22 June 2012

With the tidal window about to close for another week or so, Chris Mourant and I got across to Lihou shortly after 2 pm today to assess the gull breeding season this year. We had two and a quarter hours on the island. The afternoon was sunny and dry, but with a stiff breeze. We made the usual clockwise circuit around Lihou from the start of the causeway.

The first ting to report is that the gulls do appear (so far) to be a little more successful than in recent years. Whether this is attributed to the rat control programme, which has now been running for two winters, is hard to say. It is however a pleasure to see a few more gull chicks in evidence.

We had planned to focus very much on Great Black-backed Gull chicks, as they are likely to be the most advanced. However…along the first stretch of coast we saw a fully fledged Herring Gull flying confidently and the first Herring Gull chicks we found on the beach (a gaggle of five) were all more than two thirds grown. In the end we decided to work our way around the island trying to ring whatever large gull chicks we could find.

In the time allowed before the causeway closed again, we could only complete the western and north coasts, leaving the whole of the east coast and Lissroy to cover on another visit. It was hard work for Chris and me to find and ring the chicks. One big Great Black-backed Gull had run into a large deep pool, where it was swimming with confidence and keeping to the middle. I had to strip off and wade in to get him!

The island had quite a few visitors, and several were interested in what we were doing, which was fine…except of course it slowed us further as we explained…nevertheless this is an important part of the PR…and it is good that people show interest and concern in the wildlife.

We did not ring all Herring Gull chicks located, but we tried to handle all the large ones and all the Great Black-backed Gulls. By the end of our visit we had ringed 17 Herring Gulls and 12 Great Black-backed Gulls, with a decent stretch of the breeding beaches and Lissroy still to do.

So far the signs are that all three gull species have had more success on Lihou in 2012 than in any other recent year…but then there is still some way to go to fledging for many of the gulls.


22 June 2012