Tuesday 21 July 2015

Mediterranean Gull Survey

Mediterranean Gull (often referred to simply as ‘Med Gull’) is a species which has undergone a dramatic and well documented expansion across Europe. They were once found breeding only around the Mediterranean regions of France, Italy, Greece and also along coast of the Black Sea. In winter they would disperse over the Mediterranean Sea and out into the Iberian Atlantic. In recent decades they began forming new breeding colonies in northern continental Europe. Instead of an expected southerly migration after breeding, these pioneering gulls now fly northwest to Ireland and Britain!

Breeding plumage adult Med Gull © Stephen Lawlor

Observations of birds fitted with colour rings has shown that Mediterranean Gulls found in Ireland largely originate from breeding colonies on the near continent (France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark). The number of post-breeding Mediterranean Gulls found in Ireland begins to build at well-known staging sites such as South Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour from June onward with peak counts often recorded from late July to mid August.

Colour-ringed Med Gull © Conn O'Brien

They are now considered a regular but uncommon bird in Ireland, present throughout the winter around harbours, rocky coasts, estuaries and amenity grassland/sports pitches (where they feed on invertebrates) until they leave for their continental nesting sites in March/April. They are still a scarce bird in the west and north however, seemingly favouring the somewhat drier and warmer climes of Leinster and Munster. Their expansion has continued across Europe and Mediterranean Gulls now breed in small numbers in Ireland (c.20 pairs) since 1995, mostly in Wexford and Antrim.

The number of Mediterranean Gulls recorded at post-breeding staging sites in Ireland has been steadily increasing over the past few years with 100+ birds to be expected at favoured locations in high summer. A recent count at Sandymount Strand, Co. Dublin revealed 257 ‘Med Gulls’ present at the evening roost on 12th July.

Juvenile Med Gull © Stephen Lawlor

As such, a coordinated count of Mediterranean Gulls at evening roost sites in Ireland has been organised for Monday 27th July (East Coast focus) and Tuesday 4th August (South Coast focus). We would ask waterbird counters, birders and interested members of the public to go out and check their local gull roost on those evenings and report back with details of any Mediterranean Gulls they find (see details below).

The use of two dates gives a chance for optimal count conditions at sites both in the east and the south, but coordinated counts from both regions on both dates are encouraged.

Date: Monday 27th July (East Coast focus)
Start: 20:30
Finish: Dusk
Sunset: 21:30
Evening High Tide: 3.5m @ 21:19 (Dublin - North Wall)
Evening Low Tide: 1.2m @ 21:11 (Cobh)

Date: Tuesday 4th August (South Coast focus)
Start: 20:15
Finish: Dusk
Sunset: 21:15
Evening High Tide: 4.2m @ 21:22 (Cobh)
Evening Low Tide: 0.6m @ 20:58 (Dublin – North Wall)

The following information is requested:
  • Number of birds present
  • Age of birds present (adult / 2nd-summer / 1st-summer / juvenile)
  • Presence and details of any colour ringed birds
  • Latest time (closest to dusk) when birds are recorded
  • Direction of travel by birds to/from survey site
  • Behaviour (e.g. roosting, feeding)

The last three pieces of information (especially times seen) will be useful in ascertaining whether there is any movement between sites, overlap in counts etc.

All records can be submitted to Niall Keogh by e-mail nkeogh@birdwatchireland.ie 

An indication of who is covering which sites would be desirable before the count dates so as to allocate effort if needs be so please get in touch if you are planning on taking part.

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