Saturday, 9 May 2015

Colour-ringing projects in SW Scotland

I thought it would be interesting to have a post about a couple of colour-ringing projects co-ordinated by a ringer based less than 30 miles away...just on the other side of the North Channel!


Hi, I’m Gillian Dinsmore – I am a bird ringer, nest recorder, blogger and fellow gull addict from just across the sea…in Galloway! I’ve been asked to write a blog post for this fantastic blog as I have a couple of similar projects running here in South West Scotland.

Greetings from Scotland! 

As you may have noticed from my profile picture, I am quite keen on waterfowl. I currently run projects on Black-headed Gull, Common Gull and Coot, with past projects on Reed Warbler, Canada Geese and Tree Sparrow. In this post I would like to introduce you to both my Black-headed and breeding Common Gull studies.

Summer plumage Black-headed Gull

I developed my love of all things gulls whilst working down in Manchester for the WWT as a Tree Sparrow monitoring assistant. Whilst living in Manchester I joined the Loganhurst Ringing Group which had a number of existing projects on Mute Swan, Coot and Black-headed gull. It was through working with the group that I became fascinated with colour ringing projects and gulls. The group often receives reports of ringed Black-headed gulls from countries such as Norway and Sweden as well as from elsewhere in the UK, it was this that lead to my initial interest in the species. A few Black-headed gulls are also regularly reported from Stranraer, my hometown! Due to my growing fascination with the group’s projects I soon decided to start my own on Coot and Black-headed Gull.

My Scottish Black-headed gull project aims to investigate and determine the winter and breeding site fidelity of the species as well as to gain a better understanding of their migratory behaviour and longevity. I colour ring birds in winter at a number of sites across Scotland and in summer I nest monitor and colour ring at my local breeding colony near Stranraer.

Nests marked to enable them to be
monitored for the BTO’s Nest Recording Scheme

The study’s main breeding colony. 

As the project is in its early years, we are still working on building up the number of colour marked birds in the population but so far have had some interesting recoveries from within the UK.

Recoveries from Linlithgow (our main winter catching site)

We had one interesting juvenile Black-headed gull, whom I ringed at Linlithgow, follow me home to Stranraer just 5 days after ringing. We also had a one BHG reported from Seahouses, Northumberland – the same site in which a Northern Ireland BHG had also been observed.

As well as my Black-headed gull and Coot colour ring projects I have started a new project this year based upon the Scottish breeding Common Gull. The Common Gull is an amber listed species and can be found breeding in upland areas of Northern Britain. My study aims to investigate breeding and winter site fidelity of both adults and juveniles, annual pairings of breeding adults and the migratory patterns of both juveniles and breeding adults.

I will seek to gain a better understanding of the species by colour ringing both chicks and adults at a number of breeding colonies in Scotland (mainly Galloway) and by nest monitoring a local colony in Wigtownshire. As little is known of the behaviour of UK bred Common Gull and that of sub-adults (before they breed at 3 years old), this study should produce some very interesting results and therefore be able to shed some more light on this charismatic and understudied species.

As this is the first year of the project, and there are significant start-up costs, I have followed in the path of the NI BHG study and started a Kickstarter page. I would really appreciate it if you took the time to look at my project page on Kickstarter, to share it and donate if you can. There is also a lot more information on the Common gull and the study on the Kickstarter site.

Keep an eye out!

Please keep your eyes peeled for colour ringed birds. My projects colours / combinations are as follows and can all be reported to crbirds’@’


White rings with black lettering: SXX (where X is a number or letter) and CXX (where X is a number or letter). Most birds also hold a plain pink colour ring above the metal but as this is a new addition to the project not all birds will have this.

Black-headed Gull

The combinations of my project are: blue rings with white lettering: 2XXX (where X is a number) and also 2K00-50.

Common Gull

Black rings with white lettering: 2XXX where X is a letter.

Thank you for taking the time to read my wee post and I hope you found it interesting. If you would like to follow the progress of any of my projects or adventures then you can follow me via the blog or Twitter.

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