Yesterday afternoon I accompanied RSPB staff as they visited their reserve in Larne Lough, and one of our study colonies, on Blue Circle Island.
As Matthew, Laura and Anne went about their work to monitor the breeding terns and to try and establish how many pairs of Mediterranean Gulls are nesting on the reserve, I got to work ringing young Black-headed Gulls on the other side of the island.
It's always the case when you visit busy colonies such as Blue Circle, that there will be pairs at various stages of breeding. There were some very large young on the verge of fledging, in fact I did see one bird fledge, but there are also plenty of recently hatched young...
...and there are even quite a few pairs still on eggs.
This is my first ringing visit to any of our study colonies, so I was delighted to see that there were many chicks of a suitable size for ringing. I had hoped to post a photo of 2BFF and crack a joke about how we were best mates, but unfortunately the colour-ring snapped as I was sliding it over the applicator (i.e. outer covering from an old pen!), so here's the next best thing, 2BFD.
In the end, seventy-seven birds were ringed, of which 51 were also colour-ringed. A great start to the breeding season and there will hopefully be a few more visits to colonies in the next 3-4 weeks.
As well as the gulls and terns, Blue Circle Island is also home to several other species of seabird and wildfowl, and while checking under vegetation for hiding chicks, I came across this wonderful mallard nest.
Many thanks to RSPB NI for granting permission to ring on their reserve and to Matthew Tickner for providing the transport!