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Avocet On January - 17 - 2013

The Great Black backs on Looe Island, along with many other species last summer, had a poor breeding season. Although we counted 75 nests containing 197 eggs and two chicks in May, when it came to ringing we were only able to find 27 chicks of which 24 were colour ringed. This compares to 91 colour ringed in 2011 and 49 in 2010. It is not known whether failures occurred during incubation or nestling stages but we suspect that many chicks died soon after hatching when they would be vulnerable to chilling and exposure in the wet conditions.

However there have been sightings of 55 ringed birds between September and mid December. Many of these can be attributed to the efforts of John Nicholls and Derek Spooner who have regularly scanned through the gulls in Looe Harbour and on the East Looe River where loafing gulls can often be found. Of the 48 birds John and Derek reported, over 81% could be described as local birds, ie they had been recorded within 5km of Looe Island on more than one occasion but nowhere else. 10 birds were new sightings; two ringed in 2010, 5 in 2011 and 3 in 2012. Only 3 birds had previously been reported away from the Looe area but have returned. These are listed in Table 1.

Table 1

Ring No Year of ringing Sightings away from Looe Looe Harbour or East Looe sightings Sept-Dec 2012
L:AH9 2010 Lowland Point, Lizard, Apr 2011 Plym Estuary Devon, Aug 2012 17 Oct
L:AJ0 2010 Guernsey, Feb and March 2011 Mevagissey, Jan 2012 3 dates in October 3 dates in November
L:AP5 2011 Guernsey, Oct 2011 Dawlish Warren, Devon Sept 2012 16 Nov

There were 7 reports away from Looe Island between September and December. These are listed in Table 2.

Table 2

Ring No Year of ringing Sightings away from Looe, Sept – Dec 2012 Distance /Bearing Duration
L:AD0 2011 L’Eree Beach, Guernsey 5 Sep 161 km / 126 1 yr, 73 days
L:AJ8 2010 Crabby Beach, Alderney 9 Sep 175km / 112 2 yr, 89 days
L:AJ6*1 2011 Dawlish Warren, Devon 14, 16 & 30 Sep 78km / 67 2 yr, 96 days
L:AX6 2012 Pembroke Beach, Guernsey 24 Sep 116km / 123 92 days
L:AP5*2 2011 Dawlish Warren, Devon 29 Sep 78km / 67 1 yr, 97 days
L:AV0 2012 Dawlish Warren, Devon 5 dates between 12 Oct & 3 Nov 78km / 67 132 days
L:AV6 2012 Coverack, Cornwall 13 Dec 58km / 233 172 days

*1previous sightings at Le Rozel, Normandy in Aug 2011 and Slapton, Devon in Oct 2011. *2previously sighted in Guernsey in Oct 2011.

 Two further reports of interest were received. The first of these, L:AH1 ringed in 2010 was seen at O-Grove, Galicia, NW Spain in Aug 2012, 9 km north-west of where it was first seen in Oct 2011. This bird had its tongue poking through a hole in its throat when first seen and still had the dried up remnants of its attached 10 months later. The injury had obviously not hindered its ability to forage effectively.

The second was the late report of L:AP0, ringed in 2011 and found badly decomposed on the beach at Kerbinigou à Plovan, Brittany on 18 October 2011. This is our third report from Brittany.

In addition to the Looe project sightings, John and Derek have recorded 6 French ringed Great black backs, 4 Norwegian, 3 from Guernsey and 3 British ringed birds.

This on going project will continue to add to our knowledge of Great Black Backed Gulls. We hope to investigate opportunities in the future for satellite monitoring of the adults to look at foraging patterns during the breeding season and to investigate further the causes of nest failure.

Bruce Taggart, January 2013

Categories: GBB Gull Ringing, News

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