22 June

With the end of the week very blocked out with work, the Seabird Team arranged to visit Jethou on Tuesday 22 June with the primary objective of colour ringing Herring Gull chicks and assessing breeding productivity. The visit was arranged once again with the kind permission of Jethou’s owner, Dr Peter Ogden, and the co-operation and assistance of the Jethou island staff.

 The team for this visit comprised Paul and Sophie Veron and Mish Hooper. We caught the work boat across to the island at 0800. The sea was beautifully calm and with little wind and clear skies it promised to be a warm day.

 As soon as we arrived we were able to cross to Crevichon, where we concentrated our efforts on locating Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the small rocky knoll and around the islet’s north-east coast. After much searching we found seven chicks, three of which we had ringed on our previous visit on 09 June. However, one of these was then too small for a colour ring, so we added one this time. We did not climb up to the shag nests as we had been very successful on our previous visit and the shag had clearly enjoyed an early breeding season this year. To minimise disturbance we did not enter the Little Egret colony either.

 Once back across on Jethou we walked up to the beach in front of the house. Just above the high tide line we found a dead adult Lesser Black-backed Gull…but this was no ordinary gull…it was one of my well-known colour ringed birds – White 9.T9. We ringed this bird as an adult male at Chouet landfill on 06 June 2009. I saw it again at Chouet on 06 and 17 July 2009, before it turned up at Esmelle Beach, Ferrol, A Coruna, SPAIN on 02 August 2009. It was then recorded on Esmelle Beach on 24 days up to 16 October. I was thrilled to see this gull back in Guernsey on 23 February 2010. It was recorded at Chouet on six further dates to 25 May 2010, before being found dead on Jethou, where it was almost certainly nesting. There were no clues to the cause of death.

 In slightly sombre mood we entered the Herring Gull colony on the beach, and it was immediately obvious that this was a well-timed visit with most of the chicks large enough to take colour rings, but not yet large enough to fly or flutter off. With many large open boulders on this beach the gulls tend to hide in the crevices and cracks, making them much easier to ring (provided you see them in the first place!).

 30 Herring Gulls were ringed (27 colour-ringed) on this beach, and a couple of European Shags were also ringed. Another 10 or so shags were left unringed because they were almost fully grown.

 After a much needed short stop for cold drinks, we walked around to the beach opposite Grande Fauconniere. Here the gulls appeared to be slightly less productive, although there were still a reasonable number of young on the beach. One Great Black-backed Gull and 19 Herring Gull chicks were ringed here (18 colour ringed). A Lesser Black-backed Gull with a broken wing was found on this beach and there was also a dead Great Black-backed Gull (neither bird ringed).

 Climbing up the slope on the south-west end we searched the Great Black-backed Gull colony and found another six chicks large enough to colour ring. On the way back to the slipway we checked the summer house beach on the western side of Jethou. Here we found four dead adult Herring Gulls in the same area, and there were no live young on this beach. This was very odd, as this was the only sub-colony on Jethou this year that does not appear to have been productive for Herring Gulls. In fact the only live chick found was a solitary Lesser Black-backed Gull chick (the only one of the visit).

 It was then time to return to the slipway for lunch and more cold drinks.

 The final beach checked for gulls was Burner each (opposite Herm). The Herring Gulls in this area had been very productive with 20 Herring Gull chicks being ringed (all but one large enough to take colour rings).

 Exhausted after a really hard, but successful and enjoyable, day, we enjoyed half an hour by the boat house just resting. I used my telescope to obtain six colour ring sightings (five Herring and one Lesser Black-backed Gull) on House and Burner Beaches. The Lesser Black-backed Gull had been ringed at Chouet landfill on 28 May 2010, as had all but two of the five Herring Gulls. These birds had been ringed the previous May in our garden at Ty Coed, Vale Marais, Guernsey. Obtaining data on the breeding sites of these gulls is particularly valuable for my colour ring studies on the Bailiwick’s gulls.

 Just before we caught the 4 p.m. work boat back to St Peter port harbour, we glimpsed a Marsh harrier hunting over the top of the island. Tom (the gardener) had earlier told me that he had seen a harrier on the island the previous day.

  It had been a real pleasure recording what has been a rather successful seabird breeding season on Jethou this year.




30 June 2010