11 October 2019

Another German Med Gull

It's been a long time since we've blogged, but having received this photo we had to share. Yellow AZTN was one of 166 Mediterranean Gull chicks ringed in Saxony, Germany this summer. Of those 36 have been seen since, 25 in the UK, so it was nice to see AZTN at Stithians Reservoir earlier in the week.

In total almost 500 German-ringed Med Gulls have been seen in the UK, with just 20 seen in Cornwall. Thanks to Andreas for the quick reply on the sighting and the photo.

6 August 2019

Month-old French Kittiwake at Portreath

Following the depressing failure of the Trewavas Head Kittiwake colonies (see here), it's vaguely encouraging that the colony in Western Cove, Portreath seems to be thriving. A late evening visit to catch up on some nest recording saw a very busy colony, with some birds already fledged.

It was also good to see a nice variety of ringed birds, with a bird from Puffin Island (Anglesey), three from Pont du Raz (Brittany) and also one of our own Trewavas Head birds (VM, ringed as a chick in 2017). It was surprising to see good numbers of loafing birds away from the main colony as well, which we presumed were local birds, but in amongst them were three French-ringed birds we've not recorded before at Portreath. So we did wonder if these were dispersing birds or failed breeders. But we were then amazed to see a recently-fledged juvenile on the cliff with a nice set of French colour rings!

A quick email (and equally quick reply) to Jean Yves Monnat in France and he confirmed that this was Green/Yellow/metal - White/Black/Orange. It was ringed on 28th May at Pointe du Van and took it's first flight on 6th July, then being seen daily until 15th July. It was one of the first juveniles to leave the colony and made a pretty quick movement over to Cornwall, and just goes to show how closely linked these colonies are across the Channel.

So it's always worth casting a glance over Kittiwake flocks at this time of year as you never know what you might find.

15 July 2019

Trewavas Kittiwake failure

A flat calm sea and a day off is the perfect opportunity for a paddle out along the coast, so might as well combine it with dropping in on the Trewavas Head Kittiwakes. It started well, with a new sub-colony (at Trequeen Zawn) holding nine nests, some with good-sized chicks. The first ever resighting of one of our birds ringed as a chick was here in the early days of the colony, as young birds prospect new areas. This held true, with the zawn holding four birds we'd ringed as chicks in 2015 and 2016, one now at a nest with chicks.

PP (ringed as a chick in 2015) with two chicks

There was also a new French bird in the colony, so it'll be interesting to see if this too is a young bird recruiting into a new area.


But as we paddled round to the main part of the colony it was eerily quiet with a dozen or so birds on the cliffs, but these soon left. Early on in the season we were worried that the return rate of ringed adults was low, then we were unable to ring any adults as they hadn't laid, but we weren't expecting a complete failure. So not a single egg or chick at a site that should be holding over 70 pairs!

Thimgs were no better 'around the corner' as well, with the site by the engine houses also deserted, with not a single bird to be seen. This site should hold over 65 pairs.

So with the recent complete failure of the colony at Newquay, that leaves just two Cornish sites holding any number of birds this summer! The site at Western Cove, Portreath is thankfully thriving (250+ pairs) and there are good numbers at Porthmissen, but other than that we have nine at Trewavas and two at Rinsey!

The rare sight of a brood of three Kittiwake chicks (far left), at Western Cove, Portreath

8 July 2019

Final Mullion totals

At the end of last week, a small team of four paddled over to Mullion Island for our last visit of the year, aiming to ring Great Black-backed Gull chicks. Productivity on the island is always poor so it's with trepidation that we land, not knowing how many chicks we'll find.

After a slow start, we finally started to find chicks, although most were single birds. But as we covered the top of the island we found groups of two and three chicks and we ended the evening ringing 16 birds, which is the second highest total since we started marking chicks in 2013.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
GBB Gull nests - 62 37 83 70 60 71
GBB Gull eggs/chicks 98 174 90 204 166 - 195
GBB Gull chicks ringed 4 17 12 13 5 3 16
Cormorant nests 24 52 50 39 47 38 47
Cormorant chicks ringed 11 19 7 16 0 0 14

 Having said that, finding just 18 chicks (16 ringed and two which were too big to approach safely) from 195 eggs/chicks earlier in the season is still pretty poor. We did also find four large dead chicks, but it wasn't clear how they'd died. It was also depressing to find a dead adult on top of the island with fishing line and presumably a hook in its throat, anothe victim of our polluted seas.

3 July 2019

23-hour ringing day!

You know it's summer when you're up before 5am to be out ringing gull chicks and then back home at 4am having been ringing Storm Petrels all night!

This last week has seen various small teams out on rooftops around Falmouth ringing gull chicks, all part of the ever-growing project looking at the behaviour and movements of urban Herring Gulls. So far we've ringed 25 birds on St Mary's School, 20 on Tregnoniggie Industrial Estate, 65 on the university campus roofs in Penryn and various other smaller groups.

Ringing chicks on the roof of Wilko in Falmouth

It's was also full moon last night and perfect weather for some Storm Petrel ringing, so a small team headed down to Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra. As the wind dropped the birds started arriving at the nets and we were set for a busy night!

