Thursday, 23 February 2012

Meeting ‘Mr Black-headed Gull!’

So from Croatia we flew to Holland after being invited by Frank Majoor to stay with him in Arnhem. Frank is probably best known for his work on Black-headed Gulls and for his dedicated work on monitoring the survival of species through RAS projects.

We arrived in Hilversum after a pleasant flight to Schiphol & no sooner had we met Frank he got us to work as we helped him to read hundreds of rings (both metal & cr-rings)! A very large percentage of gulls in the flocks we saw carried rings (now knowing why they call Frank ‘Mr Black-headed Gull’!), reading rings kept us very busy for hours on end! Quoting Ciaran ‘‘I’ll go to bed tonight with the sound of BHG ringing in my ears & numbers flying all over my head!’’

and if you want a Black-headed Gull’s eye view of two ring readers….

But of course we also visited Frank to learn of his trapping methods. Frank & Jeroen catch gulls mainly by using nooses which allows them to ‘select’ birds that are of particular interest to them. For example any metal ring only birds that we sighted, where the metal ring came from a different country – then this bird would be ‘targeted’ to add a colour ring to the bird. We were rather impressed to have the birds in our hands within minutes of Frank sighting the birds! During our last day Frank had captured 4 Swedish metal rings only – therefore adding a colour ring to the bird for easier identification within the field.



A Finnish ringed gull, now complete with colour ring!

During our last day in Holland we set off rather early to the North to see both American Herring Gull & a Glaucous Gull (Nice to catch up with my friend Otto de Vries here!) before travelling to Amsterdam for the day. The plan for the day was to tour around several parks in Amsterdam to ring read & to carry out some catching. So keeping in with true Dutch fashion with hired bicycles for the day! Pleased to report that we both left the Netherlands unscathed, but we did have one or two close encounters with nearly crashing into the locals!


Throughout the day we caught 53 new Coot, several Black-headed & Common Gull, Moorhen & a Grey Heron!!


Good to see & colour ring a few Coot!



Ciaran with the Grey Heron (most impressed with this capture we were!) note him keeping the birds head well held, for obvious reasons!


A number of Common Gull also colour-ringed.


& colour ringed Egyptian geese as part of one of Frank’s many RAS projects!


A white Black-headed Gull – colour ringed of course!!


& perhaps ‘bird of the day’ goes to this Caspian Gull! Which is now sporting a colour ring!


Frank & Ciaran reading rings on the ice! Ice is very useful!!

Both Ciaran & I left the Netherlands learning so much from Frank & Jeroen. We’d like to thank them both for having us along, we enjoyed our stay very much – being in the company of Frank & receiving first class hospitality by ‘Mr Black-headed Gull’!


IGM Croatia.

Last week Ciaran & I travelled from Manchester to Croatia, to attend the 11th International Gull Meeting being held in Zagreb. The meeting included lots of fine talks on a wide range of topics from identifying gulls, aging and a number of talks gave the results of certain ringing projects both on large & small gulls. The meeting also held a field trip to Zagreb’s fine & smelly rubbish dump (where better to look for gulls!?), treated to an amazing traditional Croatian meal & finally a cannon netting session on the rubbish dump!

A few photos -




Luka Jurinovic


Yellow legged Gull.


Viola Ross Smith holding Yellow legged Gull…


Caspian Gull (cachinnans)


During the cannon netting session we captured a number of Yellow legged gulls, Caspian, Black-headed and Common Gull. The team went on for another catch – catching lots more including the first Lesser Blacked Backed Gull to be caught & ringed in Croatia! More can be read on Luka’s blog.

Many thanks to Luka & Vedran for organising and hosting a fantastic meeting! We really enjoyed our time in Croatia & meeting so many people! We’ll certainly be back in Croatia in the future!

Monday, 13 February 2012

When a Lithuanian ringed gull, becomes a British ringed gull!

The week just gone has been a rather busy one with over 200 birds captured, consisting of 160 new & the rest being recaptures and controls. With the cold weather still hanging around, and most ponds & lakes still frozen over - the bulk of the weekends ringing mainly focussed on catching Coot & Black-headed Gulls. Most of our time was spent at Southport Marine Lake catching both species & by the end of the weekend we had successfully bagged 48 new Coot & 17 Black-headed Gulls.


