Today I could not hold the telescope still enough to read rings. It was both very windy and cold! Fortunately it was calm on 25 January and I was able to record 167 locally colour ringed Herring Gulls. One of these White 4.LL1 was back from wintering in Loire-Atlantique, France. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are still very thin on the ground with only three seen today!
Herring Gull White 4.LL1 in Loire-Atlantique 21/09/10 - Francois Le Gall
Our attempts to ring a few Moorhen over the weekend were only moderately successful, as almost all birds caught were already ringed! A couple of new birds were caught, along with several Mallard (all of which were retraps).
Much to Catherine's amusement...none of the Mallard I've ringed at the Vale Marais in winter over the years have been recovered outside the island...so my dreams of a recovery in distant Russia still go unfulfilled!
My gull news on Saturday was dominated by the return of my first cr Lesser Black-backed Gull (Black 2.X5)...but I have now realised that amongst the c 200 locally colour ringed Herring Gulls recorded were four more birds returning from wintering in France (Loire-Atlantique - two), Vendée (one) and Calvados (one). Pride of place, however, goes to White 1.XX6 which was recorded on Christmas Day 2010 at the mouth of the Castro River, Lires, A Coruna, Spain by Xabi Varela. This gull made the longest migration of any of my Herring Gulls last winter...and it is fantasic to know that it is already back - nice and early to prepare for the 2011 breeding season.
Herring Gulls at Chouet landfill 22 January 2011 - PKV
I was thrilled on Saturday to see the very first of my returning colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Black 2.X5 was back at Chouet Landfill. I last saw this gull on 12 August 2010. Unfortunately I do not know where this LBBG wintered, but it was not on Guernsey!
In 2010 my first LBBG back was White 3.T8, followed on this day last year by White 6.Z8. On Saturday there were only 10 LBBGs at Chouet Landfill, but it was interesting that Phil Alexander reported LBBGs back on the south coast cliffs of Herm on Saturday. What is now certain is that spring is on the way...and the 2011 season is about to unfold...HOORAH!!!
LBBG Black 2.X5, Chouet Landfill 21 January 2011 - PKV
This week I had to spend a couple of days in the "big smoke" (London). To get away from the crowds in the city I went to Hyde Park and St James' Parks looking for gulls. Although there were more than a thousand Black-headed Gulls and several hundred Common Gulls in Hyde Park, I could only check a quarter of them for colour rings because most were resting on an island too far distant.
By the time I got to St James' Park I had bought a loaf of bread. There were fewer gulls in this smaller park, but now I had a gull magnet with me...and the Black-headed Gulls came straight in to the bread. They were far far tamer than they are on Guernsey...and I soon had gulls feeding around my feet.
Two colour ringed Black-headed Gulls were seen - White SLW (from Denmark) and White E6KR (from The Netherlands). There were 20+ metal-ringed gulls, but I only managed to read a couple of these with my binoculars - both British-ringed birds.
All in all a very fun way to pass a couple of hours in England's capital city.
Drake Mandarin Duck at Vale Marais 16 January 2011 - Phil Alexander
A very successful early morning session at Chouet on Saturday 15 January resulted in a huge haul of 210 locally colour ringed Herring Gulls being recorded, along with a new bird (Blue EXT) ringed as an adult at Stoke Orchard Landfill, Gloucestershire on 23 January 2010. Amongst the local Herring Gulls were three more that have just returned from wintering in France, as well as three back from Jersey.
There were also around 170 Great Black-backed Gulls at Chouet, including five French cr birds (fourChausey Islands – Seb Provost and oneLe Havre, Seine-Maritime Gilles Le Guillou), as well as a 1st winter bird ringed as a chick on St George’s Island, Looe, Cornwall in July 2010. All of these gulls had been previously recorded in Guernsey, although some had not been seen for several months.
Although no colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported, there was a slight increase of adults at Chouet (10 birds). One of these was metal ringed, but it was far too distant to read the ring code. It was the first indication though that the first of my colour ringed LBBGs will be back on the island soon!
On Sunday, an attempt to catch some more Common Moorhens at the Vale Marais for my long-term study was hampered by strong winds, and in the end only a couple of retraps were caught – one of these had been ringed the previous weekend, while the other had been ringed as a 2nd summer male on 16 March 2008. The drake Mandarin Duck also put in another appearance in the hand!
GBBG Green J.60 from Chausey Islands, France (Seb Provost)
There is still no sign of the first of my returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls...but I am rather impatient! In 2009 the first one (White 3.T8) was back on 15 January...followed by White 6.Z8 on 21 January and both White 8.Z0 and White 1.T6 on 25 January. There are still no more than 10-15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Guernsey...but this will change soon.
