Ringing Report for 2008

2008 proved to be a watershed year with my ringing because it was the year that I discovered the benefits of colour ringing as a tool to help with several specific studies. It all began with an invitation from Jamie Hooper to take over his colour ringing sequence that he had used on Herring Gulls in Guernsey over the period 1998-2007. After careful thought I agreed to do this, but requested that I be able to use the rings on Lesser Black-backed Gulls, as I had long been fascinated by the migratory movements of this enigmatic species. Permission was granted…and a serious study commenced on Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Bailiwick of Guernsey – involving the ringing of locally reared young as well as adults caught in my garden at Ty Coed. This initial study grew by the end of the year into studies of the three gull species nesting in the Bailiwick – Lesser and Great Black-backed gulls and Herring Gull. A separate report has been produced summarising the work undertaken in 2008. It is available in the Guernsey Gulls section of this web site.

Looking back on the rest of the ringing in 2008, it proved to be a fairly modest year with a total of 2,397 birds being ringed involving 58 species. The only new species ringed during the year was Greylag Goose which had been taken to the Animal Shelter after a bad storm. It recovered well and was released back at L’Eree. It was almost certainly one of the youngsters from the flock of feral geese at L’Eree.

By the end of the year my grand total of birds ringed over the period 1974-1994 (inclusive) & 2004-2008 (inc) was 53,442 birds of 126 species.

In contrast to the previous year, I put considerably more effort into netting at Ty Coed in the spring than in the autumn. As a result the totals of birds caught at Ty Coed and along the canal at the Vale Marais in March/April were very respectable for several species - such as Willow Warbler (110), Common Chiffchaff (87), Sedge Warbler (67), Reed Warbler (27) and Blackcap (30). Scarce birds caught during the spring included single Wood Warbler (the 1st at Ty Coed), Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti’s Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Redpoll.

Efforts to trap Northern Wheatears at Jaonneusse Bay during the spring were moderately successful with 43 birds ringed; a further two were caught in the autumn. The spring nets also caught the only two Yellow Wagtails, two Meadow Pipits, Common Stonechat and Black Redstart of the year.

After the moderate seabird breeding season of 2006, and the disastrous one of 2007 (for many species), hopes were high that we would see a good recovery in 2008 with plenty of well-fed chicks to ring. Sadly this was not the case. As soon as Catherine and I, and the rest of the Guernsey Seabird Team, began to visit the offshore islets we were dismayed to see that 2008 was going to be another very poor year. It was different in character to 2007 in that many European Shags (perhaps as many as half the adult population) had clearly attempted to nest this year with most nests containing eggs. However, these were quickly abandoned…presumably because the adults were having difficulty finding sufficient food to maintain their nesting effort.

The sea proved to be murky and opaque with sediments/blooms resulting in very poor visibility at least until the end of June. Whether this was the root cause of the problem is open to debate, but whatever the reason the picture for the inshore feeding seabirds was fairly consistent across the Channel Islands. It was a disastrous year for European Shag, and also for Common Guillemot and Razorbill. Only Northern Gannet, which can forage at much greater distance from its colonies, appeared to do well again in 2008. Even for this species however, the frequent summer gales and almost permanent presence of a sea swell made landing on Les Etacs and Ortac, off Alderney impossible for most of the window of opportunity. For the second year running we had to extend the regular window to the end of the 2nd week in July. As a result of an early visit to just the small stack of Les Etacs and then a later visit to both of the main rocks, we managed to ring 797 pulli – salvaging an otherwise very forgettable seabird season for ringing.

A June visit to Burhou resulted in 199 new Storm Petrels being ringed, as well as data on a similar number of retraps being accumulated. It was also very pleasing to control five birds (four from the French islands of Banneg and Beniguet (Finistere), and one from   Head, Cornwall, England). The success of the June Storm Petrel visit was in complete contrast to the failure of the July visit to ring Lesser Black-backed Gull pulli. My daughter, Sophie, and I worked the whole island, but were shocked to discover that the 1,001 pairs counted had produced only three young to near fledging. Most of the adults were loafing on the grassy slopes, and many were still sitting on eggs or tiny young (no doubt replacement clutches). Again we could only speculate that a severe shortage of food had caused this failure – something I had never witnessed before on Burhou. This failure meant that my colour ringing project on this handsome gull got off to a very slow start.

In fact if it had not been for a reasonably successful visit to Brecqhou (off Sark), where 43 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were ringed, the start of my research would have been a near wash-out! Interestingly the gulls around Sark and Jethou had been somewhat more successful in 2008, and trips to these islets meant that reasonable numbers of pulli Herring Gulls were ringed.

By the autumn my fascination with my gull colour ringing projects was really beginning to bite. I was spending a lot of my available time searching through the gull flocks at Chouet landfill and along the west coast of Guernsey, primarily looking for my own colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls. However, in the process I saw very many more of Jamie Hooper’s cr Herring Gulls…and then also began to spot gulls with crs from outside the island. This prompted my further interest in gulls and led to the development of cr projects for both Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls – although neither would start in earnest until the 2009 breeding season. Again the fruits of all this work with gulls can be found in the separate report on the 2008 Gull Studies (click here).

