Thursday, 15 February 2018

Frozen Water Helps Identify Visiting Gulls

Cold conditions can result in some of our local lochs and ponds freezing over. This can be a disadvantage for birders as most waterbirds move out to unfrozen more saline areas such as estuaries. However, the ice covered waters often attract gulls and ducks where they can still roost in safety. The clear lines of a frozen loch offer a great opportunity to check the legs of the gulls for colour rings.

During the third week of January such cold conditions occurred causing most water bodies to freeze. Checking these areas resulted in four interesting Herring Gulls being recorded. The first (Yellow Y:D85) was originally ringed at Harewood Whin Landfill, west of York on 30/06/2017, the next (Orange UA5Z ) was ringed at Pitsea Landfill, Essex on 25/03/2017, the third was a locally ringed bird (Yellow T:341) while the forth (Black JN377) was a much older bird of the argentatus sub-species and was ringed in Vardo, Finmark, Norway on 05/06/2010. This site is 2784km away from Meikle Loch.
Map showing origins of yellow Y:D85, black JN377 and orange UA5Z
Black JN377

Orange UA5Z with the locally ringed bird Yellow T:341 in the background

As many wintering gulls send much of their time in fields or on the water their legs are seldom visible. Their use of the frozen ponds and lochs has highlighted that there are probably quite a few colour-ringed gulls around which go unnoticed. MS