Posted by: jellis04 | July 2, 2015

Two ‘Same Age’ Herring Gulls Compared by Robbie P.

On July 1, 2015 Robbie photographed several ‘Appledore Gulls’ including 82C and 55C.  Both gulls were banded at their nests on different sides of Appledore Island where they had hatched .  Both were almost ready to fly at the time of banding. Robbie’s photos, taken about a year after hatching, allow comparison between gulls within days of the same age.

Appledore Gull 82C at Hampton Beach State Park, NH July 1, 2015 – Photo by Robbie Prieto

Appledore Gull 82C at Hampton Beach State Park, NH
July 1, 2015 – Photo by Robbie Prieto

Appledore Gull 55C at Hampton Beach State Park, NH July 1, 2015 – Photo by Robbie Prieto

Appledore Gull 55C, on the right, at Hampton Beach State Park, NH
July 1, 2015 – Photo by Robbie Prieto

Posted by: jellis04 | June 29, 2015

Dave Adrien Scores More than 1100 Banded Re-sights

Appledore Great Black-Backed Gull 9T5

Dave Adrien’s photograph of 9T5 is a recent addition to Dave’s 1100 plus sightings of gulls with field bands 

When it comes to finding and photographing banded gulls Dave Adrien of Massachusetts is a real record holder.  Dave has provided more than 1100 sightings of banded gulls, many of them Appledore gulls, but also gulls from Massachusetts, Maine, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.  That, folks, in a years time is a major achievement.

Dave’s reports and photographs have proved to be a treasure for a number of research projects dealing with banded gulls.  His photos show ‘known age’ gulls banded as chicks in different plumages as they develop over four years into mature adults.  For example 9T5, pictured above in adult plumage, was banded as an almost-ready-to-fly chick on Appledore Island July 15, 2011.  Dave’s record is the first recorded for 9T5 since banding.

Dave, I understand that 9T5 was photographed at Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, NH.  How many lobsters did it cost you for that photo?

Iceland Gull photo by Dave Adrien

First year Iceland Gull at Hampton Beach State Park on June 26 2015. Photo by Dave Adrien

Dave also sees a number of interesting non-banded gulls like this 1st year Iceland Gull on June 28 at Hampton Beach State Park, NH.


Posted by: jellis04 | June 27, 2015

June 2015 Photographs at Hampton Beach by John Worthen

U32 26 JUN 2015 Jon Worthen

U32, a one year old Herring Gull at Hampton Beach on June 26, 2015 – Photo by Jon Worthen

Jon Worthen has furnished a number of reports and photos of Appledore Gulls over the years and now provides a series of photographs showing Herring Gulls at different ages.  The first two photos compare year-old Herring Gulls, banded last year just before they could fly in July 2014 . Note the similarity of the brown flecked plumage of these year old HERGs.

This is the first sighting for U32 since leaving Appledore Island after banding.  Nice to know U32 survived the first winter.

35C 26 JUN 2015 Jon Worthen

35C, a one year old Herring Gull at Hampton Beach on June 26, 2015 – Photo by Jon Worthen

35C is another survivor of that tough first year for young gulls. Also a first report since leaving the nesting colony on Appledore Island.





Y20 is a two-year-old gull hatched in June 2013.  Note the gray in the wings while overall still rather brown and dark.

Y20 26 JUN 2015 Jon Worthen

Y20, a two-year-old Herring Gull at Hampton Beach on June 26, 2015 – Photo by Jon Worthen










M39 is a fine example of an adult Herring Gull in the traditional white and gray of the breeding season.

M39 26 JUN 2015 Jon Worthen

Adult Herring Gull, M39, at Hampton Beach on June 26, 2015 – Photo by Jon Worthen

Thanks to Jon and the many others who take time to report and photograph Appledore Gulls

Posted by: jellis04 | June 23, 2015

Robbie P. Reports his Second Gull – R03

R03 JUN 22 2015

R03 at Newcastle Commons on June 22 2015  –      Photo by Robbie P.

Robbie reported an Appledore Gull earlier this year and now this young re-sighter sends a photo of another Appledore Gull – R03 – taken at Newcastle Commons June 22, 2015.

Note that R03 has brown in the wing and black in the tail unlike full adult Herring Gulls.  The plumage indicates that R03 is a third year old gull.  Gulls reach full adult plumage at four years.

