Sundays are usually very difficult for reading my colour ringed gulls, because the landfill site is closed, and all too soon the beaches become very busy with people and dog walkers...so it was a tremendous bonus last Sunday to catch up with a flock of several thousand gulls feeding on L'Ancresse Common. Gulls often rest very early in the morning on the Common, but last weekend they were feeding very actively - presumably on some bugs in the grass. I knew I would not have long to scan the flock before the golf course became busy so I concentrated only on Lesser Black-backed Gull -reading an amazing 29 rings - including four colour ringed and two metal ringed birds back for the first time this year.
Gulls on L'Ancresse Common - 27 February 2011 - PKV
It all came together this morning at Chouet. My first three colour ringed gulls were all foreign-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls :- Blue DKV from Gloucester, England (Severn Estuary Gull Group), Red 83F from Flintshire, Wales (Ian Spence), and Blue G.LAN from Belgium (Eric Stienen). Incredibly a fourth foreign LBBG was also spotted Red 0AF from Flatholm, Wales (Brian Bailey). In addition I managed to find 22 of my own cr LBBGs - including ten birds recorded back for the first time this spring (six of which had been seen in Iberia over the winter).
It was another very good morning at Chouet for recording returning colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls with 22 birds seen - of which two had British colour rings. White 1DH was ringed at Stoke Orchard Landfill, Gloucestershire in March 2004 (Severn Estuary Gull Group), and it has been recorded regularly in winter at landfills in NW France. It may very well be nesting in Guernsey because it has been seen in the island in four different summers.
Pale Green M:K also appeared briefly at Chouet today. This is one of Peter Rock's urban gulls - born in Bristol and ringed as a chick in July 2002. I was lucky to see this gull, because it soon took to the air calling and flew directly out to sea heading north-west...next stop...England?!
I have commented before on this blog that while a significant proportion of both immature and adult “Guernsey” Herring Gulls winter in France, a small minority migrate even further distances and have been observed in northern Spain and even northern Portugal. One such gull is White 7M6 (now 2.AP6). Originally ringed by Jamie Hooper as chick on Pleinmont Cliffs, Guernsey in the summer of 2003, this bird has regularly wintered in northern Spain. Last year it was last seen at Chouet on 29 July 2010. From 29 August to 28 September it was observed at Jata’s landfill, Lemoiz, Vizcaya, Spain (Dominguez Robledo). On 21st February this well travelled Herring Gull was back at Chouet!
Herring Gull White 7M6 (now White 2.AP6) - a well-travelled bird!
The highlight of yesterday morning’s early watch at Chouet was the sighting of Lesser Black-backed Gull White 3.Z8. This gull had originally been ringed in our garden at Ty Coed, Guernsey on 17/05/09. It wintered outside the Channel Islands in 2009/10 – being seen back at Chouet for the first time on 01/03/10. This time we know that White 3.Z8 was in Aveiro, Beira Litoral, Portugal in October 2010 (Rob Voesten). This is the 50th colour ringed adult Lesser Black-backed Gull to be recorded this spring back in Guernsey. Eight of these birds had been seen in the autumn/winter in Spain and another eight in Portugal, with five reported from France.
Other highlights yesterday morning included four French colour ringed Great Black-backed Gulls – all birds which have previously visited Guernsey – two from Le Havre, Seine-Maritime (Gilles Le Guillou) and two from Chausey Islands, Manche (Seb Provost).
LBBG White 3.Z8 the 50th cr LBBG to return to Guernsey in Spring 2011 - PKV
The highlight of this weekend was my first trip out on the sea - courtesy of my brother. It was a very quick dash in his RIB to take a look at the SE cliffs of Guernsey, including the Peastacks. As you can see from Chris' clothing it is still cold out on the sea...but it was a sheer joy to be back out with the seabirds in their element!
SE Cliff Coastline Guernsey - 20 February 2011 - PKV
Peastacks, Guernsey 20 February 2011 - PKV
It was very interesting to see many pairs of Herring Gulls paired and holding nesting territories on the SE cliffs - it seems early...but the gulls breeding season is already beginning!
At Chouet on Saturday 13 colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls were recorded (including four seen in Guernsey for the first time this year), while on Sunday the very high tide (10.2 metres) at dawn meant that the only place I could record any gulls was L'Ancresse Common - where amongst the five cr LBBGs seen one was newly home (Black 1.Z3).
