APRIL 2009

With my main ornithological focus firmly fixed on my gull research, April 2009 proved to be another fascinating month. It was noticeable from early in the month that Herring Gull numbers had dropped - probably as a result of the breeding birds spending the majority of their time on their cliff and islet nesting sites, rather than loafing at the landfill site or on the nearby beaches. Lesser Black-backed Gulls were, by contrast, very much in evidence early in the month with a maximum count of 700 birds on 6th April. However, by the end of the month their numbers too had dropped as many birds were back spending the majority of their days at their nesting sites.

Great Black-backed Gulls also thinned, but immatures remained much in evidence.

Visits were made to Chouet landfill and/or the beaches on the north coast of Guernsey on 22 days in the month, and a total of  358 colour rings were read as follows:-

Herring Gull                                                                279
Lesser Black-backed Gull                                           58
Great Black-backed Gull                                             21

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Having (in February/March) refound nine of my 16 adult colour ringed LBBGs from 2008,  I had hoped to spot a few more of them in April. In the event I managed to relocate only three more  (6S7 on 01 April, 0.Z7 on 3rd April and 6S9 on 8th April). While it was unknown where the first two gulls had wintered, 6S9 had been seen in September 2008 at Quarteira, Algarve, Portugal by Michael Davis.

Perhaps the highlight of my study on this gull in April were the many observations of adults in superb plumage at very close range on Chouet landfill Beach in the beautiful early morning light. Many of the birds had been bathing and were preening or resting, while others had been feeding in the landfill site. Many engaged in courtship behaviour on the beach.

Although only a tiny contribution to my study, I was also very pleased to trap four adults at the landfill site and fit them with colour rings (one of these White 1.Z7 can be seen in the above photograph). All four of these birds have already been seen at Chouet or further down the island's west coast.

With very few new foreign colour  rings seen, there was plenty of time to try to read metal rings both on the beach at high tide and in the landfill site. Although many were only read partially, it was pleasing to record the full number for one British ring, together with the first five digits on another ring (thus narrowing this record to within 100 birds) - details of these rings are currently awaited. I also managed to read 21 Jersey metal ringed LBBGs - originally ringedas follows:-

1987        Ty Coed, Guernsey     one bird
1989        Burhou, Alderney        two birds
1991        Burhou, Alderney        one bird
1993        Brecqhou, Sark            three birds (including one which had been seen at Portimao, Algarve, PORTUGAL, on 15/11/1993 by H.  Veracruijsse).
1994        Brecqhou, Sark            three birds
1999        Brecqhou, Sark            two birds
2000        Burhou, Alderney        two birds
2001        Brecqhou, Sark            four birds (one of which had been seen at Talaveira de la Reina, Toledo, SPAIN on 29/01/2001 by Grupo Troglodytes)
2006        Ty Coed, Guernsey     one bird
2008        Ty Coed, Guernsey     two birds

All the above birds were ringed as nestlings apart from the four birds caught as adults at Ty Coed, Vale Marais (my garden).

7S0 and 7S6 - both adults ringed in the summer of 2008 at Ty Coed, and both of which had been seen in Iberia over the autumn/winter (see February 2008 News), were seen at Chouet landfill on a number of dates in April.

Of the six foreign colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen this month, three were "regulars". These were Blue ACE, Blue ATN and Blue CHN. All three had been ringed as adults during the winter catching sessions of the Severn Estuary Gull Group operating at the Gloucester landfill sites. Given that these birds are still being seen in Guernsey in mid-late April, I believe that they are in fact Channel Islands nesting birds, which were ringed when wandering north to winter in the UK.

Details of the three LBBGs seen on passage in the month were:-

Yellow 2WF  ringed as a nestling on Flatholm, Wales on 2nd July 2007 and seen at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey on 7th April 2009.

Black WD8T ringed at Walney Island, Cumbria, England and seen at Chouet landfill on 7th April 2009 (details awaited).

