Catches

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.

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 1 0 0 0
Great Black-backed Gull 18 0 1 19
Herring Gull 152 6 0 154
Catch totals 171 6 1 173

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

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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

2018 calendar year

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 1 0 0 0
Great Black-backed Gull 18 0 1 19
Herring Gull 152 6 0 154
Totals 171 6 1 173

2017/18 winter

Species Ringed Retraps Controls Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull 1 0 0 0
Great Black-backed Gull 18 0 1 19
Herring Gull 152 6 0 154
Totals 171 6 1 173

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

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