Thursday, 27 September 2012

Great Black-backed Gull - Blue 1EL

It's not just Black-headed Gulls which are colour-ringed.

While out conducting a BTO WeBS count a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a 3rd-winter Great Black-backed Gull with a colour-ring at the Whitehouse Lagoon. The bird had a blue ring which was inscribed with "1EL".

I reported it via and the European coordinator for large gull colour-ringing passed my sighting to the ringer, Chris Honan, who informed me that this bird was ringed as pullus on Ireland's Eye, off Howth, Co. Dublin on 16.07.2010. My sighting on 15.09.12 was the first sighting of 1EL since it was ringed.

The Whitehouse Lagoon is a tidal pool separated from Belfast Lough by the M5 motorway and it is a brilliant place for birds. On this particular day, there were Blkwits, Barwits, Dunlin, Knot, Turnstone, Lapwing, Oycs, Curlew, Cormorant, Heron, Redshank, Mallard, and all five common species of gull.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

How to fit a colour-ring to a Black-headed Gull

Ever wondered how we fit the colour-ring to the bird?  

Well wonder no more!  Here's a short video by Kolring in Poland which shows how it's done:


The Kolring team's blog can be found at

Monday, 17 September 2012

Look what the postman brought

Like a kid at Christmas, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the post this morning as my colour-rings were dispatched last week and due to arrive today.

As I heard the unmistakable rattle of the letter box, I peered down from the top of the stairs to see a little, white padded envelope with three stamps marked, "Polska".  My rings!

Here they are, folks. The first colour-rings for the Northern Ireland Black-headed Gull Colour-ringing Project:

Now, it's just up to me to get some Black-heaed Gulls to fit them to - no excuse now!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

How we will monitor movements

As you may have already guessed from the name of the blog and previous post, the idea of this project is to colour-ring Black-headed Gulls.

Through fitting the gulls with coloured rings which have letters and numbers engraved on them, we will be able to track movements of specific birds through re-sightings and reports.

There are similar projects ongoing across Europe and birdwatchers who keep an eye out for colour-ringed gulls.  You just have to look at some of the links I have listed on the right of this blog to realise how popular gull ringing has become.

Each project is assigned a different combination of colour and codes, so when a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull is reported via, the European coordinator for small gull colour-ringing will be able to pass the information on to the relevant project leads.

The NI Black-headed Gull Colour-ringing Project has been assigned orange rings with a black four alpha-numeric code, starting with number "2", e.g. 2AAA.  It is also important that the colour-ring is fitted to the bird's left leg.
I have already been contacted by observers in Sweden and Germany with reports of ringed birds.  Unfortunately though, these aren't from my project as I haven't started ringing yet!  The bird pictured was ringed in England and re-sighted in southern Sweden.

It would be fantastic to receieve reports from continental Europe of one of "my" birds in the future.  Fingers crossed!

Photo by Joakim Karlsson

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Why Black-headed Gulls?

Between the mid-1980s and late-1990s, the number of breeding pairs of Black-headed Gulls in Northern Ireland declined rapidly.  Down from 38,000 pairs to 10,000 pairs, the species is red listed in Ireland and is a priority species in Northern Ireland.

The main objective of this project is to hopefully learn more about the species in Northern Ireland, though:

  • determining dispersal / natal fidelity of juveniles from a colony
  • movements of adults from breeding and wintering grounds and
  • migration movements from GB and/or continental Europe

As well as the conservation issues above, I chose to study Black-headed Gulls because of their association with human activities.  Their tendency to hang around train stations, car parks, playing fields, etc. (I'm making them sound a bit shifty, aren't I?!), should increase the chances of colour-ringed birds being re-sighted.