Dec 19, 2011

Ringing summary for November 2011

In November we ringed a total of 62 gulls. Most Mew Gulls (33) but not far behind Herring Gulls (26). The highlight of the month was the 1Y Iceland Gull caught on the 27th. This Iceland Gull is the second to be equipped with a ring in Hordaland county. Another highlight was the Estonian Mew Gull controlled on the 22nd. This is the third Estonian Mew to be controlled in Norway.

Species1YSub adultAdult
Mew Gull2535
Herring gull2033
Black-headed Gull101
Iceland Gull100

A map summarising all Estonian Mew Gulls found in Norway.
Black: Found dead in Kopervik south of Haugesund in February 1933
Red: Controlled in the city centre lake in Bergen January 1990
Blue: The one we controlled 22nd of November 2011.
All are ringed as pullus in Estonia and controlled in Norway their first winter.

Iceland Gull J8Y6 the 27th of October. Photo: Lars Ågren

Dec 8, 2011

Oldtimer from Neartic and Herring Gull ringed in UK

3rd of December the returning Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) was rediscovered. It was spotted by Alf Tore Mjøs who is responsible the majority of the records of this species in Bergen. The Ring-billed Gull found today has spent the last 19(!) winters in Bergen. It has not been ringed but a miscolouration on one of the primaries make it possible to recognise this individual. Our plan is of course to put a plastic ring on this beautiful bird, but experience from earlier years have shown that it can be difficult due of it's feeding habits. This individual have never been seen taking bread in the city center lake. The only observations of it outside it's resting places are at the famous fish market in Bergen (Fisketorget) outside a kebab snack bar and at an other snack bar on the other side of town. Our returning Neartic fellow may be particular in it's feeding habits and has to tempted it with a delicious (warm) Shawarma.

Dates for the first observation of the old faithful Ring-billed Gull:

Ring-billed Gull resting on the pier in Store Lungegårdsvann, Bergen

The city of Bergen have 15 records of Ring-billed Gull. The faithful one is of course counted as one. Bergen can therefore make a show of having half of all records of this species in Norway. Two individuals ringed in Bergen have also been recovered and are the only recoveries in the Norwegian ringing scheme. One of these individuals was read in a breeding colony in Newfoundland which shows that regular migration from Nearctic to Western Paleartic is possible for this species. We do not know anything about our returning individual but trans Atlantic migration is the most probable based on ringing recoveries.

The individual read in Newfoundland was ringed in Bergen January 1990 and read in field by Bruce Mactavish in Newfoundland October 1990. This is 3900 kilometers from it's ringing place! The individual recovered on Iceland was ringed in November 1983 and shot in Iceland April 1990 (The Norwegian Bird Ringing Atlas 2003). Both birds was ringed by Alf Tore Mjøs.

The 3rd of December we also found the first ever Herring Gull ringed in United Kingdom in Hordaland. It was spotted in a industrial area the first day, and on Sunday (4th of December) it was feeding on bread in the city center lake. It was ringed by North Thames Gull Group the 14th of February 2009 at Pitse Landfill in Essex UK. Since it was ringed in winter the subspecies is most certain a argentatus which was wintering in UK. A map can be seen on the website of North Thames Gull Group

Herring gull NGOT probably a male judged by it's large size in the city center lake 04th of December

Thanks to Frode Falkenberg, University of Bergen and Alf Tore Mjøs at the Norwegian Ringing Scheme, Stavanger Museum for valuable information on the occurrence of Ring-billed Gull in Bergen.

Nov 27, 2011

Visit from Greenland

This weekend Urbpop Bergen got visit from Morten Helberg to make future plans for the urban gull project, take a look at collected data, plan the Morocco and Western Sahara expedition in February and of course ring and read gulls. The weather forecast for the weekend was extreme weather with heavy rain and strong winds from west reaching over 20 m/s. A really promising weather that could produce a gull rarity.

