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Read by Dave and Charley

ECOLOGIST'S UPDATE

I have previously told you about catching and ringing the adult gulls. Well the chicks are now growing up well so this past weekend we were able to go to Burhou to find and ring the chicks!

I went to Burhou with Paul Veron, who joined us for the adult ringing, and his wife Catherine; they are both experienced ringers from Guernsey. Our first task was to locate the gull chicks which meant walking through the colony and searching in the thick vegetation and under rocks for chicks.

Gulls fly over our heads as we search the colony

Gulls fly over our heads as we search the colony

Finding chicks hidden in the vegetation or under rocks can be very difficult!

Finding chicks hidden in the vegetation or under rocks can be very difficult!

Once the chicks have been found we have to attach a metal ring to one leg and a plastic colour ring to the other. The reason they have both is that the colour ring can be read using binoculars or a scope whilst the bird is alive to track its migration and feeding habits. Whilst the metal ring lasts longer so if a dead bird is found we can identify it wioth the metal ring even if the plastic one has faded over time.

Ringing a gull chick

Ringing a gull chick

You can see the colour rings in the above picture. They are different colours for each species; white with black letters for herring gull and black with white letters for lesser black-backed gull. But when the birds are this young it can be difficult to tell which species it is, so we have to look at their wing colour on the tips of the feathers.

Lesser black-backed gulls will have dark feather tips, nearly all black with maybe just a bit of a lighter edge. Herring gull chicks have lighter areas with specks of dark colour. You can see the details we look for circled in the picture below.

Herring gull (left); lesser black-backed gull (right)

Herring gull (left); lesser black-backed gull (right)

Actually ringing the chicks can be quite funny. So that they do not start calling, which will disrupt the colony, we always try to not pick them up. Instead we just reach underneath and pull their legs out behind them and attach the rings.

If ringed whilst in the vegetation the gull chicks will actually stay very still

If ringed whilst in the vegetation the gull chicks will actually stay very still

Of course there are always a few that try and run, or are so far under rocks we have to pull them out to ring them. In these cases the chicks are laid on their back and their heads covered to ring them.

Ringing chicks that tried to run away

Ringing chicks that tried to run away

This is quite funny to see as it is a very unusual state to see gull chicks in! Often when we remove the cover from their head they have calmed down enough to just lie there.

Ringed chicks just lying back!

Ringed chicks just lying back!

Every chick that is rung is safely left where it was found, or in the case of those that did try to run away they are returned to the rock or vegetation cover that it was originally found under.

In total we ringed 209 lesser black-backed gull chicks and 11 herring gull chicks. So 220 in total! This is excellent as it shows the gulls are having a good year, especially compared to last year when we only found 41 chicks to ring! In fact 220 ringed chicks is the highest total since 2010; when a massive 335 chicks were ringed!!