If you go down to the Prom today – you will see black-headed gulls. But have you ever wondered where they come from? Where do they breed? In North Kent we have several very large breeding colonies of black-headed gulls. The nearest, I think, is the c1000 (?) breeding pairs at Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve. The islands in the Medway estuary hold even greater numbers and there is also a big colony on the Swale. My money would be on these sites as the source of “our” Gravesend birds. But perhaps not! At our indoor meeting last week, Jeff showed me the sighting history of a ringed black-headed gull that he had seen in early November at Bawley Bay (not Gravesend Promenade, I know, but near enough!). This gull had been given its large yellow leg ring when it was first caught on 6th December 2014 at Pitsea Landfill Site in Essex. It was at least 2 years old. Since then it has been seen every summer at Bernieres-sur-Mer and/or St Aubin-sur-Mer, Calvados in France. These two villages face beaches now known for the 1944 D-Day Landing sites. Although I can’t be certain, it is possible that the breeding site for our black-headed gull is in the estuary of the Orne at Ouistreham. Every year since it was caught, this bird has spent the winter at Gravesend Promenade – at the “Rowing Club” – its visit to Bawley Bay must have been an away day! Jeff’s sighting was the first for this winter.
By coincidence, about two weeks ago, Sally and I also saw a yellow ringed black-headed gull on the promenade! When Jeff showed me the sighting list for his bird I immediately assumed that we had seen the same bird. Not so -the ring code is not the same. Sally had photographed the bird but still we could not clearly read the code. “2 or Z, L, R, R” . As I wanted black-headed gull pictures to use with this post, I then searched our Picture Library (for promenade and bird) on my computer. Amazingly I found this photograph of a yellow ringed black-headed gull taken on 4th March 2016. We had forgotten all about this bird but now we know it is the same as the one we saw recently. Welcome back! I can now send off two sightings for this bird and my money is on that it is from the same colony as the one seen by Jeff. Nature is amazing!
This should remind us all that birds do not recognise our political boundaries. To look after “our” birds we need to have a world-wide approach to conservation.
Thanks to Sally for the photographs.
PS – there is a red ringed herring gull on the promenade. Jeff has seen it too. But the bird keeps its distance and the ring is often muddy. A challenge for someone with a telescope.
PPS – did you look at the recent post with a photograph of a mystery bird? Berries, finch sized and what I thought was a distinctive head shape. A female bullfinch – Sally missed the male. I wish we could see them more often. Thanks for all your comments.