Saturday was used to catch Mews and Herrings. We also got our 9th Black-headed Gull of the year, a 1Y male. On Sunday the rarity appeared in the city centre park. We had only been 5 minutes at the site when Morten Helberg shouted YES and held a very white gull in his hands. We all run towards him and had a close look at a beautiful 1Y Iceland Gull! The strange thing is that yesterday we in Bergen made a bet with Morten on who would be the first to catch and ring an Iceland Gull. Five minutes before walking into the park we ensured that this bet still was on and decided that if we found an Iceland Gull today the bet would be a draw and the next one would be valid. So we have to keep our eyes open for a new white gull.

When the bird was ringed, measured, sampled for some blood and photographed we released it and started to catch Herring gulls. In just 10 minutes or so the Iceland Gull was back and could almost be hand-feed. This Iceland Gull is the third to get a colour ring in Norway, the first was ringed in Kristiansand 22nd of January 2004, and the second in Flekkerøy an island outside Kristiansand 22nd of November 2008. There are no readings of any Norwegian ringed Iceland gulls other than on the same ringing location the days after.

Spread wing of Iceland Gull J8Y6.

Morten Helberg, Christian Pederesen and the ringed Iceland Gull 10 minutes after it was ringed.

This picture was taken after we had given the Iceland Gull supper.

Nov 22, 2011

Mew Gull from Estonia

Today we had a quick after work ringing session in the Bergen city center together with Finn Jørgensen. The second gull we caught had a metal ring. We did not see the ring before catching it since the ring was on tibia so it was pure luck that this individual was our next gull. The ring had the inscription Estonia Matsalu and number UA5970. The reaction was YES and a high five, because this is our first Estonian bird. We measured it and put on a plastic ring on the other tarsus. Information is sent to the Matsalu Bird Ringing Centre and we wait in excitement for ringing information and possible life history data.

The 2Y Mew from Estonia

Nov 20, 2011

One old Mew and our first 1Y to The Netherlands

During this weekends gull work we first noticed that the gulls have become difficult to catch in the city center lake. Partly due to very mild weather for middle of November but also much disturbance of people visiting a temporary marked close to the best place to catch. We therefore tried an alternative place close by. That strategy gave us a Mew Gull ringed with metal only. We later found that it was 19 years old and ringed in Stavanger January 1993 as a 2Y. Old birds like this one are very difficult to catch, they are extremely careful and not at all willing to take the same risks as the 1Ys. On the other hand getting color ring on an individual like this one with an exactly known age is of great value. When we know the breeding area as well the value is even greater. It's possible that this individual breeds at Prestvannet right outside Tromsø because 30th of May 1999 the metal ring was read here. Mews that breeds in the area around Prestvannet is previously known to winter in the area around Bergen. It was our guest from Mandal, Finn Jørgensen who nicely caught this one for us. This weekend Finn and us from urban ringing Bergen exchanged methods, good gull stories and looked at gulls together. A very nice and informative weekend.

The six oldest Mew Gulls in Norway with color ring observed in 2011
CodeAgeYear bornLocation*Date*
*The last location and date observed

J0L0 the 19 year old we equipped with color ring today. The fifth oldest Mew with color ring in Norway. It's moulting, P9 is growing and P10 is still old.

We also had our first 1Y Mew Gull observed in The Netherlands thanks to Frank Majoor who read it in Overijssel 17th of November 2011. The effort in August and September payed off. J6K6 was ringed at Tveitevatnet 08th of September and stayed in the Bergen until 15th of October. Measurement of skull and bill shows that it's a male.

J6K6 in Bergen city centre 12th of September 2011.

J6K6 southward migration

Nov 12, 2011

Ringing summary for October 2011

In October we ringed a total of 70 gulls. Most Herring gulls which were our main target this month. Top of the month was of course the Glaucous Gull which was ringed 13th of October. It was only present in Bergen one day after ringing and we have unfortunately not had any readings of it yet.