A combination of mist, high tide, human activity on the landfill and also a lot of mud (to get my little car stuck in!)...made it a difficult hour this morning at Chouet. Nevertheless two Lesser Black-backed Gulls were recorded home in Guernsey for the first time this year - White 8.T3 (which had been reported at Portimao, Algarve, Portugal on 05/01/11 (Stef Waasdorp) and White 7.T9 (last recorded at Chouet, Guernsey on 15/08/10).
Also home yesterday was LBBG Black 2.F9 - a gull which only 11 days earlier had been recorded in NW Spain (Xabi Varela).
LBBG Black 2.F9 Chouet 17/02/11 - PKV
LBBG Black 2.F9 at site in A Coruna, NW Spain where last seen on 06/02/11 - Xabi Varela
LBBG Black 2.F9 Doninos Beach, A Coruna, Spain September 2010 - Paco Veiga
Despite tricky conditions for observing, an hour at Chouet after dawn this morning was very well rewarded with a count of more than 120 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (in the landfill and on the beach). This included 13 of my colour ringed adults. This brings the total number of returning adult colour ringed LBBGs seen so far this spring to 32.Three of the eight birds seen for the first time today had been recorded abroad during the winter - two in Portugal (White 3.U0 and White 9.T5) and one in Spain (Black 2.K9).
CLB 17 February 2011 PKV
LBBG White 9.T5 - Chouet Landfill Beach (CLB) -Home from Portugal - 17/02/11 - PKV
It has been busy at Chouet since my last blog posting on Friday. Over the last four days I have taken just over 500 cr readings at Chouet – the vast majority (470) being locally ringed Herring Gulls, but this has included another three birds which have returned from wintering in Vendée, France (White 6.ZZ9 and White 2.ZZ0) and Manche (White 6.KK9).
The main attraction has been the gradual return of my colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls- with 21 sightings involving 15 different birds over the past four days. This has included the return of several birds which had wintered in France, Spain and Portugal!
So far I have adult LBBGs ringed in the following years back:-
2008 – one
2009 - nine
2010 - sixteen
Today the total number of LBBGs at Chouet reached triple figures for the first time with an estimated 100 birds.
Finally, there has also been evidence of movement of Great Black-backed Gulls with several of my cr immatures re-appearing after several months absence, the sighting of Black 53G ringed as a chick at Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France (Gilles Le Guillou) in June 2010 and recorded only once before in Guernsey at Vazon on 09 October 2010, and finally the first sighting of another 1st winter bird ringed by Bruce Taggart in June 2010 on St George’s Island, Looe, Cornwall, England.
This morning’s tide was perfect for an hour’s observation at Chouet before work – and it proved to be a fantastic session with no less than six different colour ringed returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls being seen for the first time this year. These included one of my “favourite” birds White 7S6 (the first ever from my scheme to be seen outside the Channel Islands). This bird has been a regular at Matosinhos, Portugal in the autumn/winters for the past three years – with the last record there being 17 December 2010. Also returning today were White 6.Z8 and Black 1.U9 - both gulls that had been seen at landfills in Maine-et-Loire, France last autumn/early winter and Black 2.F0 which spent six weeks on the beaches of NW Spain from early September 2010.
Herring Gull numbers were impressive with several thousand birds on the beach (c 100 local colour ring readings were taken). Great Black-backed Gulls were a little more numerous that in recent weeks with 60+ birds including two of the 1st winter birds (Green H.03 and Green H.24) ringed on the Chausey Islands, France in summer 2010.
LBBGs that were seen today in Guernsey - freshly arrived fronm their winter travels
Observations at Chouet early on Thursday morning were not at all easy, but there were at least 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls present including Black 2.T1 (ringed as an adult at Chouet in May 2010) which was seen on 2nd December 2010 at Vertedero, Huelva, SPAIN by José Manuel Méndez Garcia.
I was also very pleased to record another Herring Gull (2nd winter) from Pitsea, Essex, England -Orange JH1.T ringed by Paul Roper and the North Thames Gull Group.
