Finally, just after I was about to give up on them, the Common gulls have swung into action. Laying there eggs in some fabulous locations. I was expecting them to lay out in the open, in a big dense colony, like their close cousin the Tern. However, they’ve completely taken me by surprise by nesting hunkered down into the gorse.
The common gulls re – established themselves in 2005, with four pairs in 2005 before increasing to 45 in 2007, since then numbers have dwindled to 16 pairs last year, in fact it has been several years since the colony fledged any young. Largely as a result of predation and disturbance.
Common gulls can be easily mistaken for there larger relatives the Herring gull but they have a much more delicate bill with no red spot, greenish yellowy legs and that distinctive “mew” calls. Anyone who has spent a night near common gulls, will know how piercing this cry can be!
Despite there name Common gulls are not a common breeding species in England indeed the colony on Havergate is of particular importance as it represents along with the colony at Dungeness the only significant breeding colonies of this species in England. To this end new measures have been introduced to give our colony a fighting chance.
Measures include roping off the colony, erecting signs asking people not to enter the colony, along with the natural protection offered by the gorse, canes have also been staked into the ground to offer protection for the chicks at feeding time and finally, the entire area is subject to a rat control programme. Rat pose a major issue for ground nesting birds, especially one as vulnerable as the common gull, they take both chicks and young, these traps won’t eradicate the rats but should help to control the numbers to give the young chicks a fighting chance.
Spot the gull!
Visitors to the island will not have there visitor experience hindered at all by the measures undertaken and we hope in the short and long term enhanced as we will have chicks to show them and hopefully an increasing common gull colony in the future.
Check here for updates on the colony, it should only be a matter of days before the first chicks are hatched and keep fingers crossed for a successful season.