Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Viking gulls

A flock of about 100 common gulls winters in the park, they arrive at the end of September/October and are around most of the time until the end of March. They are very excitable and their squeals provide the background noise of the park in winter, especially when visitors empty their bags of bread by the side of the pond. A cacophony of calls and chases ensues while the gulls pick the bounty fast, before the ducks and geese have the chance to react.
 Is not only bread though for the park gulls, there are very quiet times, especially during the middle of the week, and the gulls will move onto the grass, looking for worms and other invertebrates, watching the ground intently as they walk.
 In wet days they can be seen dancing to entice the worm to the surface of the soil. Like so.
A clip of the behaviour here:

Then they spend some time just flying in circles over the park, in a flock, I am not sure if in preparation to roost, although I am not sure where they spend the night.
A quiet moment in the flock, with preening, snoozing and yawning by the pond.
This is an adult one on winter plumage. Note the yellow bill with faint dark ring near the tip and the yellow legs, and spotty head.
on the 3rd of February this adult looked very nice on the snow, still in winter plumage.
On the 20th of February this adult had an almost white head and a thin red eye ring.
A close up of an adult's head showing mainly yellow bill, red ring. Note the scruffy back of the head, showing the ongoing moult towards a completely white head plumage.

I find them endlessly fascinating and can't stop myself from photographing them, and they are often co-operative, as they are so used to people. When I noted that the flock disappeared each year, one day in March or April I wondered where they would go in the summer, to breed. I need wonder no longer, these gulls come from Bergen, in Norway.
While watching them one day in January I found a couple of Common Gulls with plastic colour rings. I spent some time looking at the legs of many gulls since that day, but I didn't spot any other ringed ones. I managed to get photos where I could read the code and submitted the samples to Euring. I got an e-mail the same day from Morten Helberg with details of their ringing and recoveries. Since then, I have seen the ringed gulls a few times, and managed to get their portraits.
This is J2EX, sex unknown ringed its first autumn (1st calendar year in 2013) which means now should be in its 3rd calendar year (almost adult), although the bill and legs are still grey/bluish and doesn't have a red eye ring or prominent wing 'mirrors'. This is its ringing/recovery history:

15.09 2013 Byparken, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
17.09 2013 Tveitevannet, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
20.09 2013 Tveitevannet, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
21.09 2013 Byparken, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
14.06 2014 Kilnsea, Humberside, Great Britain
14.01 2015 Pearson park Hull, Humberside, Great Britain (the photo above is from yesterday, also observed 22/01/2015)
This is JV47, Sex male age, 1 cy when ringed last October, so it's in his first winter. He still called like a gull chick when feeding, and adopted this hunched chick posture. Legs and bill base pinkish.
This is it's ringing/recovering history:
05.10 2014 Tveitevannet, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
(in the month after it was ringed the flock came back to Pearson Park)
14.01 2015 Pearson park Hull, Humberside, Great Britain 

Looking at photos yesterday, I found another ringed common gull, from the 20th of February. It looks like a first winter bird. The code reads JR20. I will update the post when I hear back from Euring.
It is very nice to know where these gulls spend the summer, but something equally rewarding is to know them as individuals. The rings have allowed me to recognised them in my visits to the park. I will look forward to them coming back in years to come, as gulls can be long lived. A typical Common Gull lives for 10 years (the record is 27).

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