On the bright, chilly morning of February 15th after having a rather expensive breakfast at New Brighton in a newly opened restaurant, I left mum and the others and went for a brisk walk round the glorious New Brighton Marine Lake to see if last year’s Laughing Gull had decided to return. As expected the Laughing Gull hadn’t returned but what I did come across was a ringed Black-Headed Gull.
The gull was showing an obvious white ring on its right leg giving clear views of the combination 5HP in black. I’ve found that over the years New Brighton Marine Lake is a perfect site to search for ringed gulls, as they’ll perch on the railings just above eye level when sitting under the shelter putting there legs on show. I’ve seen a wide range of ringed birds ranging from Kestrels, Mallards, Herring Gulls, Rock Pipit, Sandwich Tern, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Brent Geese, Common Tern and of course Black-headed Gull. But the problem isn’t finding a ringed bird but actually being able to read the combination off the ring as nine times out of ten it’s going to a small metal ring which only Bird Ringers are going to be able to read when they’ve re-trapped a bird.
The few ringed birds that I’ve seen and been able to extract and combination off have had to me interesting stories: on the 25th of July 2015 I had a ringed Black-headed Gull at West Kirby Maine Lake which had been ringed on the 21st of March earlier that year at the Pitsea Landfill Site in Essex, a Kestrel at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB which had been ringed as a nestling at Brimstage (Wirral) as part of a Juvenile Kestrel dispersal study for the Wirral & Cheshire area, but my favourite by far was on the 22nd of January 2015 when I came across another ringed Black-headed Gull at New Brighton. As it had been a week or two since I sent the report off to the BTO me and local Birder and bird ringer enthusiast Richard Smith where expecting it to be something rather exciting, but no. The gull had in fact been ringed at New Brighton……… just 844 days before.
So the ringed gull of February 15th, where did it come from? Well this particular Black-headed Gull had come from Denmark where it was ringed on the 29th of March 2015 in Damhussoen, Copenhagen. This is one of many records of foreign ringed Black-headed Gulls at New Brighton including birds from Norway and Lithuanian which are all linked together by the fact they occur at the site only during the winter months. This occurrence is also familiar amongst many other coastal birds which visit the Wirral such as Great Black-backed Gulls from the most northerly tips of Norway, Black-tailed Godwits from Iceland, Purple Sandpiper from Greenland, Cormorants from Denmark and Brent Geese from Arctic Canada. This proves conclusive evidence that the Wirral Coast is internationally important for such a wide array of birdlife and needs protection where ever possible from future development.
Many thanks for Richard Smith (Dee Estuary Birding) for providing bird ringed records.