Meanwhile recent days have seen five colour ringed French Great Black-backed Gulls at Chouet - three from Chausey Islands (Manche) (Seb Provost) and two from Le Havre, (Seine-Maritime) (Gilles Le Guillou). Of these birds only Green H.24 (Chausey) is new to the island. Both of the Le Havre birds had last been seen in Guernsey in September 2009.
Recording the local colour ringed Herring Gulls continues to show birds returning from autumn/early winter in France and Jersey.
Phil Alexander and I had a very pleasant surprise on Sunday when we opened our ringing accounts for 2011 at the Vale Marais. We were catching and colour ringing a few Common Moorhens for my long-term study, but amongst the birds caught were two Mandarin Ducks. This was a pair of full-winged (un-ringed) birds, and after release they flew strongly around the marsh several times before heading off. Checking with Ruth O’Rorke these are not collection birds. In fact they had been seen at the Vale Marais only the day before we caught them.
It is of course impossible to know the origins of these ducks, but I think this is as good a record as one is likely to get of Mandarin Duck in Guernsey. Whether they originated in France, England or perhaps Jersey is a matter for pure speculation.
Way back in the early 1980s there was a pair of pinioned Mandarins in the wildfowl collection at the Vale Marais. These birds bred and Maurice O’Rorke then placed the eggs in an incubator. The eggs duly hatched and he hand raised nine chicks. I ringed them before release onto the lake. None of the juvenile birds remained on the lake…and in the months that followed three were shot abroad – one near Bristol, Avon, and one in Keynsham, Hampshire, England and the other in the far south of France! These birds can clearly get around!!
Some very exciting news just in is the sighting of another Lesser Black-backed Gull, colour-ringed on Burhou, Alderney in July 2010, in Morocco. Black 6.A7 was seen on 06 January 2011 over 1,750 km from its natal colony at Oued Sebou, Kenitra just to the north of Rabat by Simon Claden.
Lesser Black-backed Gull colony on Burhou, Alderney - PKV
On Saturday I managed to get to Chouet for 90 minutes first thing in the morning. Conditions were far from ideal with light drizzle and grey skies. However...for the first time this year more than 100 colour rings were read - 127 Herring Gulls and nine Great Black-backed Gulls (including two from Chausey Islands, France (Seb Provost) and one from Seine-Maritime, France (Gilles Le Guillou).
GBBG Blue 30C (ringed Seine-Maritime, France) - PKV
LBBG White 0.T0 Chouet Landfill, Guernsey 08 May 2010 - PKV
Herring Gull Blue BHC Chouet Landfill Beach 01 August 2010 - PKV
I am very pleased to already have news of three Guernsey Gulls abroad this year. All gulls were seen on 02 January. A Herring Gull - White 2.BB5 ringed in our garden at Vale, Guernsey on 25 May 2009 was seen at Hermanville-sur-Mer, Calvados, France by Francois Leclerc. In addition two Lesser Black-backed Gulls (both ringed as adults at Chouet landfill, Guernsey - White 0.T0 in June 2009 and Black 2.P0 in May 2010) were recorded at Colmenar Viejo Landfill, Madrid, Spain (Juan Ruiz & Delfín González) and Zamora Landfill, Castile & León, Spain (Victor Salvador) respectively.
Problems with my car have restricted my gull watching in Guernsey over the past couple of days, but amongst a handful of colour ringed Herring Gulls seen today at Chouet (where the landfill was closed) was the well-known Blue BHC (ringed at Gloucester landfill, England (Severn Estuary Gull Group) on 13 January 2007 and recorded 12 times in Guernsey since 17 Febraury 2009.
Phil Alexander, and Chris & Owen Mourant joined me this morning for the first attempt of the New Year to ring gulls. We were trying to catch and colour ring a few Black-headed Gulls along the west coast, as I still have to get this project off the ground. Mainly thanks to Phil's valiant efforts in recent weeks, the net was easily set and a flock of c 50 Black-headed Gulls gave us hope!
However...it was soon clear that the gulls were not hungry...certainly not hungry enough to throw caution to the wind and land in the catching area. We persisted for an hour, but then dog walkers (and a random golfer!) arrived...effectively putting an end to our first attempt of the year.
We will of course try again shortly...but don't be surprised if the first colour ringed birds in Guernsey this year turn out to be from my other project (Common Moorhens)!