A visit to Chouet landfill before work yesterday proved fruitless as thick early morning mist hid the gulls from view! This morning it was far better, although with a lot of human activity at the landfill the gulls did not settle. Nevertheless another 124 locally colour ringed Herring Gulls were recorded. Pride of place, however, went to the three new returning colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls – which included White 3.T8 – the earliest bird to have returned in 2010 (on 15 January) and Black 2.P4 which had been recorded at Matosinhos, Portugal from 27/09/10 to 08/10/10!
Interestingly…although White 3.T8 was not the first of my cr LBBGs to return in 2011 – it is again the very first of my adults colour ringed in 2009 to return to the island! The other six colour ringed LBBGs back so far were all ringed as adults in the summer of 2010 (so would not have been identifiable to me when I recorded the returning adults last year).
Colour ringing studies of Herring Gulls breeding in the Bailiwick of Guernsey show that many gulls migrate away from Guernsey at the end of the breeding season. The majority of the gulls that spend the autumn and at least a part of the winter away from the Channel Islands travel to France – with reports from the coasts and inland landfill sites from Pas-de-Calais and Somme in the north-east (few) to the adjacent coasts of Manche, Cotes d’Armor and Finistere, with the majority flying as far as south as Morbihan, Vendee, Loire-Atlantique and Charente-Maritime (few). There are even a few exceptional cases of Herring Gulls migrating to northern Spain.
Following the 2010 breeding season, the earliest returning gull was back in Guernsey on 13 November (two birds from nearby Manche). A further six Herring Gulls returned in December, with the majority (14) being seen again in Guernsey in January. One of the two birds that was known to have wintered in northern Spain was back home by 22nd January. There are no doubt still many birds to arrive back in the Islands ahead of the 2011 breeding season. However…it is notable how early some of the Herring Gulls return to the island – especially compared to Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which of course travel much further distances south to winter in Iberia (majority) and NW Africa.
Herring Gull White 3.JJ5 Charente-Maritime, France - September 2010 - Julien Gernigon
With the temperatures in Guernsey now nudging into double figures and the wind swinging into the SW (from much colder north-easterlies), I had high hopes for the return of some of my colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls this weekend. On Saturday there were 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Chouet (but no colour ringed birds). However…this morning amongst the 25 LBBGs present at Chouet there were four of my cr birds – including Black 2.N2, which had been seen in Madrid, Spain on 12 December 2010. And so…a little later than in 2010 I feel a great deal of excitement and anticipation as the return migration begins to unfold!
Despite strong winds at Chouet Landfill, which always makes the gulls very nervous and skittish, it was also a good weekend for recording Herring Gulls – with 145 colour ring reads on Saturday and 100 today (99 at Chouet before work and one at St Peter Port Harbour at lunch time).
LBBG Black 2.N2 at Chouet, Guernsey 07/08/10 - PKV
Herring Gull White 6.AA8 feeding at night behind trawler 4 miles west of Corbiere, Jersey - Dominic Jones
A very nice report last night of a colour ringed gull was Herring Gull White 6.AA8, which was seen and photographed feeding with other Herring Gulls behind a trawler four miles west of Jersey's south-west coast (Corbiere Lighthouse) on the evening of 31 January 2011. This gull was ringed in April 2010 in our garden at Ty Coed, Vale Marais, and then seen six more times in Guernsey up to 11 December 2010. It was then seen at Le Pulec, Jersey on 09 January 2011 by Tony Paintin.
A very successful weekend saw more than 300 ring reads on local Herring Gulls...and as expected another four birds had returned from wintering in France (one each in the Departments of Manche, Cotes d'Armor, Calvados and Morbihan). Lesser Black-backed Gulls continue to be scarce with only eight birds at Chouet (none colour ringed). On 31 January 2010 I had 31 LBBGs back at Chouet (four times as many as this year). Who can blame the gulls for staying south during this continuing cold weather?!
Interestingly Great Black-backed Gulls have reduced in number in the past 10 days or so - and almost all of the French colour ringed birds appear to have wandered off. No doubt many of the immature birds will return sporadically as we go through 2011.
Today (Tuesday) I made a quick trip down the west coast of Guernsey before work...just to check that the Lesser Black-backed Gulls were not flocking at Vazon, Perelle or L'Eree (as they do in the autumn)...but there were only nine birds along the entire coast...so I have to remain patient...and await the vanguard of arrivals of my breeding birds.
Herring Gulls at Chouet landfill 29 January 2011 - PKV