02 -03 July
After a busy day at work, Catherine and Paul Veron
the 5 p.m. ferry to Sark. This year we
had deliberately left the visit to ring gull pulli 10 days later than
normally have done it. This was because we were trying to target Lesser
Black-backed Gull pulli, as opposed to Herring Gull chicks.
Andy Cook was at the harbour to
meet us, and while he
re-moored his boat I scoped the rocks outside Creux Harbour –
finding five cr
gulls in the flock of only 30 birds! Of these two were Lesser
Gulls: - White 1.T4 and White 0.T2 – both adults which had been
ringed in our
garden at Ty Coed, Vale Marais, Guernsey in May 2009, and both of which
been seen during the autumn of 2009 in Portugal! It was a very real
this trip to establish that these gulls are almost certainly breeding
Of the three colour ringed
Herring Gulls, two had been
ringed at Chouet landfill in early June 2009, and both have extensive
in Guernsey since, and the remaining bird was ringed at Chouet landfill
end of May 2010.
We left the ringing gear in a
locked shed at the harbour and
then walked to Andy and Sue’s house, where we enjoyed tea while
Jethou, Herm and the Humps – surely one of the most magnificent
the Bailiwick of Guernsey! That evening a party of eight divers from
University, who had been undertaking survey work on sponges in
joined us for a fish and chip supper. The group had very much enjoyed
weeks diving off Sark, and it was fascinating listening to them talking
enthusiastically about their work.
At 9 a.m. the following morning
we met Andy at Creux Harbour
– he had been up early to run a friend over to Guernsey to catch
a flight. It
was a warm day with clear skies and a very gentle breeze, and while the
calm there was a nasty 3-5 foot swell on the south and east coasts.
landing on Derrible Headland much more difficult than usual. In fact we
land on the north side, resulting in a tricky ascent up the grassy
broken rocks crumbling underfoot.
It was immediately obvious that
the Herring Gull chicks were
huge, with the most advanced already on the wing. The majority were
matter of days from flying and they ran along the grassy slopes away
We ignored them and got to the top, slipping over the ridge to assess
Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on the southern side.
The timing of the visit was good,
and as expected the Lesser
Black-backed Gull chicks were at least a week to 10 days behind the
Gulls. None of the chicks could fly and while some were quite mobile,
able to find chicks hiding in the vegetation. We managed to ring 11
which nine took colour rings too).
Wanting to keep the disturbance to this colony as short as
then descended again – finding one Herring Gull chick hiding in a
(so we ringed that one).
Next we headed south to Breniere.
Again it was obvious that
the 2010 breeding season had been successful fro Herring Gulls, for
20+ large chicks visible as we approached this islet. Concerned that
was still high, and this may be a problem for any gull chicks that
water, but which could not yet fly, we decided to delay landing until
when the tide (and hopefully the swell) had dropped.
We therefore went on to
L’Etac de Serk, where there was a
large swell crashing all around the islet. It was fabulous to see 60+
Shags, including many youngsters (with rings) standing on the rocks
offshore. After the disastrous breeding season of 2007, and then the
one of 2008, and the reasonable one of 2009, it is fantastic to see
even more successful in 2010. The fledging success this year has been
Andy motored all the way around
L’Etac – giving us views of
well over 100 shags on the rocks. There were also a few Atlantic
around the island and some small rafts of Common Guillemots offshore.
We cruised back up the east coast
of Sark, seeing isolated
pairs of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, standing over their
chicks, all along this coast. Most of the nesting sites here are
and those that are approachable were left because the Herring Gull
too large to try to ring. Most would have flown/flapped away!
A cruise around the periphery of
Grand Moie showed many of
the Common Guillemots still to be present, and again many young Shags
on the rocky outcrops just above the water.
Several large Great Black-backed Gull chicks were seen on this
with their parents in close attendance.
After tea on Andy’s yacht,
moored at Greve de la Ville, Any
dropped us on Banquette Point – where there is a small sub-colony
of c. 20 pairs
of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls. Most of the
chicks were again large and on the lower rocky platform – so we
left this area
undisturbed and concentrated on the grassy slope – where we
managed to ring
another nine Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks (all but one large enough
colour rings). In this colony one LBBG chicks was so large that it
flew very well on our approach. Although only a tiny colony in a small
was interesting to see the adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls returning to
back in the colony, while we were still ashore and above them.
We rounded up one large Herring
Gull chick that had flown
down into the water, and shepherded it back to land. It actually flew
back up onto
the rocks at the base of the colony. We then took a few hours out to
on Andy’s yacht and for Catherine to have a swim. All the while
we could hear
and see very advanced Herring Gull chicks begging for food from their
along this coastline.
By mid-afternoon the tide had
dropped enough for us to try
once again to land on Breniere at the south-eastern end of Sark. With
very much lower we deemed it safe to land. Having to ignore many of the
Gull chicks which were large and mobile, we worked around the edge of
and then went up into the small Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on the
side. Here we found another six Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks to ring
with colour rings). Catherine also
managed to find an Oystercatcher chick that was large enough to take a
ring. Here we also colour ringed six Herring Gull chicks that were
Keeping the visit short, we were
soon back in Andy’s inflatable.
We retrieved a couple of Herring Gull chicks that had entered the
put them back on dry land – then headed back to the harbour.
Given the very advanced stage of
Herring Gull chicks we
decided not to land on Moie de Lache, as it would have been inevitable
such a small rock several of the Herring Gull chicks would have jumped
water and swam away. This in itself isn’t too much of a problem,
as they will
easily get back onto this islet, with its gently sloping rocks on the
seaward side. However, with Great Black-backed Gulls always present in
area, and with their own chicks to feed, the Herring Gull chicks would
vulnerable while on the sea.
This had been a very difficult
day – trying to colour ring
at least some of the Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks on Sark (and thus
some very valuable data for the gull studies), but at the same time
avoid most of the Herring Gull chicks that were clearly just too big to
capture for ringing.
In the end the 26 Lesser
Black-backed Gull chicks that were
ringed (23 colour ringed) must be deemed a success, for Sark’s
are fragmented and very difficult to work. The small sub-colonies that
accessible also have Herring Gulls in the same area, making the timing
visit very difficult to get right.
Our thanks to Andy Cook and Sue
Daly for hosting us on our
visit, and for making us so welcome, and to Andy for giving up his time
us out to the colonies and land us in some difficult to get to
05 July 2010