Friday 12 April 2024

Common Gull - Blue 2CIP

      Common Gull - Blue 2CIP       
An email from Jack Morris on the 10th April 2024 provided a very much welcomed sighting of one of my Common Gulls that was colour-ringed on Rathlin Island.  Jack spotted -  2CIP  earlier that day on the shore of Laggan Bay on the west coast of the Isle of Mull, Scotland.  This was a first re-sighting for this bird which was ringed as a chick on the 27th June 2022 at Rue Point, Rathlin.  Having submitted Jack's sighting to the BTO, the recovery gave an official distance as being 135 kms / 83 miles north from Rathlin, and the duration since being ringed, was 1 year, 9 months and 14 days.

I began my colour-ringing project on Rathlin Island back in 2017.  With a breeding population that I estimated was around 100+ pairs, the aim of the project was to see how many colour-ringed chicks survive to full maturity to return and integrate into the overall breeding population.  Most immatures appear to avoid the island over the first two years, and begin to return to prospect nest sites, before breeding for the first time in the following year.

My project has been hampered with several poor breeding seasons and the possibility of bird flu effecting the number of chicks which fledge each year.  Although I have yet to see a Rat or Ferret during my visits to Rathlin, apparently there is a severe plague of both which is currently being dealt with, with a five year project to eradicate both species.  Apparently, they have been highlighted as a major cause of nest failure by feasting on seabird eggs and chicks.

The recently published 2023 Rathlin Island Bird Report (PDF), which has been produced by islanders Ric Else and Hazel Watson, gave a 2023 Common Gull breeding population as being around 161 pairs.  This is a good deal higher than my estimates, but does include accurate counts at two east coast colonies, where I could not gain permission from the landowner to visit the sites.  The total also includes a small previous unknown colony on the north coast of Rathlin.  The count did not confirm whether the nests had eggs or young.  The count therefore could be an over-estimation, as some immature pairs prospect nest-sites, with some actually building nests which are never used.

Over this past autumn/winter, only a few gulls have been reported away from Rathlin, which has been very disappointing.  From my experience, many of my gulls go un-noticed during the winter months, therefore the wintering sites for many of my gulls, remain unknown.  One exceptional sighting was reported to me on the 5th January 2024.  A chick -  2CJK ,  colour-ringed on the 19th June 2023 at the Arkill Bay colony, turned up on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall - 596 kms / 370 miles (S).

My thanks goes to Jack for reporting -  2CIP , and for his permission to use his photo.  Hopefully the gull will return to Rathlin sometime in the future.  It's always nice to know that there are gulls out there that are still alive and well.  This one is just the second bird to have been spotted in Scotland, though Scotland is just a 'stones throw' away from Rathlin Island.

Common Gull  -   2CIP   -  Laggan Bay, Isle of Mull, Argyll & Bute, Scotland  (10 Apr 2024)
(Ringed as a Chick, on the 27th June 2022, at Rue Point, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim)
(Photo Courtesy of Jack Morris)