All this time spent gulling inevitably meant that my autumn passerine ringing suffered. Although nets were operated at Ty Coed on several days over the period August-November the passage was never strong (or often even noticeable!), and the very modest tally of birds ringed included 10 Reed Warblers, 18 Blackcap, 10 Willow Warbler, 11 Common Chiffchaff, 15 Goldcrests, 7 Firecrest and  2 Pied Flycatcher. The most exciting bird ringed was a Yellow-browed Warbler trapped in the garden at Ty Coed.

No account of the 2008 ringing year would be complete without reference to my Common Moorhen study. Having discovered the very real benefits of colour ringing in being able to record many sightings of the same bird during its lifetime(instead of only ringing point and recovery point – where the bird is normally dead), I received permission to begin colour ringing Common Moorhens. For the first time ever I ringed just over 100 moorhens in the year (109), and of these some 74 were fitted with small red colour rings. It will be fascinating to track these birds over the next decade or so.

Foreign Recoveries

Northern Gannet

F 17820    Les Etacs   pullus   11.06.94   14.03.08      Westerschouwen, Zeeland      NETHERLANDS (24th)      X (oil)   470km    5025 days

F 32679   Ortac            pullus    23.06.05  26.05.08      Perbrd Mino, A Coruna            SPAIN  (25th)               X                  839km    1068 days

F 6960     Les Etacs    pullus    28.06.86   26.06.08     Saint Pabu, Cotes d'Armor      FRANCE (100th)          X                122km     8034 days

F 17540  Ortac           pullus      25.06.93  03.07.08      Oowerkerk, Zuidbout, Zeeland  NETHERLANDS (25th)   X           488km    5487 days

F 32574  Ortac           pullus      23.06.05  13.07.08      Plage de Maye , Baie de Somme   FRANCE (101st)      X            284km    1116 days

F 32680  Ortac           pullus      23.06.05  15.07.08     Romo                                              DENMARK (5th)             X          947km     1118 days

F 34558  Les Etacs  pullus       24.06.06  16.07.08    Vederso Klit, Jylland                      DENMARK (6th)             X         1005km        753 days

F 10168  Ortac          pullus      21.06.88    05.08.08    Seaton, Devon                             ENGLAND (35th)             X           122km      7350 days

F 17162  Les Etacs   pullus   19.06.93     13.08.08     Hvide Sande                                 DENMARK (7th)             X            985km      5534 days

F 37031   Ortac         pullus     14.07.08    21.09.08     5 miles off Do cabo Mondego  PORTUGAL (8th)              X          1186km         69 days

F 37059   Ortac       pullus       14.07.08    23.09.08     Cherbourg Harbour, Manche     FRANCE (102nd)            X (oil)        39km        71 days

F 10313   Ortac       pullus      21.06.88    20.10.08      Pett Level, East Sussex              ENGLAND (36th)            X              243km    6695 days
European Shag

F 14012   Godin     pullus   17.06.91     10.04.08         Brehal, La Vanlee, Manche        FRANCE (147th)             X                 92km   6142days 
F 33118 L'c de Serk pullus   11.06.05  16.06.08       Chausey reserve, Manche            FRANCE (148th)             X                88km   1101 days
Eurasian Coot

D 2393  Vale Marais   3male 18.12.80  10.12.03        Pingjum, Friesland                       NETHERLANDS (3rd) XL                685km       n/a

Great Black-backed Gull

J 0093 Crevichon        pullus   04.07.07  04.08.08       Portland Bill B.O. , Dorset            ENGLAND (5th)            VV               116km   397 days

Eurasian Reed Warbler
AB 8224  Vale Marais 3male  27.04.08    05.06.08   Northside, Workington, Cumbria    ENGLAND (7th)           X                557km     39 days

Foreign Controls

Details currently waited for the following:-

European Storm Petrel                 ---        French rings (four) and British ring (one);

European Robin                             ---        British ring (one)

Willow Warbler                                ---        British rings (two)

Goldcrest                                          ---        British ring (one); and

European Greenfinch                   ---        British ring (one)

Local Recoveries (selected)
European Shag

F 9324                                 pullus                           03.06.08          Jethou (Gr Fau beach)            V          Gsy Seabird Group        0km                

F 23738        Gr Amfr.        pullus   15.06.99         03.06.08          Jethou (Gr Fau beach)            V          GSG                   3 km       3276 days      


K 10111       Gr Fauc         pullus   13.06.03          03.06.08          Gr Fauc.                                   V (on nest)      GSG       0 km      1817 days      

Great Black-backed Gull

E 5504     Longue Pierre pullus   22.06.93          03.07.08          Herm                                       XL        C Smith               3 km      5490 days

Little Egret

14684       Crevichon        pullus   27.07.06          14.12.08           Ft le Crocq, Guernsey            VV        PKV& Tony Bisson     15 km  871days
Or K YelA

European Robin

AB 8060  Vale Marais     3      11.10.07          21.09.08          Grouville Marsh, Jersey          V          D Buxton                 40km   346 days                       

Paul K Veron
Channel Islands Bird Ringing Permit No 129

22nd February 2009