Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe

Gull ringing project on St George’s Island, Looe.

This year saw the start of a Great Black-backed Gull ringing project in Cornwall. Following a proposal by Pete Kent (Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s East Cornwall Reserves Officer) a ringing project has been set up in partnership with CBWPS to learn more about these gulls.

With over 70 breeding pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls, St. George’s Island supports a significant breeding colony of these magnificent birds. For many years local ornithologist, David Curtis and Colliford Lake’s Loveny warden, Dave Conway, have been recording the number of Great Black-backed Gulls breeding on the Island. This new ringing project will build on their work and help us understand the gulls’ ecology and life history, as well as monitor population trends.

The ringing project started in June when a team of volunteers visited the Island on two occasions. The team was faced with quite a challenge as the Island is also home to breeding Herring gulls as well as Great Black-backs and many nests and young birds were well nests hidden amongst tall vegetation!

Eventually 49 Great Black-backed Gulls were caught and fitted with a BTO ring on the left leg and a white plastic ring engraved with a red identification code on the right leg. The code starts with the letter L, followed by a colon and then two letters and a single figure, e.g. L:AA1. The local ringing co-ordinator, Bruce Taggart, has requested that anyone seeing a ringed bird report their sighting via email: [email protected]. In turn they will receive a full life history of the bird.

Bruce says ‘We hope that analysis of the data, will allow us to investigate dispersal patterns, site fidelity, longevity, and survival rates in these gulls, as well as monitor long term population trends. We have already noted a high mortality during the egg or early chick stage which warrants further investigation.’

As Great Black backs are long lived birds the ringing scheme will last for at least five years and hopefully much longer.

Claire Lewis, the warden’s assistant for the Island says, ‘We have long wondered what happens to the fledged gulls and now, with the participation of the public this exciting new project give the us the opportunity to discover more about the gulls and in turn assist us with the management of the nature reserve’.

Bruce Taggart