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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guernsey Lesser Black-backed Gull seen at Portland Bill, England

LBBG Black 3.C5 at Portland Bill, England - Martin Cade
Martin Cade, the warden of the Portland Bill Bird Observatory, England sent me an interesting sighting today at the Bill of Lesser Black-backed Gull Black 3.C5, which was ringed at Chouet landfill, Guernsey on 28/05/10 (as part of the cannon netting operation run with Paul Roper and members of the North Thames Gull Group). It is believed that this is a Guernsey-nesting LBBG, and 120 km seems a bit far for a feeding trip for a bird which by now should be feeding I'm not sure what the bird is doing at Portland. Perhaps it is a failed breeder this year? It will be interesting to see if it turns up back in Guernsey, before migrating for the autumn/winter.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nearly ringed the Gannets!

After around 30 years of landing on Alderney's two gannetries once a year, I finally met my nemesis today. Everything looked perfect as we left Guernsey - with a beautiful, calm sea:-
Herm and Jethou - PKV
As we approached Alderney, some 20 miles further north, the big swells on the sea should have warned us that we would struggle - but it wasn't until we arrived at Les Etacs that we saw just how bad the swell on the rock was:-
                 Swell on Les Etacs - PKV
All we could do was go fishing and wait for the tide (and hopefully sea) to drop.
Ian hopeful of catching supper (he didn't!) - PKV
Eventually the swell dropped enough to enable two ringers to be landed on one of the small sheltered stacks - where they ringed 150 Northern Gannet chicks.
Three men in a boat- PKV
The rest of the team could only look on and hope the swell dropped further (which it didn't!). It was very enjoyable however to watch the adult gannets coming and going and to take a few photos of the rocks.
Although a frustrating day it was still wonderful to be in close proximity to these most magnificent seabirds - and next year...we'll try again! I hope to be able to post some photos from one of the two ringers who landed shortly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A few more Great Black-backed Gull chicks colour ringed

Longue Pierre - PKV
Thanks again to Dave Perrio for getting me out to The Humps for the final seabird monitoring trip of the season to these small islet nature reserves with restricted landing during the seabird breeding season. The primary objective of this trip was to assess the breeding season for gulls - especially Great Black-backed Gulls.

Strangely I could not find a single Great Black-backed Gull chick on Godin. There must have been some chicks given the 20+ adults calling overhead during my brief 25 minute landing. However, despite a pretty reasonable search of the dense mallow vegetation I couldn't locate any. Nearly all of the Great Cormorant youngsters had now fledged, although a few late youngsters were still in their nests. To minimise disturbance I did not go to that end of the islet.

My next landing was on Longue Pierre, where Common Guillemot numbers looked very strong. Again I kept my focus on the gulls and managed to locate eight Great Black-backed Gull chicks of a good size.

On the way back Dave also landed me on Plat Hommet just off Herm's north-west corner. This was the first time I'd been on this islet - which is not at all easy to get on. Three more Great Black-backed Gull chicks were ringed here, before we headed for home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

News of Lesser Black-backed Gulls from England and Spain

LBBG White 2.BB2 Ty Coed, Guernsey 25 May 2009 - Catherine Veron

LBBG White 2.BB2 Gloucester landfill, England 24 June 09 - John Sanders

News in today included reports of two Lesser Black-backed Gulls from my study. Peter Rock reported White 2.BB2 from Shortwood Landfill, Bristol, England. This is an interesting bird, which was ringed as a 2nd calendar year in our garden on Guernsey on 25 May 2009. It was then seen twice in June 2009 at Gloucester Landfill, England (John Sanders) - before being seen at Tan Tan Plage, Morocco on 18 November 2009 (Morten Helberg and Finn Jorgensen)

Black 0.V0  ringed as a chick on Burhou, Alderney on 10 July 2009 was seen on 24 June 2010 on Esmelle Beach, A Coruna, Spain by Paco Veiga.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Herring Gulls enjoying a good breeding season on Jethou

Two Herring Gull chicks on Jethou - PKV
On one of the most beautiful days of summer, three of the Guernsey Seabird Team (Sophie and Paul Veron and Mish Hooper) were lucky enough to visit the private island of Jethou to monitor the gulls and colour ring chicks. After a quick visit to adjacent Crevichon, where a few more Great Black-backed Gull chicks were ringed, the Team worked hard on the beaches around the main island. It was soon obvious that despite a few days with heavy rain around the time when many pairs would have had newly hatched young, most breeding attempts had had some success. While there were some dead small chicks, there was a good number of large well-grown young scattered around the island. If anything the season looked to be a week or so advanced on most seasons, so our slightly earlier visit than usual was fortuitous.

Crevichon - PKV
We worked hard in the clear blue skies to ring 68 Herring Gulls, 11 Great Black-backed Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Hopefully the majority of these birds will fledge soon and give interesting sighting reports for many years to come.

Gull Beach at High Tide Jethou - PKV
There were several late Shag chicks, but with the gull work the main focus for this visit, the Team only ringed seven of them.

