Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Northern Ireland Mediterranean Gull Survey

I've admitted before that I am fond of Mediterranean Gulls (see here) and I'm delighted that, in partnership with Birdwatch Ireland, we're hoping to organise a co-ordinated count of Mediterranean Gulls at evening roosts across Ireland, including here in Northern Ireland.

Breeding plumage Med Gull at Glynn

While numbers of Mediterranean Gulls roosting at some sites around Dublin now regularly exceeding 100 individuals, it is unlikely that any roosts in Northern Ireland have more than a handful of birds. 

It will be very interesting, however, to see if we can get an accurate count of just how many Med Gulls there are in Northern Ireland this summer.

Date: Monday 27 July
Start: 20:00
Finish: Dusk (22:00)
Sunset: 21:34
High tide at Belfast: 20:47 (3.0m)

C-ringed Med Gull in flight
Photo by Cameron Moore

The following information should be recorded:

  • Number of birds present
  • Age of birds present (adult / 2nd-summer / 1st-summer / juvenile)
  • Presence and details of any colour-ringed birds
  • Latest time (closest to dusk) when birds were recorded
  • Direction of travel by birds flying to/from the survey site
  • Behaviour (e.g. roosting / feeding)

The last three pieces of information (especially latest time recorded) will be useful in ascertaining whether there is any movement between sites, overlap in counts, etc.

1st-winter Med Gull at Portrush, September 2014
Photo by Ronald Surgenor

While there is potential for Mediterranean Gulls to turn up anywhere, we are hoping to get all the main coastal roost sites covered as a priority. 

PLEASE NOTE - this list is not exhaustive, there are many, many other sites which could be covered and you are encouraged to head out and cover your local site - I will cover the small roost at Whitehead, Co. Antrim, for example.

The main sites are:

Co. Down:

  • Carlingford Lough
  • Dundrum Inner Bay
  • Ardglass Harbour
  • Kinnego Bay, Belfast Lough
  • Belfast Harbour Reserve

Co. Antrim:

  • Whitehouse Lagoon
  • Glynn, Larne Lough
  • East Strand, Portrush

Co. Londonderry

  • Bann Estuary
  • Myroe Levels
  • Lough Foyle

If you are interested in taking part, please let Niall Keogh at Birdwatch Ireland know which site you hope to cover by emailing

Winter plumage Med Gull with Black-headed Gulls

More information can be found at:

Saturday, 18 July 2015

First Mediterranean Gull colour-ringed in Northern Ireland

During the week I accompanied Matthew, Sarah and Neal from RSPB NI on a trip to monitor the nesting seabirds on the two islands in Larne Lough, Swan Island and Blue Circle Island. 

The colony consists mainly of Black-headed and Common Gulls, Black Guillemots, Sandwich and Common Terns, but rarer breeders include Mediterranean Gulls, Arctic Tern and Northern Ireland's only breeding Roseate Terns, which was the main reason for our visit - to locate and ring a chick which Matthew and Neal had seen at the end of June. 

As the lads got to work watching the adult Roseates to try and relocate their young, Sarah and I had a quick scan to see if there were still any young gulls yet to fledge which we could ring and add to our study.

Neal & Matthew watching Roseate Terns

There were lots of fledged birds about, or birds on the verge of fledging but they stuck close to the water and there were very few left on the top of the island. There were still a few however, and the first young gull we caught wasn't actually a Black-headed Gull, but a Mediterreanean Gull. 

This was very exciting as, although four young Med Gulls have been ringed in Northern Ireland before, this was the first to be colour-ringed here.

Comparison shot of young BHG (back) & young Med Gull
Photo by Neal Warnock

If you remember back to last year, during a visit in early July I caught another young bird, but I'd left the colour-rings at home (see here). Thankfully this year I was a bit more prepared and we can add this bird to the eight juvenilles ringed in Wexford this year - an Irish record!

Blue Circle Island was the first site in Ireland where Mediterranean Gull was confirmed breeding in Ireland, way back in 1995! Since then there have been low numbers of breeding pairs every year, but a larger colony of over 10 pairs can be found at Lady's Island Lake in Wexford.

Thankfully the birds on Larne Lough appear to have had a good season and there were good numbers of juvenille gulls and terns about, but unfortunately we couldn't re-locate the young Roseate Tern. The behaviour of the adult suggests there was young about, so perhaps it has recently fledged.

You can't see me! Young Sandwich Tern

Common Tern chick

As always, many thanks for RSPB NI for the access permission and help with the project.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Another sighting of Med Gull 3KNT

Neal Warnock got in touch last night to report a colour-ringed Med Gull at Larne, Co Antrim.

This same bird was photographed by Ronald Surgenor at Portrush last September, after being ringed in the Netherlands last June (see link below).

Nice to know it's still hanging around our shores.

In other news...we managed a short visit to RSPB Larne Lough Islands this morning and have some exciting news...more to follow in the next day or two.

Many thanks to Neal for the report and photo.