Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Value of Colour Ringing Mediterranean Gulls - April 2014

Back in the summer of 2001, the 26th June to be exact, I was part of a team of ringers who visited the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour with the specific aim of ringing Mediterranean Gull chicks. I remember it well as it was the first time that pullus, or nestling Med Gulls had been ringed in the County. The Mediterranean Gull was a recent colonist to the Hampshires breeding avifauna in those days and the aim of the project was to colour ring a sample of nestling birds in the hope of understanding their dispersal and survival rates. All of the captured birds were ringed with a standard BTO metal ring and a Darvic ring that included a combination of letters and numbers.

I was not the lead ringer and therefore I had not heard of any recoveries of the birds that we had ringed on that memorable day, until this week when I received an email from Pete Potts, the project co-ordinator. It would appear from Pete's email that there have been several sightings of one particular individual, since it was ringed. Below is a summary of its sightings.

2001 - Darvic ring number 2C31 was ringed on the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour. After fledging it was first seen at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight before moving to Devon and then onto Sandy Cove in County Dublin where it was last seen on 8th November.

2002 - There were no sightings until 16th July when it was again reported at Sandy Cove. With the exception of occasional visits to other sites in Ireland it remained in this area until 12th September.

2003 - In March 2003 2C31 was reported Asturias Province, Spain before moving to Marias D'Olonne in France in April. There were no further sightings until it returned to Sandy Cove, County Dublin in July. It remained until there until September 2003.

2004 - There were only two sightings in 2004, both from Sandy Cove, County Dublin in July.

2005 - In March 2005 2C31 was seen three times at Marias D'Olonne, France before being reported in Berkshire, England in early April.

2006 - No Sightings

2007 - No sightings

2008 - In early May 2C31 was reported at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire, England.

2009 - There were two January sightings of 2C31 in Spain before turning up in Worcestershire in July. It was back in Spain in November where there were two sightings in Asturias Province.

2010 - There were three sightings in Ireland in 2010, one in August, one it September and one in October.

2011 - Three further sightings were recorded in Ireland in 2011, one in July and two in August.

2012 - This was the best year for sightings to date with 11 reported. Three were from France in March and April with the remaining sightings reported from Ireland between 16th July and 24th October.

2013 - In March 2013 2C31 was sighted near Madrid in Spain. There were no further sightings until July when it was again reported in Ireland, where it remained until 20th October. 

2014 - The latest sighting was from the 9th April where it was reported for the first time in Zeeland in the Netherlands.

Mediterranean Gull 2C31 is now the oldest recorded Med Gull to frequent Ireland where its preferred wintering site seems to be Sandy Cove, County Dublin. Since being ringed it has been recorded 62 times from four countries. On one occasion in 2003 it was recorded paired with an unringed male in France. It is now approaching 12 years since this bird was ringed and interestingly it appears never to have returned to its natal site. 

The amount of data gathered from this one bird is an excellent example of the value of colour ringing birds. The maximum recorded age of a Med Gull in the UK, according  to data from the BTO website is 15 years, three months and seven days.

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