Herring Gull chicks - Jethou - PKV

Sophie and Mish ringing gull chick - Jethou - PKV

Sophie with Herring Gull chick 6.AH2 - PKV
A Marsh Harrier seen hunting over the top of the island was an interesting record. All in all a  very valuable trip.

Interesting movement of Lesser Black-backed Gull north-east to Suffolk, England

Larus fuscus Black 0.K1 Burhou 10 July 2009 - Catherine Veron
A couple of days ago Jon Gibbs saw Lesser Black-backed Gull Black 0.K1 at Minsmere, Suffolk. This is a really exciting record for it is the first of my chicks ringed in July 2009 (on Burhou, Alderney) to be seen further north than the Channel Islands. Jon says that there has been a roost of over a thousand immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Minsmere for the past month or so, and the Alderney bird is the most southerly born gull to be recorded in the flock.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guernsey ringed Herring Gull nesting in Jersey

Photo - Mick Dryden
I had some interesting news today from Mick Dryden who saw and photographed Herring Gull White 4.SS2 in a nesting colony on the cliffs at Grosnez, Jersey. This gull had been ringed as an adult female at Chouet landfill on 05 June 2009. I had seen this bird six times in Guernsey from 12 November 2009 to 24 March 2010.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Early morning ring reading at Chouet

Due to work commitments and the hectic seabird monitoring schedule at this time of year, this morning was only the second time that I have managed to get to Chouet to record colour ringed gulls since our cannon netting session there in the last week of May. The impact of our successful cathing is obvious. In 90 minutes this morning at Chouet landfill and Chouet landfill Beach I recorded 123 colour rings - including a record breaking 52 Lesser Black-backed Gulls - all Guernsey ringed birds!

It is really good to see that I am beginning now to make an impact on the number of cr Herrng Gulls in the area, and also slowly I am making progess with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I hope to record as many of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls caught at the end of May as possible before they start their autumn migration in early August.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A successful weekend in the Channel Islands’ largest Lesser Black-backed Gull colony

Catherine and LBBG Black 3.X5 - Burhou - PKV

Burhou from the air - PKV
Burhou is the single most important breeding colony for Lesser Black-backed Gull in the Channel Islands – with c 1,000 pairs in most recent years (including 2010). As such it is a critical site to my gull research. Catherine and I have just returned from a weekend trip with Jen Stockdale, the Ecologist for the Alderney Wildlife Trust (AWT). Given the recent highly variable weather we were fortunate to be able to land and carry out the research. We were able to colour ring another 74 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and take 23 colour ring observations on Burhou (including two LBBGs that had been ringed in winter in Gloucester by the Severn Estuary Gull Group and which are clearly CI breeding birds).

PKV and LBBG Black 4.C5 Burhou - Catherine Veron
I was also thrilled to record 16 of the 67 adults colour ringed in 2009 (several of which had been reported from France, Spain or Portugal over the intervening winter) and one of the four in 2008. Given its long grass and location of some of the sub-colonies Burhou is not a particularly easy place to obtain cr sightings – so this was a good effort. Thanks to Jen for taking her telescope over!
LBBG Black 3.P9 Burhou - PKV
In addition we trapped five LBBGs that had originally been metal ringed as chicks on Burhou – some a decade earlier in July 2000, and read another two metal rings with the telescope.
Part of main LBBG colony on Burhou (Les Etacs Gannetry in background) - PKV
In common with elsewhere in the Bailiwick, the LBBGs on Burhou appear to be a week-10 days earlier with their nesting than in 2009. The previous week Jen had counted just over 1,000 nests on the island and the first chicks were just beginning to chip out of their eggs. During our visit the vast majority of nests still contained eggs, but there were a good number of chicks only a few days old.

We made a full island count of the gulls – which was 1,429 LBBG, just over 100 Herring Gulls and 28 Great Black-backed Gulls. A Peregrine was the only raptor seen on the island this visit.

PKV in front of hut on Burhou - Catherine Veron
My sincere thanks to Catherine and Jen - both of whom worked extremely hard to obtain some really good data for the gull studies. Thanks also, as ever, to the AWT manager Roland Gauvain for transporting us to and from the island, and to the States of Alderney for permission to undertake the scientific research on Burhou.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A very busy day at the seabird colonies

Puffin on Jethou - PKV
With rain (correctly) forecast for today the available members of the Guernsey Seabird Team (Jamie and Mish Hooper, Chris Mourant and me) had to pack in visits to two of the Bailiwick’s seabird island groups yesterday. Things tend to get hectic at this time of year – trying to ensure that the monitoring and ringing activities are successfully done, while at the same time everyone has a busy day job!

With the kind permission of the owner of Jethou (Dr Peter Ogden), and his very helpful staff, we were able to visit Jethou during the day. The primary purpose was to monitor the European Shag nesting activity, although we would also note other seabird breeding productivity.

Jethou - PKV

Crevichon - PKV
In common with what we had seen in other Bailiwick colonies, the news this year is good. Nesting numbers of Shag are high, and productivity is also good, with the majority of pairs having three advanced chicks. The early season was also confirmed with the young from more than 10 nests having already fledged. 65+ active Shag nests were recorded on Crevichon islet, and there were another 30+ on the main island of Jethou. Unfortunately we ran out of time before the tidal window closed, preventing access on to the other adjacent islet of Grande Fauconniere. We estimated that there were another 30+ active Shag nests here.