Species1YSub adultAdult
Mew Gull2811
Herring gull2296
Black-headed Gull101
Glaucous Gull100

Glaucous Gull JN666 in Bergen 14th of October

Oct 31, 2011

From Russia with KF87

Today (31st of October) we found the first ever Herring Gull with a Russian color ring in the city centre of Bergen. It was a 1Y gull and when giving it bread we were able to get quite close and get some nice shots. However, due to daylight saving it's almost dark here at 60 degrees north around four o'clock which may show in the pictures. The bird is probably a new arrival of the day, because this weekend we spent many hours both on Saturday and Sunday ringing Herring Gulls in urban Bergen without seeing this white Russian. We do not know where it's ringed yet, but a sms to Morten Helberg who also have read Russian Herring gulls said that it's almost certain ringed in Kandalaksha in the inner part of Kandalaksha Gulf in the White Sea around 600 km south of Murmansk. The distance travelled is the largest distance we have recorded of a Herring Gull found or ringed in Bergen, 1513 km, but this may change when getting the correct ringing data.

KF87 in Bergen. Note that all scapulars are juvenile and not moulted. Other Herrings in Bergen have at least started renewing the scapulars and mantle feathers. Malling Olsen and Larsson (2003) describe this delayed moult in birds with northern origin. Just to compare see the picture below of a Herring Gull where most scapulars are moulted.

JN617 have as most Herrings in Bergen this time of year moulted the majority of scapulars

KF87 with spread wings

KF87 is most likely ringed in Kandalaksha in Russia

Oct 24, 2011

1Y Lesser Black-backed Gull in Germany

The 23rd of October we had our first reading of a Lesser Black-backed Gull in Germany. For exactly one month ago this bird was ringed in the city center lake in Bergen. This J8Y4 was also our last LBG for the season. Most of the 1Y's LBG have now left Bergen, but yesterday (23rd of October) when reading gulls we found two struggelers which still have chosen to delay migration. One of these already has a ring and the other one has a limp so we do not want to put a ring on it. We have one reading of an adult LBG in England from earlier this season, read more here.

Germany is also the fifth country where gulls ringed in the city centre of Bergen are observed. A summary of last years results when we had four gulls observed in four different countries can be read here.

JC9K one of the Lesser Black-back Gulls who have chosen to stay late in Bergen

J8Y4 migration southwards

Oct 14, 2011

Ringing of Glaucous Gull and more visitors from north

After an unsuccessful attempt to catch the Glaucous Gull yesterday we had a new go during our lunch break today (13th of October). When we came to the city centre lake there was no white winged gull to see, we searched the roofs, feed out two or three fresh bread and waited but the bird seemed to have disappeared. We had seen worrying headlines in the newspaper in the morning that a festival had opened the night before and used huge amount of fireworks. This seemed a likely explanation of the disappearance and we concluded that we had been happy to just see this huge white winged gull. By way of consolation we catched two Herring Gulls and got a new reading of a Mew Gull ringed by Nils Helge Lorenzen in Tromsø. When we looked this Mew Gull up in the database we saw that it was ringed just eight days earlier, which means that it has travelled the 1200 kilometres in the shortest time we in Bergen have recorded.

This 1Y Mew Gull (J7C9) migrated the 1200 kilometres from Tromsø to Bergen in eight days

In the evening we decided to just grab a few Mew Gulls at Tveitevannet, a lake in an urban area south of Bergen. When we went down the path the first sight that met us was a huge white gull sitting between the Mew Gulls. The Glaucous Gull was still present in Bergen! Other people feeding the gulls had also noticed this large white gull because it had dominated the whole feeding place and had chased and stolen food from the smaller ones. We also saw it was possible to come quite close to it and when feeding out fresh white bread we were able to catch it. This is the first ringed Glaucous Gull in Hordaland county ever and we believe there have been just a few ringed in Norway south of Trondheim. When ringing and measuring this lovely bird we both agreed that it must be very big, but since none of us have any experience with this species it's difficult to say what kind of sex it might be. We took blood samples as we do for all our gulls so a DNA analysis will give us the correct answer later. It will be really exiting to see if it is observed elsewhere or if it will stay in Bergen the rest of the winter.

The Glaucous Gull minutes before it was captured and ringed

Wing of Glaucous Gull JN666.Head of Glaucous Gull JN666.