The final tally was 114 new birds ringed and six birds retrapped that weer already ringed. Three of these were birds we'd ringed previously, one just a month ago at Lizard. Another was a bird we ringed at Porthgwarra in July 2018 that was recaught in North Wales just a week later. Another has a slightly more interesting history. It was ringed at Porthgwarra in June 2015, then recaught on Skokholm Island in July 2015 and in Ceredigion 10 days later. In an almost identical occurence it was recaught again on Skokholm Island in August 2018 and in North Wales nine days later!

Other ringed birds came from Co Mayo (ringed in 2008, so a good age), Skokholm Island in 2018 and also a Spanish-ringed bird. This is only the seventh Spanish-ringed Storm Petrel to be found in the UK, but the fourth at Gwennap Head (after birds in 2008, 2009 and 2017)! Others have been caught at Pendeen (in 2005), Tyne & Wear (in 1992) and two in Scotland.

8 June 2019

Breeding season hotting up!

It's been a while since we updated on the start of the breeding season, so this is a quick tour of some of what we've been up to recently. Most recently we've had our first session out ringing Storm Petrels and managed to get teams out to Lizard and Porthgwarra on the same night. PG won out, catching 52 birds, including birds originally ringed in France and on Skokholm Island, Wales (as an adult in 2016). The Lizard team caught 22 birds, but also two birds from elsewhere: birds ringed in 2018 at Portland, Dorset and on Bardsey Island in North Wales.

Aside from that, we've mostly been counting and ringing chicks recently, including Chough, Dipper, Cormorant, gulls and Kittiwakes. It's been fun as well monitoring successive Robin nesting attempts at Penventon Garden Centre, nesting in amongst some of the plant displays! The first fledged two chicks, with two dying in the nest (lack of food due to the baked-hard ground perhaps?), and the second attempt (photographed below) currently has five chicks.

We're also well into the first checks of the Barn Owl season and whilst some pairs are only just hatching chicks now, others already have chicks that are 5-6 weeks old!

One of a brood of five chicks ringed last week on the Lizard

A rather unusual barrel nestbox we found removed from an old site near Marazion.
There must be some pirate heritage in birds that nest is such an impressive barrel.
Whilst most of the owls we've been ringing have been in boxes, it's also been busy in the owl hospital at the Screech Owl Sanctuary. We've already made several visits this year to ring birds before release and our last visit saw us ringing three small chicks (including the very rusty bird below), an older chick and an adult.

Away from ringing, we've now managed to count the gull nests on Mullion and the total of 71 is on par with previous years, though the number of eggs and chicks is second highest we've seen.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
GBB Gull nests - 62 37 83 70 60 71
GBB Gull eggs/chicks 98 174 90 204 166 - 195
GBB Gull chicks ringed 4 17 12 13 5 3 -
Cormorant nests 24 52 50 39 47 38 47
Cormorant chicks ringed 11 19 7 16 0 0 14

We've also seen the first Kittiwake eggs of the year, at Rinsey. At the same time some of the Shag chicks are already close to fledging!

The main zawn at Rinsey, sadly now pretty much devoid of Kittiwakes
and with drastically-reduced Shag numbers

Next on the agenda is trying to up our numbers if colour-ringed adult Kittiwakes and then we'll be thinking about gulls and more owls! It never ends...

20 April 2019

Cormorant ringing on Mullion Island

With the swell finally dropping off, this morning gave us the opportunity to get over to Mullion Island to ring some Cormorant chicks. With a ragtag fleet of a kayak, a dingy and a paddleboard we made it over and in pretty perfect conditions. We thought we were pushing it with timing, but remarkably a lot of birds on the island were still on eggs!

But there were enough birds to keep us occupied and in less than 45 minutes we colour-ringed 13 chicks, with one smaller bird just metal-ringed. With birds from the island moving as far south as Spain (see a map of Mullion Cormorant movements here) it'll be fascinating to see where this year's birds go.

In previous years, the ringing totals have varied rather depending on where the birds nest and how accessible they are: 2013 (11 chicks ringed), 2014 (19), 2015 (7), 2016 (16) and none in 2017 or 2018 when the nests were all too close to the edge of the island to access them safely.

1 April 2019

Welsh Cormorant on the boating lake

The good thing about Cormorants is that they're big, so have big rings that with patience can be read on confiding birds. In the last couple of years we've had reports of two birds from Little Saltee Island, Co Wexford: a chick from 2106 seen at Helston Boating Lake in July 2017 and a chick from 2010 seen at Swanpool in December 2018.

The latest though was a bird ringed as a chick on Puffin Island, Anglesey last year that was photographed on Friday at Helston Boating Lake.

Thanks to Terry Thirlaway for the photo and for passing the info on.

24 January 2019

Zilpzalp at Gwennap

In the UK most Chiffchaffs will be summer visitors, spending the winter to the south and west of us, neatly shown by the online ring recoveries map, showing most recoveries in France and Iberia:

But the wintering birds we see here in Cornwall come from points north and east, a fact confirmed today with the capture of a bird at Gwennap Sewage Works that was wearing a ring from the Hiddensee scheme in Germany!

There have been just 12 reports of German-ringed Chiichaffs in the UK so this was a pretty special bird! This was pretty lucky as we only caught three Chiffchaffs, compared to 23 at the previous attempt when it was colder.