Report of Seabird ringing in Sark

Monday 7th June 2010

Gull with ringIt was a calm, overcast, cool day with a forecast of light rain for late afternoon. At 10.00, the two ringers, Paul and Catherine Veron, were landed on Derrible Headland by Andy Cook in “Seamouse”.  The ringers set six traps on the south slope of Derrible Headland in the Lesser Black Backed Gull colony, which numbered c 40 pairs.  Most nests contained three eggs, but several nests had chicks that were less than two days old.  The steep incline, and sparse soil means that trapping in this colony is at the edge of its operability.  Nevertheless three adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were caught and colour-ringed with codes Black 3.K7, 3.K8 and 3.K9 respectively. Although useful to test out this method of catching adults, it is not particularly suitable for the terrain on Sark. Paul and Catherine were very encouraged by the gradual growth in this colony over the past two to three years, and look forward to trying to ring some of the chicks in a few weeks’ time.

The next site to be visited was L’Etac de Serk – this time in larger “Seamouse” which Andy had swapped around, which was just as well as the sea state had become slightly sloppier.  The ringers ringed a total of 87 Shag pulli, most of a good size with only 4-5 nests too small to ring or with just eggs.  Several nestlings had already fledged and were observed on the water’s surface with water proof feathers.  One dead adult shag was found with ring number - F14160.  This was originally ringed by Paul as a nestling on L’Etac de Serk in 19th June 1991 – a 19 year old bird which has remained faithful to its natal site.  Good numbers of auks were present on the island – Razorbill and Guillemot both with evidence of chicks and eggs but with limited time none were ringed.   Puffins were also present in the water and flying around the island with evidence of sandeel catches in their beaks.   After  75 minutes the ringers left the islet and cruised back along the east coast cliffs, spotting a Peregrine en route.
The last site to be visited was Les Burons, where a total of 14 Shag pulli were ringed.  One nest was left due to its close proximity to the edge.  A small Great Black Backed Gull chick was found hiding in the vegetation which was metal ringed and carefully hidden again back in the greenery.
Young shag
After a sandwich in the harbour the group meandered up the coast to inspect the gull colonies for colour ringed gulls.  This was extremely hard from the moving base of a boat but the following colour ring codes were read just north of banquette Landing -  
Lesser Black-backed Gull Black 1R3 – which was originally ringed on 10th May 2010 in our garden in the Vale, Guernsey.
Herring Gulls White 3AV0, 6AC8 and 6AC9 which were all ringed on either 27 or 28th May 2010 in Chouet Landfill Site, Guernsey.
It is particularly valuable to be able to pin down the nesting sites of these birds.

The seabird season has kicked off to an excellent start with Shag nestling numbers back up to good numbers of 4 plus years ago and other species showing good signs of successful breeding.  Most of the nests had three young, and this has obviously been an early breeding season for them. This is the same as observed on The Humps, north of Herm this year. This very enjoyable trip was finished off with memorable sightings of two Bottle-nosed dolphins off Maseline Harbour, and a Manx Shearwater in the Big Russell just west of Sark.

Catherine Veron