Red 515N ringed as a nestling at Calais, France, on 30/06/07, sighted at Calais-Bassin Carnot, France on 26/07/07, and at Caleta de Velez, Malaga, Spain on 28/11/07 before being seen on Chouet Beach, Guernsey on 29th April.

Great Black-backed Gull

Two of the French colour-ringed GBBGs seen over the 2008/09 winter were seen on many dates at Chouet landfill; these were Blue 30C ringed at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France on 25th June 2007 (and seen on four dates in Guernsey in September 2008 and then on 17 dates from 10th March to 30th April), and Green B.09 ringed on 21st June 2008 in the Chausey Islands, France and recorded on 11 dates at Chouet from 29th January to 28th April 2009.

In addition three other previously seen French colour-ringed GBBGs were seen at Chouet, but were only seen once or twice. Blue 47D had been ringed at Le Havre, France on 28 June 2008. I had first seen it in Guernsey (at Chouet) on 5th February 2009. I then recorded it on five dates (to 11th March), but then not again until 19 ansd 29 April. Blue 77C, also from Gilles Le Guillou's study based at Le Havre, France was seen again at Chouet on 15th April. I had first seen this bird in Guernsey on 4th September 2008 at Chouet. I then recorded it in October, November, December (2008) and February (2009). Finally Blue 74C, which had been ringed at Le Havre, France, on 21 June 2008, and which had been seen in Guernsey on 29/09/08, 19/11/08, 29/01/09, and 12/03/09 appeared at the end of the month on 29/04/09.

During the month I also managed to record four Jersey metal ringed birds, originally ringed as follows: - 

1999            Crevichon, Jethou                two birds
2005            Crevichon, Jethou                one bird
2006            Jethou                                   one bird

Herring Gull

A total of 279 colour ring reads was a significant drop from the previous month's (430). However...perhaps surprisingly (given the effort put in since 2008 to record colour-ringed gulls in Guernsey) no fewer than nine of Jamie's locally born Herring Gulls were seen for the first time by me in April. Of these gulls, three had previously been sighted out of the island as follows:-

2M5    ringed at Pleinmont Cliffs in 2003, and seen on the Isle of Wight, England on 10th September 2003, then at Heauville, Manche, France on 6th October 2007. I saw this bird first on 11th April at Chouet Beach.

0S2    ringed at Jerbourg Cliffs in 2006 and seen at Les Sables d'Olonne, Vendee, France on 06 February 2007 and at St Dennis d'Oleron, Vendee, France on 11th October 2008, before I first saw it at Chouet Landfill Beach on 16th April 2009; and

2H1    ringed at Pleinmont Cliffs in 2001 and seen at Port Antife, Seine-Maritime, France on 02 November 2002, then at Chouet Landfill Beach, Guernsey on 17th April 2009.

The only foreign colour ringed Herring Gull observed was Blue BHC, which I had first seen at Chouet Landfill Beach on 17th February 2009. It  was not then seen again until 16th April. This bird had been ringed at Gloucester Landfill as a 2nd winter bird on 13th January 2007.


During the quiet times I tried to read a few metal rings on Herring Gulls, and managed to record several birds that the Guernsey Seabird Team had ringed as nestlings on Jethou in the summers of 2007 and 2008, as well as an adult I had ringed the previous summer in my garden at Ty Coed, Vale Marais. It was, however, a surprise to discover a Belgian-ringed adult Herring Gull on 16th April (details currently awaited).

P.S.  Bruxelles H-117850 ringed as a nestling on 20/07/2001 at Zeebrugge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium (51 20N 03 11E) - sighted at Chouet landfill Beach, Guernsey on 16/04/2009 - a distance of 456 km , after 7 years, 8 months and 27 days.


Finally...I was very pleased to get my own gull colour ringing projects under way again this month. With much effort I managed to fit  the following colour rings:-

Herring Gull                                     39
Lesser Black-backed Gull                4
Great Black-backed Gull                  2


Other Gulls

One adult Yellow-legged Gull was seen at Chouet Landfill on 2nd April and at Chouet landfill Beach on 8th April.



2nd May 2009