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.

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