Dec 062019

I have never played bingo but this blog post is about Black-headed gulls on Gravesend promenade. If you have had enough of all of that then look away now! But it is interesting. And all these numbers and letters have got me confused.

Sally and I went back to Gravesend promenade. I wanted to say “hello” to Jeff’s yellow ringed black- headed gull 2HNR which we have never seen. (See previous post). Eventually using binoculars I found a yellow ringed gull but Sally’s photograph showed it to be 2LRR. Of course this is now “our” bird because we have seen it 4 times!

Still searching the mud I caught a glimpse of another yellow ringed bird. After a bit of walking up and down the promenade Sally eventually got the bird in the correct position for a photograph. But it was not Jeff’s bird but a new one to us all! – Black-headed gull 2LLN.

I didn’t want to give up finding 2HNR (Sally had had enough by now) – so I carried on searching. Much to my real surprise, I soon found a white-ringed black-headed gull. Sally was persuaded to get one more photograph and the white ring was marked TRME. 

By now I really really wanted to find 2HNR – I searched the railings where it had been seen before but the bird was not to be found. If I had seen it I could have shouted “Bingo“.

I have now got all of the data back from the ringers and I have tried to sort out what is going on. First I should say that all of the yellow ringed birds were ringed at a rubbish tip in Pitsea Essex by the North Thames Gull Group. The tip was closed. No rubbish, no gulls and the ringing group have moved on.

2HNR This is the bird that is probably breeding on the coast of France and then returns each year to spend the winter at Gravesend. You can see all of the sightings with a map here. These links load slowly.

2LRR This bird, apart from an “away day” to Liverpool, is not being found away from Gravesend – where it might be breeding is unknown as yet. You can see all of the sightings with a map here

2LLN This bird may be breeding near Frinton-on-Sea in Essex but each year it winters at Gravesend. You can see all of the sightings with a map here

TRME This bird was ringed near Rybical in an area known as Warminsko-Mazurskie in Poland in 2012 by the Ornithological Station Museum and Institute. There is a large inland lake at Rybical and I assume there must be a black- headed gull breeding colony there. Anyway, this bird was observed at the same site in summer 2013 and summer 2016. Coming to Gravesend last week is the first time that it has been seen away from Rybical! If you search on Google Maps you can see where this is and also take a walk along the road near the lake.


All of this should remind us that the Thames Estuary is of international importance for birds and other wildlife. In winter it provides shelter for several hundred thousand of ducks, waders, gulls and divers.  The shore at Gravesend Promenade is part of this complex mosaic of habitats. Compared to further north the Thames Estuary provides relatively benign weather – feeding opportunities are only rarely interrupted. A great place to go birding. We are very lucky. The Thames and its wildlife deserves better protection.

Thanks to all of the ringers for providing me with the data and to Sally for the photographs.


 Posted by on 6 December 2019 at 2:51 pm

  One Response to “Playing Black-headed Gull Bingo”

Comments (1)
  1. An interesting read and TRME from Poland – now that is a long journey! I’ll have a chat with you in the new year for more info Malcolm. Good investigating work carried out here.

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