After our white winged friend had got it's freedom again we decided to explore a new possible place for reading and catching gulls - the landfill used by the entire Bergen city in Rådalen. This site has not been used as a gull site before since most garbage are burnt here, but a guy working at the place gave us a tip that there are gulls and they flock around the organic dump. Today the organic dump was not to crowed with gulls. Only a handful of Great Black-backed Gulls and 30-40 Herring Gulls, but one of the Herrings was ringed and paid for the effort of driving here. It turned out that this one also was ringed outside Tromsø as a pullus this spring by Nils Helge Lorenzen.

1Y Herring Gull J2400 ringed right outside Tromsø as a pullus 1220 kilometres from Bergen

When we opened our mailboxes well at home we also saw a message saying that one of our Bergen ringed 1Y Mew Gulls had been seen right outside Stavanger. This is our third 1Y Mew Gull observed in the same area. A map can summarize the day.

Red line: Mew Gull J7C9 and Herring Gull J2400 both ringed in Tromsø. Blue line: Mew Gull J6K3 ringed in Bergen and read in Sandnes 170 kilometres to the south

Oct 11, 2011

1Y Glaucous Gull in Bergen city centre

Today, 11th of October, a rarity was discovered in Byparken in the middle of Bergen city centre. It was Christian who did the daily check of the gulls who found and documented it nicely. The last time Glaucous Gull was observed in the city centre was back in April 2005 so this species is not common to see among the Herring and Mew Gulls in Bergen. This record is also one of the earliest autumn observations of Glaucous Gull in the Hordaland county. It was feeding on a dead pigeon, but we do not know if this pigeon was killed by the gull or if it was dead by other reasons and the gull just found it.

When looking at observations in Scandinavia there have only been three observations of four individuals so far this autumn. One adult at Öland, Sweden the 6th of October, 2 individuals outside Trondheim in Norway the 7th of October and this one in Bergen.

Tomorrow we will try to catch it and put a colour ring on it. If this dream comes true it will be really nice to follow the king of white feathered gulls during the winter.

1Y Glaucous Gull feeding on a pigeon.

1Y Glaucous Gull

Oct 10, 2011

1Y Mew Gull from Tromsø, Northern Norway

Today we had this autumns first reading of a foreign 1Y Mew Gull in the city centre of Bergen. This one was ringed by Nils Helge Lorenzen in Tromsø at Prestvannet. Nils Helge is one of the most experienced gull ringers in Norway and are together with Morten Helberg in charge of the Norwegian program for colour ringing of gulls. He informed us one week ago that we must keep our eyes open for one of his 130 ringed Mew gulls, it did not take long time before the first one appeared. J5V5 was ringed 1st of September and remained at the ringing location for three weeks. It was seen in Bergen 1207 kilometres to the south west in Norway 18 days after it was seen in Tromsø for the last time. It would be exiting to know if there are any other urban stopover sites between Bergen and Tromsø, so birders keep your eyes open for ringed Mew Gulls.

We know form earlier ringing efforts (using metal ring only) that Mew Gulls from the area around Tromsø winters in Bergen. So this was an expected observation. We will come back with a blogpost summarising where the winter population of Mews in Bergen have their origin.

J5V5 was ringed in Tromsø and was seen in the city centre of Bergen 10th of October

1Y Mew Gull J5V5

Oct 5, 2011

Ringing summary for September 2011

In September we ringed a total of 104 gulls. Most of them 1Y Mew Gulls which was really easy to catch on rainy days. 11 1Y Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls was also ringed before they migrated southwards. The number of Black-headed Gull is still low in Bergen this autumn. Our max. count is only 12 which explains the low number of ringed of the species this month. An urban ringed Great Blacked-backed Gull was our first, even if it was a very small one. The numbers is summarized like this:

Species1YSub adultAdult
Mew Gull7703
Lesser Blacked-backed Gull1100
Great Blacked-backed Gull100
Herring gull721
Black-headed Gull101

JC3K hopefully in Spain or Morocco now

Sep 28, 2011

Great Black-backed Gull and lots of Mew Gulls

On the 22nd of September we caught our first 1Y Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) in the city centre of Bergen. We had seen this individual between the Herring gulls for about a week and it was on the top of our wanted list. Finally, on this Thursday it came too close when Christian was giving bread to the Herring Gulls and it was nicely hand cached. This actually makes it the first ever hand cached Great Black-backed Gull in Bergen. We have to admit that it was rather small (body mass: 1450 g and head+bill: 132,1 mm) and probably a female, but still the first!

