NORMANDY (09 - 14 October)

                                                 Dives-sur-Mer                                                                  Great Black-backed Gull Blue 85D at Dives-sur-Mer
A work commitment for Catherine meant that she had to visit Normandy this month. I had been keen to see the coastline where some of our Channel Islands gulls spend the non-breeding season - so we decided to take a short break of five days exploring the Cherbourg Peninsula and a part of the Calvados coast.

As luck would have it a couple of weeks before the trip Eric Robbe (who lives in Caen) had seen a couple of our Guernsey Herring Gulls at Siouville Beach, Manche. Eric invited Catherine and me to begin our quick trip in Caen, where he and his partner Maryline extended their superb hospitality to us, and Eric gave me lots of information on where to look for gulls along the Normandy coast. Catherine and I are very grateful to Eric and Maryline for their outstanding hospitality.

Our tour began at Dives-sur-Mer, Calvados and continued westwards to Grandcamps-Maisy, before skirting Carentan and heading up to Utah Beach and St Vaast-La-Hougue. We then crossed to Cap de la Hague on the western side of the Cherbourg Peninsula and spent a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days based at Siouville-Hague (within sight of several of the Channel Islands!).

               Eric Robbe and Catherine at Lion-sur-Mer                                                   Great Black-backed Gull Black 06G at Grandcamps-Maisy

                            Sunrise at Grandcamps-Maisy                                                                                   Catherine on Utah Beach

               Green M.ACX at Le Petit Hameau (ringed on Texel, Netherlands)              White 4.XX5 (ringed Guernsey) at Le Petit Hameau

                                       Gull roost at Gatteville                                                              Mediterranean Gull White 3T45 at Gatteville

I spent a very  happy couple of hours on both the 12 and 13 October on the beach at Siouville reading colour rings from the mixed flock of several hundred Black-headed and Mediterranean gulls. I have never seen such a high percentage of gulls carrying colour rings as the Mediterranean Gulls on this beach. By contrast there were no colour ringed Black-headed Gulls at all.

A summary of the sightings of Mediterranean Gulls is as follows:-

 Poland                                                   2
Germany                                                1
The Netherlands                                    1
 Belgium                                                32
 France                                                  12
 Hungary                                                 2
  Czech Republic                                     1
   Serbia                                                   1

 TOTAL                                                    52  

Mediterranean Gulls Red HAT8 (Hungary) and White 3V10 (Belgium) on Siouville Beach                          Siouville Beach and Dunes

Many of these birds already had extensive life histories. For example White 3E18 has been seen no less than 67 times! Although most of the records of Belgian-ringed birds are concentrated along the coast from Belgium to Brittany, France, two of the birds (White 32H0 and Green 3TH7) had been recorded in Portugal and one of them (White 35T8) in Morocco and Spain.

              Alderney from Cap de la Hague                                             Great Black-backed Gull Green E.30 and Mediterranean Gulls on Siouville

Other colour ringed gulls seen on this trip were:

Herring Gull

Norway                               1
The Netherlands                1
France                                 2
Jersey                                 1
Guernsey                            2

Great Black-backed Gull

Norway                                2
France                                 4

All in all it had been a very enjoyable and successful few days - achieving the primary objective of seeing much of the coastline of southern Brittany where some Channel islands gulls spend the winters, while also resulting in a very surprising number of colour ring sightings. The trip was enhanced very significantly by Eric and Maryline's wonderful hospitality. Our thanks to them.

                                          Herring Gulls at Dinard                                                                   PKV on Siouville Beach

BRITTANY (25 - 30 October)

This was a family holiday with my daughter Sophie. Again we took the opportunity to explore the coastline of Northern Brittany from St Malo west to Perros Guirec and Ile-Grande, Cotes d'Armor.

We were not particularly looking for colour ringed gulls and often passed promising stretches of coastline when the tide was far  distant. Nevertheless we saw ten cr gulls as follows:-

Great Black-backed Gull

France                                        1

Mediterranean Gull

Serbia                                        1
Czech Republic                          1
Germany                                    1
Belgium                                      4
France                                        2

In addition we read one metal ring on a juvenile Herring Gull at Ploumanach lighthouse. This bird had been ringed at the end of July at the LPO Rehabilitation Centre at nearby Ile-Grande.

It had been very interesting to see some of the coastline of  Northern Brittany, as this is an area where Guernsey Gulls are often seen. We also met up with Ian and Barbara Mc Ewan (frineds from Guernsey) and enjoyed a wonderful lunch with them and a cruise up the Trieux River in their yacht - very peaceful! Another highlight was our trip out to the Sept-Iles Nature Reserve. Even though all of the Gannets were gone from Rouzic, it was fabulous to cruise right up to the edge of this little islet - which hosts the southern-most gannetry in the world.

 Herring Gull  Paris DB108839 at Ploumanach Lighthouse October 09   © PKV                                LPO at Ile-Grande  ©PKV

                  Sept Iles from Perros-Guirec © PKV                                                             Sophie, Gulls and Sept-Iles ©PKV

                         Anse de Beauport © PKV                                                                    Rouzic Gannetry (minus the Gannets!0)  © PKV

                 Ian Mc Ewan and Sophie on the Trieux River © PKV                                                     Nr Cap Frehel © PKV

Paul K Veron

01 December 2009