Wednesday 11 April 2012

Ring Reading

Glaucous Gull, JX012, Longyearbyen
Gulls are not everyone's favourite group, but every now and again I like to delve into the complexities of gull identification. After enjoying the white winged spectacular in Scotland in February (still searching) I have become a regular visitor to Shawell A5 Lagoons near the village of Shawell. Leicestershire. The lagoons are close to a landfill site and are a good place to view gulls bathing and preening. The site attracts a great many gulls during the winter and so far this year it has scored with five Iceland Gulls and I've been lucky enough to see them all. Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls are regularly seen amongst the commoner species. The site has also attracted Mediterranean and Glaucous Gulls plus a much rarer Ring-billed Gull. 

Researchers have been colour-ringing gulls for a number of years now, and amongst the daily gatherings at Shawell there are usually some birds sporting colour rings. A small group of birders have been attempting to read these rings, which is not easy at a distance of over 100 meters. This has been going on for a few years and is quite interesting as I've found out. Once the ring code has been read, the colour identified and the leg (left or right) noted it is time to try and find the project. This is done by visiting various websites such as

Many of the gulls have been ringed in the UK, but some are real globe trotters. My highlights so far include a Herring Gull ringed in Norway (2186 km away) and a Lesser Black-backed Gull ringed at Badajoz, Spain.

CR-Code Black ring with white code: J3924 LBNW(J3924);RBM
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number FA32867
Species Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
Sex Unknown Age Pullus
07.07 2011
Ørndalen, Tromsø, Troms, Norway
69°42'12"N 019°00'31"E
Lorentzen, Nils Helge
17.03 2012
Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicester & Rutland, Great Britain
52°24'50"N 001°12'52"W
 Baggot, Carl & Lister, Steve

Some of the birds ringed in the UK have been seen in other countries including France, Germany, Norway and Spain.

So far this year, between us, we have read colour rings on 102 different birds involving seven species.

The Glaucous Gull pictured above was ringed at Longyearbyen, Svalbard. It was still more or less in the same place that it was ringed when I photographed it just over 60 days later. I am hoping it will be spotted somewhere else so I can get an update.

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