Monday, 16 December 2013

Winter Med Gulls

Since returning from Canada the autumn has been distinctly unfavourable for ringing with a series of lows bringing high winds from the west culminating in a dangerous combination of low pressure, high winds and spring tides that brought extensive flooding to coastal areas in East Anglia with tide heights greater than that experienced in the catastrophic floods of 1953.

Much of the October and November weather was dominated by westerly systems with very little in the way of the easterlies that are needed to power the large winter thrush migration typical of the late autumn. As a result my ringing trainer, Paul who usually rings a good sized sample of Redwing each Autumn has had very few birds of any species visiting his rural Norfolk garden, least of all winter migrants. This has been echoed in Thetford where most garden ringers are reporting much lower numbers than would be typical for this time of year. I suspect that the unseasonably high autumn temperatures may have increased the availability of amount of natural food so perhaps a few cold snaps will see more birds using garden feeders.

After such a disappointing autumn it was good to be involved with a few ringing sessions in the past week. Firstly the BTO hosted a group of students from the University of East Anglia who attended a short ringing demonstration as part of their visit. This was the first time that the Nunnery scrub site had been ringed this year and the feeders managed to attract around forty birds, most of which were tits but a few Lesser Redpolls, Chaffinches and a Greenfinch were also ringed.

                       Male Lesser Redpoll                                                Blue Tit

At the weekend Claire and I went to visit Paul in Burgh Castle and whilst he had warned us that there weren't many birds around it was a nice surprise for Claire to be ringing her first Fieldfare as I was processing a re-trapped Kingfisher, not bad for a garden ringing session although given that a Woodpigeon brought new birds to a total of two this bore witness to the low number of birds visiting his garden this winter.

                       AHY female Fieldfare                                     HY male Kingfisher

On Great Yarmouth beach our luck with the local Mediterranean Gulls fared somewhat better with Paul's generous helpings of bread and KFC chips tempting a small flock down to the waiting spring traps and we were soon running to extract five Med Gulls, four new birds and a re-trap that was already wearing a colour ring fitted on a recent catch. Interestingly this and the four new gulls were all adults or second winter birds.

The Med Gull colour ringing project being carried at Great Yarmouth has already ringed 10% of the UK total for this species and given that resighting efforts from the site have already yielded birds from a number of European countries it will be interesting to see if colour ringed birds from the population wintering at the site will be seen on their breeding grounds.

Adult (3W) Mediterranean Gull

Claire proudly holding her third new species for the day