Grande Fauconniere - PKV

In addition to Shag chicks the Team also ringed 27 Great Black-backed Gull chicks. I was particularly pleased to be able to fit the first 19 of my new GBBG colour rings (yellow with black code). Herring Gull chicks were also much in evidence on Jethou’s stony beaches. However, we left the vast majority of these for ringing on another visit in around two weeks’ time.

GBBG Yellow 0.AA3 - Crevichon PKV

At least seven Oystercatcher nests were seen – all with eggs. Jamie also took the opportunity to colour ring another five Little Egrets from the protected colony – making a total of 16 young ringed this year (a record).

Little Egrets - PKV

Jamie and Mishy ringing Shags - Jethou PKV

Shag chicks on Jethou - PKV
After an hour to recuperate from the strenuous activities on Jethou, Jamie, Mish and I headed out, courtesy of Dave Perrio, to The Humps north of Herm. Once again we had special permission to land on these protected islets for seabird monitoring purposes. There was only time to land on the two nearest islets – Godin and Galeu. This was very worthwhile with another nine Great Cormorants and 20 European Shag being ringed on Godin, and 34 European Shag and a single Great B B Gull on Galeu.

It had been a very hard day’s work – something that my muscles reminded me of this morning when I awoke! However, some very useful seabird monitoring data was obtained and another 216 seabirds were ringed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gull Ringing at Chouet landfill May 2010

Cannon Netting at Chouet landfill may 2010 - photo Vic Froome

This blog posting adds a little more detail on the recent highly successful cannon netting operations at Chouet landfill. As a joint effort between the North Thames Gull Group and the Guernsey Seabird Team and supporters, we operated from Wednesday 26th May to Saturday 29th May – although on the first and last dates rain prevented any catches being attempted. To make up for this Thursday 27th and Friday 28th were near perfect days…and we took six catches on these two days – totalling 1,008 gulls (184 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 824 Herring Gulls).

The largest single catch was the 2nd catch on Thursday when 338 gulls were processed – 299 Herring Gulls and 39 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The two largest catches of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were catch 1 on Thursday (43 birds) and the very last catch on Friday (44 birds).

I am deeply grateful to everyone who participated, but especially to Paul Roper and the members of the North Thames Gull Group and the landfill staff without whose help the operation would not have been possible or so successful!

Amongst the Lesser Black-backed Gulls caught there were surprisingly few retraps – although three birds ringed in previous years in the Bailiwick provided extra information for the project. Now that they have colour rings it is hoped that there will be more records of these birds.

A more detailed account of the whole operation will shortly be found on the excellent web site of the North Thames Gull group at

Looking for gulls to catch! - Chouet landfill May 2010 - Vic Froome

Part of the team setting the net - Photo Vic Froome

Visits to Sark Seabird Colonies

Catherine & LBBG Black 3.K9 Derrible Headland, Sark - PKV

With the support of La Société Sercquiaise Catherine and I managed to visit several of the seabird colonies on Sark over the past few days. The primary aim was to try to colour ring some adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and we were delighted to trap 19 birds in three of the sub-colonies. Two of these birds had originally been metal ringed as chicks - one on Sark in July 1999 and the other on Burhou, Alderney in July 2005. In addition four cr birds were recorded at their breeding colonies (three had been ringed at Chouet landfill or in our garden in Guernsey which is 1 km from the landfill) and the other in the same Sark colony the previous year.

PKV on Derrible Headland, Sark - CMV
We also visited L'Etac de Serk to monitor the European Shags. Happily they appear to have had another good breeding season with 80+ active nests observed. The season has been early, with several chicks already fledged and the vast majority of the young remaining being very advanced. 87 nestlings were ringed.
The three auk species (Common Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin and Razorbill) all appeared to being doing well on the islet, although time did not permit close inspection or ringing of these species.

One other islet was visited (one of the Burons group) where another 14 European Shag were ringed, along with a single Great Black-backed Gull chick.

Catherine ringing European Shag chick on L'Etac de Serk - PKV

Shag fighting back - PKV

A small cruise along the west coast resulted in four gull colour rings being read - very valuable sightings as all were birds in their nesting colonies. There were three Herring Gulls (all ringed on 27 or 28 May at Chouet landfill) and one Lesser Black-backed Gull (Black 1.R3) ringed in May 2010 in our garden in Guernsey.

Our thanks to Andy Cook and Sue Daly for all their help, which as ever is much appreciated.
Andy picking us up from L'Etac - PKV

Friday, June 4, 2010


OK - this is not a gull post, but I thought some of you may like to see a few photos of the lovely flower-rich orchid field adjacent to our home. Fortunately it is now a nature reserve run by La Société Guernesiaise- The Ozanne Fields. The orchids are c 3 weeks late this year (as a result of our cold spring)...however, they are now absolutely gorgeous. There are Loose-flowered, Southern Marsh and Heath Spotted Orchids (I think...I am no botanist!).