TRIP - Pitsea - 17/01/2018: A first session after the news of the tip closure in March. This may be the last session although we are planning two more before the end of the winter if the tip are agreeable to us holing a couple more catches to use up our last colour rings. A very windy day on occasion I was close to cancelling the session. However, with good numbers of Great Black-backs on the tip it was worth carrying on. After a couple of hours wait for a vehicle with decent food on it we received an arctic with dustcart waste and a lot of food. We then had far too many gulls for the small and inexperienced team. I had ensured waste was not too close to the net for safety reasons and to limit the catch. After a few lifts and some of the gulls thinning out an opportunity presented itself and a catch was able to be taken. Amazingly our first ever Russian control Great Black-backed was a great highlight amongst the 178 birds caught.17-Jan-2018

TRIP - Pitsea - 03/06/2017: A visit to the tip was made on 3rd June to assess numbers of birds there. I was rather perturbed to discover that there was no operational activity at all and no active tip face. On driving round I found the partially covered over tip face from Friday which was covered in Rooks. Just a short distance away there were around 300 gulls loafing on an earth bank. I decided to spend some time looking through them for colour rings. At the same time I had the spring trap and two loafs of bread so I decided to set the spring trap just in case any birds felt hungry. I was able to assess the numbers whilst reading colour rings and obtained around 15 readings, mostly Black-headed but also one Herring and one Great Black-backed Gull. There were fairly even numbers of Black-headed and Herring Gull (about 150 each), about five or ten of Great Black-back and Lesser Black-back and two adult Med Gulls. After about 30 minutes of watching a few Black-heads started to show some interest in the bread in the trap. Very quickly lots of birds were showing interest and suddenly there was an adult Med right in the catching area so I pulled the trap catching five birds in one pull. All birds were colour ringed and biometrics taken. Unfortunately after the catch I waited for another hour but most of the birds having realised that there was no activity on the tip had disappeared and there were only about twenty birds loafing on the tip. I decided to pack up and leave the tip.03-Jun-2017

TRIP - Pitsea - 25/03/2017: Our last field session for this winter. A small but experienced team assembled and the wind got up really quickly. Not many birds on the tip and clearly there had been a big clear out. One of the first birds I saw on the tip face was a nice first winter Caspian so we were hopeful of something different. We got a nice early dust cart with plenty of food and once it was rolled over we had birds down. It took some time for a window to appear with birds hanging in the wind making taking a catch really difficult. After several lifts and nothing interesting in the catching area I decided to attempt a catch and with good safety from Dave we soon took a catch of 201 birds. We decided to re set and just see what happened whilst we were processing. A second lorry with more food on it was soon flattened in front of the net and plenty of birds came down. Very little of interest but then a Caspian was hanging over the catching area but not landing. Rich then found a Glaucous Gull which was flying around but again just would not land so it soon went off high to the south. We waited and waited and eventually another Caspian was hanging in the air about the catching area. With very few birds in the catching area I only needed it to land - as soon as it did I took the catch including the Caspian - a great way to finish the season. Huge thanks to the tip and a great team effort again.25-Mar-2017

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The aim of The North Thames Gull Group is to study the gulls making use of the landfill tips on the Essex coast of the Thames estuary, east of London.

We do this by catching the birds feeding on the waste using a cannon net, a technique requiring a special licence. The first step is setting the net.

Once captured, the birds are extracted from the net before being marked with individually numbered metal leg rings.

Whilst ringing the birds, we take measurements and study plumage characteristics. A sample are given orange colour rings which can be read with a telescope without the bird being recaptured.

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The group operates with the excellent support and cooperation of Veolia Environmental Services which operates the domestic landfill sites and Pitsea and Rainham.

We are grateful to the Banbury Ornithological Society, the Essex Birdwatching Society and GlaxoSmithKline for providing funding for the colour ringing programme, and to Risto Juvaste for supplying the rings.

As a corporate member, Bird Brain UK Ltd also supports our work.