There were some rather interesting captures of the latter species, in that Ciaran managed to catch a Norwegian ringed bird (below) that was already sporting a darvic ring (more on this later!) but also a Lithuanian metal ringed bird was also caught! This being the first foreign ringed bird now sporting one of our colourful darvic rings!


However on closer inspection of the metal ring of this bird, it become obvious that we needed to replace this as we could just about read LITHUANIA and the code was almost unreadable! Which left us wondering whether this could be a rather old bird – watch this space!


As always when out catching at our Coot sites, we always make time to look for colour ringed birds – this proving most useful for ‘logging’ birds back at their wintering/ringing locations. Although I have yet to enter this information onto the computer, just looking at a few histories clearly shows birds summering away from Southport, moving all over the UK & then travelling back to Southport to spend the winter! I’ve said this many times before, but these birds really do amaze me – in that you very rarely see them in flight or move off a pond – yet ringing them is unravelling lots of information on their secret nocturnal movements!  


Anyhow back to the Norwegian darvic’d Black-headed Gull.  This bird was caught and ringed by Carsten Lome & Morten Helberg in April 2008 in Frognerparken, Oslo.  Carsten & Morten also controlled one of our Black-headed Gulls (famous 2A00!) in Oslo in March last year. So we’ve now ‘exchanged’ birds with each other’s projects!


Several mist netting sessions this week caught decent numbers of Greenfinch, Goldfinch & Blackcap. A Common Gull caught in Manchester was also a highlight!


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Decoy, Ducks & Demos!

Instead of doing the usual and heading back to Manchester this weekend, I spent my first full weekend down in Gloucestershire! Several events were on the agenda this weekend, but sadly - due to the weather, not all went to plan!

Saturday kicked off with WWT Slimbridge's Festival of Birds were I was due to help with a mist netting demonstration with Slimbridge’s onsite ringers Maurice & Brian. However the number of people turning up for the duck decoy demonstrations, meant that I had to give a helping hand with this, so I spent the majority of my time ringing ducks.

Here’s several photos from the past two days….


Zen our decoy dog, who probably has the most important job by acting/looking like a fox & getting the ducks to follow her into the trap!


Teal - the most common duck caught this weekend with 36 captured. 31 new birds & 5 recaptures.


Followed by Pintail with 31 new birds & 1 recapture.


A male (above) & female Shelduck, both new birds being captured.





Gadwall often look very dull on the first appearance, however having them in the hand & being able to seem them close up just shows colourful they can be! 4 birds followed Zen into the decoy, 3 of these being new birds & 1 recapture.


and of course the Decoy Demonstration proving to be highly popular, this allowed us to promote wildfowl ringing to this weekends visitors! Above being shown how we weigh the birds, and below showing our visitors some of our recoveries that we’ve had of Slimbridge ringed birds.



Our duck hut, complete with it’s roaring fire (most welcome this weekend) after a busy few days housing 100’s of people!…… Well they didn’t all fit in at once!

In total Zen & ‘her’ team managed to capture 70 duck over the weekend – consisting of 62 new birds & 8 recaps/controls.

Saturday evening I was supposed to travel to Norfolk with my colleague Richard Hearn to cannon net Greylag Geese – however the snow we’ve experience this weekend soon put stop to that!


A snow covered Rushy Pen holding it’s hungry wildfowl!


But as much as I moaned about the snow this weekend! It was a real privilege to be asked to do the 18:30 commentated swan feed in the snow! An awesome experience that I’m lucky to get to do after a busy day in work!


The end of a fantastic weekend, and the thing I’ve enjoyed the most was being able to speak to our members & visitors and sharing our wildfowl ringing with them……..

Friday, 3 February 2012

Surprise Duck Catch!

Just as we were about to go on our tea break this morning, Maurice ran around our offices to round up a team of ringers - as a call from our Reserve Manager (Dave Paynter) alerted him that he’d pulled off a rather nice catch of duck! So grabbing our ‘grab box’ (everything in there that you need for a quick catch such as this one!) myself, Maurice & Gillian headed over to the Duck Hut and waited for the mornings catch to arrive! Dave had been working our decoy dog – Zen, and together as a team they caught 20 Pintail, 10 Teal & 2 Gadwall!







Newly qualified C ringer, Ian Lees (congratulations!) happened to be in the right place at the right time, during his visit to WWT Slimbridge and helped with a number of the duck!

Thanks to Dave for a rather nice catch & to Maurice for the ‘heads up!