenile gulls from Burhou should be fledging. I hope to see some pausing briefly on Guernsey, before they continue southwards on their first migrations.

With the summer's seabird and gull ringing and monitoring work completed, I was able to take up my telescope again and re-commence a few hours observation several times each week at Chouet landfill and Guernsey's north coast beaches again. The most striking change since I had last spent such time in the field was the considerable increase in colour ringed Herring Gulls - resulting from the big success of the cannon netting sessions run at Chouet landfill with the North Thames Gull Group from 4th-6th June (see Guernsey Gulls June 2009).

I recorded colour rings on 14 days during July. This yielded the following results:-

Herring Gull                                         645
Lesser Black-backed Gull                  193 
Great Black-backed Gull                      12

Total                                                     850

The pick of the sightings included the regular Lesser Black-backed Gull which breeds around Gloucester, England and winters at the landfills in Maine-et Loire and Indre-et-Loire, France. I was surprised that this gull was back in Guernsey as early as 13 July. I had first seen White 1DH in August 2008 (although it had been seen on migration in Guernsey in August 2004). See Alain Fosse's excellent web site for more details of the travels of this interesting gull.  

   Lesser Black-backed Gull - White 1DH at Chouet landfill - 13/07/09                 Great Black-backed Gull Blue 30C at Chouet landfill Beach - 20/07/09

Four of the French-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls were seen several times during July:-

Blue 30C - ringed at Le Havre in June 2008 (first seen in Guernsey on 18 September 2008, and seen 27 times since);
Blue 47D - ringed at Le Havre in June 2008 (first seen in Guernsey on 05 February 2009 and seen 14 times since);
Blue 74C - ringed at Le Havre in June 2008 (first seen in Guernsey on 29 September 2008 and seen six times sionce); and
Green B.09 - ringed on Chausey Islands, Normandy in June 2008 (first seen in Guernsey on 29 January 2009 and seen 16 times since).

.                                                                 Great Black-backed Gull Blue 47D at Chouet landfill Beach 31/07/09
After now recording several hundred of the Herring Gulls colour ringed by Jamie Hooper in Guernsey over the period 1998-2007, I am still recording a few birds for the first time. In July this included White 1L5 which had been ringed as a chick in 2002 on Pleinmont Cliffs in the south-west of Guernsey. This gull had been seen in the summers of 2003, 2004 and 2005 at (and in the vicinity of) Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas de Calais, France. In December 2006 it was seen at Carteret, Manche, France - which is about as close to Guernsey as it is possible to get on the French coast. On 17th July 2009 I recorded it at Chouet landfill Beach. I imagine that after spending its youth in France, this Herring Gull has returned to its natal area (Guernsey) to breed.

I also recorded Herring Gull Yellow 3B1 for the first time this month. This gull had been ringed as a chick at Portelet Headland, Jersey by the late Bob Burrows on 28 June 1999, before being sighted at Les Sable d'Olonne, Vendee, France several times in September 2000, and on Noirmoitier island, Vendee, France on 12 August 2002. It was seen in Guernsey at Vazon Bay on 01 January 2007, and then again on 04 June 2009 at Chouet landfill, before I saw it on Chouet landfill Beach on 25 July 2009.

One of the Herring Gulls colour ringed during the cannon netting operation at Chouet landfill in early June 2009 was seen in July at Barfleur, Normandy, France. White 4.UU7 was ringed as a second winter bird. It will be interesting to see if it is sighted in Guernsey again.

On 31 July I saw Herring Gull Paris DA 2275-- on Chouet Landfill Beach. This bird had been ringed during the summer of 2006 at the LPO rehabilitation centre at L'Ille Grande, Pleumeur Bodou, Bittany, France.

                                                                 Herring Gull - Paris DA 2275-- Chouet landfill Beach 31/07/09

The first juvenile Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls appeared at Chouet landfill and the north coast beaches from 13th July onwards. It was very enjoyable searching through the flocks of young gulls locating several that we had ringed earlier in the summer on the colonies on Sark and Jethou.

                             Herring Gull 5.UU5 Breniere, Sark 27/06/09                            Herring Gull 5.UU5 Chouet Landfill Beach, Guernsey 31/07/09
      Herring Gull 5.PP1 - Jethou 25 June 2009                                                              Herring Gull 5.PP1 - Pembroke, Guernsey 31/07/09

                                          Herring Gull 5.NN4 - Jethou 25/06/09                  Herring Gull 5.NN4 - Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey 31/07/09

Two of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls originally colour-ringed by the Severn Estuary Gull Group around Gloucester over the winter periods, and which were clearly breeding in the Channel Islands continued to be seen. Blue 956 ringed in October 2005 had been seen in Ushant, Finistere, France in February 2007 before being seen back at Grundons Landfill, Gloucester, England at the end of October 2007. It was first seen in Guernsey on 22nd January 2009, and was then re-sighted on 16th March. Blue CHN was ringed in November 2007 at Gloucester, before being seen in Guernsey on 17 February 2009. I saw it three more times (last on 9th March) before it was resighted in Gloucester on 11 March. Surprisingly the bird then returned to Guernsey, where it has spent the summer (hopefully breeding).

                                                                 Colour-ringed  Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Chouet landfill Beach - July 2009

One final record, which I was particularly pleased with was one of my own gulls (an adult female), which we ringed as part of the cannon netting operation at Chouet landfill on 6th June 2009. White 2.U7 has been eight times since - mostly at Chouet landfill Beach, or Chouet Beach. However, it was also seen at St Saviour's reservoir, but the most valuable record was taken by Jamie Hooper who saw this gull at its nest on Lihou island. It is always very good to know the exact  nesting sites of the colour ringed gulls.


I also received details this month of  two of the British metal-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which I had seen earlier in the spring in Guernsey. Both had been ringed at a landfill site near Hempsted, Gloucester, England by the Severn Estuary Gull Group. London FA 54701 was ringed as a second winter bird on 31st January 1994, and was seen copulating on Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey on 9th April 2009, while London 536-4 was ringed in the first five months of 2003, and recorded at Chouet landfill Beach on 15th April 2009.

Paul K Veron

01 August 2009