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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Boring Seagulls...?

I was once reprimanded by Derek Moore for accusing Seagulls of being ‘boring’ and ‘all being the same’ so I have made a real effort to learn the different species and increase my understanding of these birds. On the past two Sundays I have been helping Mike Marsh with a project on the Suffolk coast studying the movement and life-span of gulls. It involves a lot of catching and ringing in the long grass, mud and water but is great fun. We are catching the young gulls that are not old enough to fly so it requires a keen eye as they try to hide to every crevice or patch of vegetation. Mike has very kindly written a summary of his project - Landguard Bird Observatory have been ringing Lesser Black-backed & Herring Gull pulli since 1984. Most of our work has been done at Orfordness and, more recently, Havergate Island. Smaller numbers are also ringed at a few other sites in the county. Originally we only used standard BTO metal rings but since 1996 we also started using colour-rings. Each bird, in addition to the BTO metal ring, is fitted with a red colour-ring that is individually coded with a white three or four letter code. The use of the colour-rings has greatly increased our recovery rate, because the coded red rings can be read at a distance with binoculars or a telescope. When just BTO rings are used we usually only get data back when the bird is recaptured or found dead. Over the years we have collated several thousand colour-ring sightings of our birds including many outside the UK. The bulk of the foreign Lesser Black-backed Gull recoveries are from birds flying to France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco but others have been recorded as far south as the Gambia where three of our birds have been found. A few birds also venture eastwards into the Mediterranean and recoveries here include three in Algeria and one in Italy. The Herring Gulls are much more sedentary that the LBBGulls and the majority of their recoveries are in east and southeast England with a few making it into northern France and the Low Countries. By far the longest movement though is a bird that was ringed as a chick at Orfordness in 2000 and then seen in Norway in April 2003. The following April it was back at Orfordness 
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The finished article

So, next time you are on holiday keep an eye out for gulls with a colour ring on its leg and if you can make a note of the code and colour and it will all help to add to the research and increase our understanding of ‘boring’ seagulls. PJB

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