Peter Rock, Nils-Helge Lorentzen and I spent the last ten days of January on a gull ring reading expedition to Northern Morocco. Although several gull observers (including me) had been to Southern Morocco in recent winters, the Northern part of the country (from Tangiers to Oualidia) has been sadly neglected for far too many years. It was clearly very important for gull research in many countries in Western Europe that the area was once again explored for gulls - hence our trip.
And so what were the conclusions:-
- First and foremost the north-western coastline of Morocco is of major importance to wintering (and presumably passage) Lesser Black-backed Gulls from a wide part of their breeding range (at least from Norway, through Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Britain...and yes...the Channel Islands!).
- This area needs much more attention from gull researchers in future winters. Not all Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Morocco go to Anza!
- And thirdly...in order to get the best work done it is necessary to access several fishing ports and landfill sites - and this will very definitely require authorisation in writing in advance (almost certainly achieved through one of the Moroccan universities)
Moulay Bousselhem 2,000
Kenitra Landfill 2,000
Casa fishing port 3,000
Tit Mellil Landfill 3,000
El Jadida 16,000 (of which 9,000 at the landfill)
Oualidia Landfill 1,500
Kenitra and El Jadida were relatively easy to work, mainly in the case of the latter through the very hard work of local Ruth Garcia Gorria (and her husband) who ensured that we received support for our scientific work at the local university . This enabled access to the fishing port and the landfill at El Jadida. Although in other areas access to the fishing ports and landfills was far more problematical, all the Moroccan authorities were at least understanding and very polite with us - even if they did not have the authority to let us enter the areas with telescopes (which were frequently wrongly believed to be cameras).
We recorded 350+ colour-ringed LBBGs, and a high percentage of these gulls had not been recorded in the area in any previous winters (because of the lack of visits by gull watchers!). The majority of the birds were from Northern Europe (Norway, Germany and Denmark), but there was also a good representation of gulls from Britain and other countries in western Europe. I was personally delighted that we recorded 28 different LBBGs ringed in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
As well as these LBBG colour ring reads we also secured a good number of colour ring reads on Audouin's Gulls, as well as a few Mediterranean Gulls, White Storks, a single Sandwich Tern and one Eurasian Oystercatcher.
It is now to be hoped that in future winters other gull recorders will follow in our footsteps and make more highly valuable observations of colour ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Northern Morocco.
A small selection of photos from Northern Morocco