Monday, 4 July 2016

Visits to study colony at Castle Espie

Visits to colonies to ring young birds came thick and fast a couple of weeks back with the second trip to Inch (see here) and first visits to Castle Espie and Blue Circle Island all in quick succession.

A post covering the visit to Blue Circle Island will be uploaded in the coming days, but concentrating on Castle Espie....

*Warning - graphic photo included*

Regular followers of the blog will know that we have been colour-ringing a sample of the young Black-headed Gulls at the Castle Espie colony since 2013 and we were fortunate enough to once again gain permission from WWT to ring at the site.

On a lovely June evening, a small team of staff and volunteers aided us in the catching of young gulls. The process is very systematic at Castle Espie due to the design of the site, enabling us to target one pond at a time without causing disturbance to the rest of the site. 

We concentrated on the easily accessible ponds around the captive wildfowl collection and an efficient catch and processing system saw us colour-ring 61 new birds for the study in a short space of time. 

The additional advantage of ringing at Castle Espie is the fact there are staff and volunteers checking the site daily, and the site gets a large number of visitors, which means we can get a pretty good idea of survival rates to fledging within the sample as we receive reports of any birds which have died or photos from the public.

Photo by Kevin Kirkham-Brown

We know a number of young have unfortunately been predated before they've managed to fledge, including 2CAL (pictured being ringed above). It was alive and well today when I visited the site to check for colour-ringed adults, only to be discovered a short time later by my son and me, having been predated by a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

My son watching the perpetrator!

While some people may find it upsetting, it's does add to our knowledge and understanding of the pressures facing the species and Lesser Black-backs have to eat too!

Many thanks to Kez, Sarah, Ross, Stuart and George for their help with catching, ringing and recording and to WWT for access permission to continue with the study.

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