Wing of Great Black-backed Gull JN600.Head of Great Black-backed Gull JN600.

The next day the total number of ringed 1Y Mew Gull reached one hundred. This fulfil one of our goals for the season and we immediately set another goal of two hundred 1Y Mew's. As writing we have already reached 120 much because we now are three active gull ringers in Bergen. Vegard Finset Fjeldheim has joined the team! One trained ringer more makes it possible to more quickly ring and measure the gulls when we have a window when they are catchable.

Our effort of catching 1Y Mew Gulls have also given us another reading. As our first reading (J6R1) this new was also seen by Alf Tore Mjøs. This time in Breiavatnet (a lake in the city centre of Stavanger) 49 days after ringing and 156 kilometres south.

J3R6 moving 156 kilometres from Bergen to Stavanger

J3R6 at Breiavatnet, Stavanger. Photo: Alf Tore Mjøs

Sep 21, 2011

Ringing summary for August 2011

A bit delayed, but here are the ringing summary for August. As table shows our focus has been 1Y Mew Gulls, most of these have been caught in Byparken (the city centre of Bergen) and Tveitevannet (a lake in one of the suburbs of Bergen).

Of the 26 1Y Mew Gulls caught the 20th of August weekend 53 percent was read in either Byparken or Tveitevannet a later date. After three weeks (the 12th of September weekend) 35 percent of the birds was still present and after one month (the 17th of September weekend) only 2 percent was present. The ringed birds are leaving the area and others arrive.

Our numbers for August are as follows:
Species1YSub adultAdult
Mew Gull4142
Lesser Blacked-backed Gull100
Herring gull521
Black-headed Gull001

Sep 17, 2011

The first reading of an urban Lesser Black-backed Gull

This week we got the first reading of an urban nesting Lesser Black-backed Gull outside Norway. The male (J7Y0) which nested on top of the physics building at University of Bergen was seen in at a Landfill site in Norfolk, Great Britain 10th of September.

J7Y0 was ringed in Bergen 28th of May this year together with Morten Helberg. Morten is one of the initiators of the Norwegian colour ringing program for gulls. He is also working on a doctor's degree on the Lesser Black-backed gulls.

J7Y0 nests on top of the physics building at University of Bergen.

J7Y0 was seen in Norfolk 10th of September

Sep 14, 2011

More Lesser Black-backs...

Heavy rain all day gave us an opportunity to go for more Lesser Black-backed gulls in the city center of Bergen. When it rains few people are out feeding and the gulls get desperate for food. Christian checked the conditions in the middle of the day and could report that the Lesser Black-backed gulls was behaving like pigeons and seemed to be very easy to catch. After work we decided to catch as may as possible and we was really satisfied to get hold of five 1Y's in just one hour. These numbers brings us to a total of 9 adult, 11 1Y and 3 pullus of 'urban' Lesser Black-backed gulls.

JC0K a large Lesser Black-backed male

JC1K the second Lesser Black-backed 1Y we ringed this year. It is still present and will possibly be for a week or two.

Last year we also did September catching of 1Y Lesser Black-backed gulls together with Frode Falkenberg. Frode together with Alf Tore Mjøs is probably the two ornithologists that have done most gullwatching in Bergen and are together the sole reason for why Bergen has been called the gull capital of Norway (will come back to their discoveries in a later blogpost). Anyway, last years September catching with Frode actually started the work on urban gulls in Bergen. Much because of the unbelievable good results our six birds equipped with plastic rings produced. During the autumn and winter we had four readings in four different countries, spanning from Denmark in north to Morocco in south. A result showing the increased recovery rate the plastic rings can give.

Sep 10, 2011

The young and the old...

