Catches

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.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 3 0 0 3
Mediterranean Gull 1 0 0 1
Herring Gull 1 0 0 1
Catch totals 5 0 0 5

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.

Catch 1

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 91 6 1 60
Great Black-backed Gull 5 0 0 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5 0 0 5
Herring Gull 93 0 0 93
Catch totals 194 6 1 163

Catch 2

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 7 0 0 0
Herring Gull 56 0 0 26
Caspian Gull 1 0 0 1
Catch totals 64 0 0 27
Trip totals 258 6 1 190

Pitsea - 11/03/2017: On arrival at the tip the tide was out and there were no birds!! Slightly worrying as it was also a warm day. We set none the less and shortly a bin lorry arrived to which a good number of Black-heads appeared out of thin air! A few quick roll overs with the compactor and we soon had a lot of birds down in the catching area. Once safe a decent catch of just under 300 birds was secured.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 223 11 1 233
Great Black-backed Gull 1 0 0 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4 0 0 4
Herring Gull 54 1 0 54
Catch totals 282 12 1 292

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Methods

The North Thames Gull Group catches gulls using a cannon net, which involves firing a large net over birds feeding on freshly spread rubbish.

Once the net is set and the cannons connected, a load of rubbish is dumped and a waste compactor vehicle spreads it out and withdraws from the catching area. When enough gulls are in the area and it is safe to do so, the net is fired.

The team of ringers then removes the gulls from under the net and temporarily places them in hessian sacks which are stored in a holding area for processing. Birds are then identified to species, aged and fitted with an uniquely numbered metal ring. Measurements may be taken to help identify the race or breeding population of the birds we are catching.

Starting in 2008 we have also started fitting colour rings (orange rings with black letters and numbers) which allows the birds to be relocated without needing to be recaptured. There are many more bird-watchers looking for colour-ringed gulls, than there are cannon netting teams, so this greatly improves our chances of understanding the movements of the birds from the Thames Estuary.

If you see a bird with one of our colour rings, please send details (ring-code, date, location, species) to

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Totals

2017 calendar year

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 509 22 2 480
Mediterranean Gull 1 0 0 1
Great Black-backed Gull 18 0 1 19
Common Gull 37 0 1 38
Lesser Black-backed Gull 10 0 0 10
Herring Gull 492 7 2 315
Caspian Gull 1 0 0 1
Totals 1068 29 6 864

2016/17 winter

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 958 42 11 722
Mediterranean Gull 2 0 0 2
Great Black-backed Gull 49 1 1 49
Common Gull 41 0 1 42
Lesser Black-backed Gull 16 0 0 16
Herring Gull 1457 33 7 881
Caspian Gull 1 0 0 1
Hybrid Gull 2 0 0 2
Totals 2526 76 20 1715

2016 calendar year

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 1871 62 22 1096
Mediterranean Gull 5 0 2 6
Great Black-backed Gull 69 1 1 68
Common Gull 14 0 1 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull 138 0 2 140
Herring Gull 1545 41 7 935
Caspian Gull 1 0 0 1
Hybrid Gull 2 0 0 2
Totals 3645 104 35 2263

2015/16 winter

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 1459 43 13 892
Mediterranean Gull 4 0 2 5
Great Black-backed Gull 89 2 3 90
Common Gull 10 0 1 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull 141 0 2 143
Herring Gull 911 25 4 662
Yellow-legged Gull 3 0 0 3
Caspian Gull 1 0 0 1
Totals 2618 70 25 1807

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