Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Copeland Common Gull colour-ringing project

Since 2009, Shane Wolsey has been colour-ringing Common Gulls that breed on Big Copeland, the largest of the Copeland Islands, just off the coast from Donaghadee, Co. Down.
With approximately 800 pairs, Big Copeland has the largest breeding colony of Common Gull, Larus canus, in Ireland and the aim of Shane’s colour-ringing project is to build up a picture of the population dynamics of this colony:
  • Why has the colony grown during the past two decades? 
  • What is the reproductive success rate of this colony? 
  • Where do the young and adults winter?
The 2009 season was rather experimental, with 12 adults and six pulli being colour-ringed.  These 18 birds were fitted with yellow colour-rings with black lettering on the left leg and a metal BTO ring on the right leg. 
2BBC at Millisle, January 2012
Photo by Brendan Dunlop
As the yellow rings did not show up well against the green-yellow of the bird’s leg, it was decided to change colour, and since 2010, dark blue rings with white lettering have been used - again with the colour ring on the left leg, and the BTO ring on the right. 

2HSF at Millisle, April 2013

A total of 196 birds have been fitted with blue colour-rings on Big Copeland (13 adults and 183 pulli), although only 14 birds were ringed in 2011 due to a storm in late May badly disrupting that year’s breeding season.
Until the start of this year, there had been relatively few re-sightings, however, since January 2013 Copeland birds have turned up in quite a number of places. 

2ACA at Millisle, April 2013
Millisle in County Down is a favourite location.  There have been a couple of birds (2BBC and 2ADX) there throughout the winter, with the occasional appearance of other individuals (2AAC, 2ACA and 2HSF).  There has also been a considerable build-up of Common Gulls, many of them ringed, at Millisle during March and April – are these all Copeland birds getting ready to get back on the breeding grounds? 

BTO ringed Common Gull at Millisle, April 2013

A small number of Copeland birds have also turned up at Duncannon Strand, Co Wexford.  2AXV and 2HVP were there in January, and 2HPX in February and 2ANN was at Sarsfield Lock, River Shannon, Limerick City in January.
The furthest travel bird to have been reported so far is 2AXH which turned up at Kervigen Beach, Finistère in France on 8th January this year!
2ADX at Millisle, March 2013

If you see any of Shane's study birds, you can report them to him by emailing 

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