After returning from warm and sunny Andalucía our work continued in rainy Bergen. And what a week to be back with rain in loads every day. A quick check of the gulls in heavy rain 8th of September gave us our oldest Mew gull (Larus canus) so far.

Unfortunately we were only able to take pictures of the ring. After checking the pictures we sent the number of the ring by sms to Alf Tore Mjøs, who also is part of the urban ringing project in Norway. He quickly replied that this gull was ringed by him self (!) on 28th of October in 1992 as a 3Y+ at exactly the same location. This makes this individual at least 21 years of age. The same bird was also seen and read at Blåvands huk in Denmark 6th of February this year. The observation in Denmark makes this bird much more interesting and we will really try to catch it and put a plastic ring on it. Is it using Bergen as a stop-over site for moulting and will continue it's migration southwards?

In addition to set an age record we also had our first observation of a true urban nestling Mew Gull ringed in Bergen. J6R1 which hatched on Marineholmen (University of Bergen campus) the 8th of June this year was observed in Sandnes 170 km south of Bergen. Nice observation be we want more...

Blue line: Showing the movement of the 21 year old Mew Gull (MA27418) from Blåvandshuk 06.02.2011 to Bergen 08.09.2011. Red line: Showing the urban nestling J6R1 movement from where it hatched in Bergen to Sandnes South-Western Norway where it was observed by Alf Tore Mjøs 04.09.2011.

MA27418 our 21 year old Mew Gull in heavy rain in Bergen

J6R1 at it's hatching site at University of Bergen campus 25th of July 2011

Sep 9, 2011

Reading Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Caleta de Vélez, Andalucía

The last week of august we were on vacation in Andalucía, southern Spain! Most for vacation but also trying to find some of our own gulls in Poerto de Malaga and Caleta de Vélez! We kindly got information about the best spots by a local gull watcher, Salvador García. The first day in Poerto de Malaga we found a roof full of Yellow-legged gulls and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but unfortunately none with color ring. We later discovered a huge flock which mostly seemed like Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but fences made it impossible to get close to them. We even asked the Guardia Civil to get access, but with no luck. We later got information from Salvador that one of our own Lesser Black-backed Gulls (J1Y2) nesting in a gull colony in Norway was seen in this area some days earlier. So close but...

The next location at Caleta de Vélez, close to Vélez-Málaga 20 minutes drive east of Málaga, was easier accessible. As all harbours these days this one also had fences but made in a way that a telescope and camera could see through without problems. Salvador had told us that this place was best in the evening when the fishing boats arrive with the catch of the day. This turn out to be exactly what happened, around six o'clock some hundred Yellow-legged Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls followed the boats. When the gulls was finished eating they rested on roof-tops and on the ground in a closed part of the harbour. We used three evenings at this spot shown in the picture below.

We started to scan the gulls and did not use long time before the first Lesser Black-backed Gull with a plastic ring was spotted. The sight of a black plastic quickly made us think about our urban nesting ones home in Bergen, but this one started with 1 not the letter J and therefore ringed at Guernsey.

Paul Veron informed us that this adult male was ringed at Vale Marais, Guernsey 10.05.2010.

Some days later we read two other individuals ringed by Paul Veron

This adult male was ringed at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey 25.06.2011 and was seen on the island 07.08.2011

This adult female was ringed at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey 20.05.2011

We also found a gull ringed by Roland-Jan Buijs's group in the Netherlands.

Roland-Jan Buijs informed us that this adult female was ringed at Europort outside Rotterdam 19.05.2011

...and two blue plastic rings probably from Iceland



...and finally a gull from Norway. It's was not a surprise to find that it was ringed in a colony not far from Mandal as most norwegian Lesser Black-backed Gulls have got their plastic here.

This individual was ringed as pullus 12.07.2002 at Storøy south of Mandal. In May 2010 it was observed in a breeding colony at Rauna not far from Lista Bird Observatory. The last two winters it has used Puerto de Málaga as wintering site. Maybe this year too, watch out for it Salva :)

We also read some Audouin's and Yellow-legged Gulls which we will write about in a later blogpost when we have got the ringing information.