Copeland Common Gull colour-ringing project

Since 2009, Shane Wolsey has been colour ringing Common Gulls that breed on Big Copeland, the largest of the Copeland Islands, just off the coast from Donaghadee, Co Down.
With approximately 800 pairs, Big Copeland has the largest breeding colony of Common Gull, Larus canus, in Ireland and the aim of Shane’s colour-ringing project is to build up a picture of the population dynamics of this colony.  Why has the colony grown during the past two decades?  What is the reproductive success rate of this colony?  Where do the young and adults winter?
The 2009 season was rather experimental with 12 adults being colour ringed, and six pulli (i.e. young, unfledged birds).  These birds were all ringed with yellow colour-rings with black lettering on the left leg (with the BTO metal ring on the right leg). 
2BBC (c) Brendan Dunlop
As the yellow rings did not show up well against the green-yellow of the bird’s leg, it was decided to change colour and since 2010 dark blue rings with white lettering have been used (again with the colour ring on the left leg, and the BTO metal ring on the right).

2HSF (c) Adam McClure

Since 2010 a total of 196 Common Gulls have been colour-ringed on Big Copeland (13 adults and 183 pulli), although only 14 of these were ringed in 2011 due to a storm in late May badly disrupting that year’s breeding season.
Until the start of this year, there have been relatedly few re-sightings, however, since January 2013 Copeland birds have turned up in quite a number of places. 
Millisle is a favourite place.  There have been a couple of birds (yellow 2BBC, blue 2ADX) there throughout the winter, with the occasional appearance of other individuals (blue 2AAC, 2ACA and 2HSF).  There has also been a considerable build-up of Common Gulls, many of them ringed, at Millisle during March and April – are these all Copeland birds getting ready to get back on the breeding grounds?

2ACA (c) Adam McClure

A small number of Copeland birds have also turned up at Duncannon Strand, Co Wexford.  2AXV and 2HVP were there in January, and 2HPX in February and 2ANN was at Sarsfield Lock, River Shannon, Limerick City in January.
The furthest travel bird to have been reported so far is 2AXH which turned up at Kervigen Beach, Finistère, France on 8th January this year!
Many thanks to all those that have been reporting birds, including Alain Le Dreff, Tom Tarpey, Stephen Drake, David Nixon, Tony Murray, Adam McClure, Graham McElwaine, Brendan Dunlop and anyone else that I have forgotten (sorry!). 

2ADX (c) Adam McClure

If you see any Common Gulls with colour-rings please report them to Shane by emailing 

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