St George’s Island gull ringing update

Update on Gull ringing project on St George’s Island Nature Reserve, Looe Oct. 2010

With over 70 breeding pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, The Cornwall Wildlife Trusts reserve at St. George’s Island supports a significant breeding colony of these magnificent birds. Having a wing span of around 1.5m they truly are one of Britain’s most impressive gulls and following a proposal by Pete Kent (the CWT’s East Cornwall Reserves Officer) this summer saw the start of a ringing project to learn more about these birds. The ringing scheme will last for at least five years and hopefully much longer and is a partnership between CWT and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society

For many years Dave Curtis, a local ornithologist and David Conway, CWT’s Loveny warden, have been recording the number of Great Black-backed Gulls breeding on the Island. This new ringing project will help us gain a better understanding of their ecology and life histories. The local ringing co-ordinator, Bruce Taggart, said ‘It’s hoped that analysis of the Great Black-backed Gull data, will allow us to investigate dispersal patterns, site fidelity, survival rates and longevity, as well as monitor long term population trends.

The ringing project started in June when a team of ten volunteers visited the Island on two occasions. Forty nine Great Black-backed Gull chicks were caught and fitted with a BTO ring on the left leg and a white plastic ring engraved with a red identification code on the right leg. The code starts with the letter L, followed by a colon and then two letters and a single figure, eg L:AA1. Bruce requested that anyone seeing a ringed bird report their sighting via email: looegulls@gmail.com. You will receive a full life history of the bird and receive regular newsletter updates on the progress of the project.

The project has already begun to pay dividends. In August, shortly after fledging 6 juveniles were sighted at Looe. Then in early September another two were seen at Downderry but on the 16th September we received our first foreign report. L:AJ1 was seen on Omaha Beach, Vierville sur Mer, France, 81 days after ringing and a distance of 275 km from St Georges Island.

Three days later L:AK6 was reported from Parelle Beach in Guernsey. This bird was was ringed on the same day as L:AJ1 and had travelled 161 km. Two further Guernsey sightings of L:AK6 followed; at L’Eree Beach on 21st and 23rd September. Interestingly a Guernsey ringed Great Black back was seen at Downderry on 20th September so maybe these birds crossed mid Channel!!

Bruce commented ‘It’s early days yet but it shows how important colour ringing is in understanding what is happening to these gulls. Did L:AK6 and L:AJ1 follow their parents or head out into the English Channel alone? Only continued ringing, monitoring, reporting and time will tell.’

L:AB1 at Looe Beach on a grey August day.
Photos Jerry Lanfear

L:AA3 at Looe Beach, 18th August 2010

 
                                                               
 Great Black-backed Gulls on Parelle Beach,  Guernsey,
19th September 2010. Photos Paul Veron
Great Black-backed Gull L:AK6 on L’Eree Beach,
Guernsey, 21st September 2010.

 

 

Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe

Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe.

This year saw the start of a Great Black-backed Gull ringing project in Cornwall. Following a proposal by Pete Kent (Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s East Cornwall Reserves Officer) a ringing project has been set up in partnership with CBWPS to learn more about these gulls.

With over 70 breeding pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, St. George’s Island supports a significant breeding colony of these magnificent birds. For many years local ornithologist, David Curtis and Colliford Lake’s Loveny warden, Dave Conway, have been recording the number of Great Black-backed Gulls breeding on the Island. This new ringing project will build on their work and help us understand the gulls’ ecology and life history, as well as monitor population trends.

The ringing project started in June when a team of volunteers visited the Island on two occasions. The team was faced with quite a challenge as the Island is also home to breeding Herring gulls as well as Great Black-backs and many nests and young birds were well nests hidden amongst tall vegetation!

Eventually 49 Great Black-backed Gulls were caught and fitted with a BTO ring on the left leg and a white plastic ring engraved with a red identification code on the right leg. The code starts with the letter L, followed by a colon and then two letters and a single figure, e.g. L:AA1. The local ringing co-ordinator, Bruce Taggart, has requested that anyone seeing a ringed bird report their sighting via email: looegulls@gmail.com. In turn they will receive a full life history of the bird.

Bruce says ‘We hope that analysis of the data, will allow us to investigate dispersal patterns, site fidelity, longevity, and survival rates in these gulls, as well as monitor long term population trends. We have already noted a high mortality during the egg or early chick stage which warrants further investigation.’

As Great Black backs are long lived birds the ringing scheme will last for at least five years and hopefully much longer.

Claire Lewis, the warden’s assistant for the Island says, ‘We have long wondered what happens to the fledged gulls and now, with the participation of the public this exciting new project give the us the opportunity to discover more about the gulls and in turn assist us with the management of the nature reserve’.

Bruce Taggart