Therefore, looking at the records, it is not surprising to find that R03 was banded as a chick at nest 12H308 on Appledore Island on July 16, 2012, three years ago.  At that time R03 was able to ‘run like blazes’ but the wing feathers were not developed enough to fly so the college students who help with banding were able to catch R03 and Dr. David Bonter of Cornell Lab of Ornithology banded R03.

R03 was a ‘C’ chick, meaning R03 was the last of the three eggs in the nest to hatch.  Since the nest was a monitored nest we know R03 was hatched June 16, 2012.

Not many ‘C’ chicks survive to leave the nest and the first year for young gulls is very difficult.  Only about 20 percent of the chicks survive the first year. This means that R03 had good parents who provided adequate food and is an exceptional individual, having found food through the first winter and survived to age three.  It is likely R03 will now survive to nest next year and raise a family.  Perhaps we will find R03 on Appledore nesting next year.

R03’s parents were M36 and M35.  M36 is currently nesting again on Appledore.  R04 is a sibling but there are no reports for R04 since banding.

The first time R03 was seen off Appledore Island was on Dec 5, 2013 at Hedgehog Pond by Kyle W.

The next 20 sightings of R03 were in East Kingston by Davis F. between January 15, 2015 and April 2, 2015.
Thanks Robbie for the report and photo.
Posted by: jellis04 | May 31, 2015

2015 Banding Team at Work

Banding Gulls

Mary, Alicia, Dr. Ellis and Dr. Courchesne Busy banding two gulls with Facundo, an ornithology intern, observing.

The “Gulls of Appledore” banding team is concluding a busy and productive week at Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island.  Field readable bands were placed on more than 50 gulls, both Herring Gulls and Great-Black-backed Gulls.  More than 500 sightings of banded gulls from prior years were recorded on Appledore Insland.

Students learned first-hand about field work and the challenge of proper recording, flagging nests, and record keeping.  They also learned that catching gulls is hard work requiring patience, care and ingenuity. Student volunteers were from Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Maine.

GBBG with Chicks

GBBG chicks started hatching this week.

Nesting Herring Gull

Herring Gull nesting on Appledore Island 

Posted by: jellis04 | May 27, 2015

F07 Offspring of Lesser Black-backed Gull F05

F07 is the 2011chick of F05, the Lesser Black-backed Gull from Appledore Island, and a Herring Gull.  F07 was banded as a chick and has now returned to Appledore Island.

F07 is the 2011 chick of F05, the Lesser Black-backed Gull nesting on Appledore Island, and a Herring Gull. F07 was banded as a chick and has now returned to Appledore Island.  For the story of this ‘Three Star Photo’ see below.                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by Dave Adrien

The Gulls of Appledore Research depends heavily upon the public to report sightings of banded gulls either directly or through the USGS “Report Banded Bird” site.  Two of the champion field band reporters of Appldeore gulls are Dave Adrien and Davis Finch.

Dave Adrien has reported more than 300 field bands during the past two years, many more than once, .  The other champion is Davis Finch who has reported as many as 40 or more field band sightings per day.  The above photo was taken at Davis Finch’s field on May 13, 2015 by Dave Adrien of F07 thus linking together three ‘stars’ of the on-going research.

Jim Sonia has been photographing many, many banded birds and providing quality photos of gull plumage development.  Thanks  Jim.

And thanks to all who report bands including Robbie P. who provided K82 at New Castle last week.

Posted by Bill Clark

Posted by: jellis04 | May 27, 2015

2015 Gull Banding Team Starts Work on Appledore

The 2015 banding Team is on Appledore equipped for work.

The 2015 banding Team is on Appledore equipped for work.

The “Gulls of Appledore” banding team has arrived on Appledore and has completed their first full day re-sighting previously banded Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls and banding additional gulls.  Lead by our veterinarian/professor/super-bander Dr. Sarah Courchesne the team focused on Herring Gulls that are part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology student projects here at Shoals Marine Laboratory.

Bill Clark posting for Dr. J. Ellis

Posted by: scourc01 | August 6, 2014

Every July, R92 like clockwork

Last month, Margo Goetschkes and Steve Grinley, gull-spotting enthusiasts, wrote to report a sighting of R92 on Plum Island in Massachusetts. Bill Clark dredged up the scoop on this bird from the gull database, and tells us that it was banded as a chick on July 18th, 2012. The next time it was seen, as it turns out, was by yours truly (guest blogger Sarah Courchesne)! I find this inordinately exciting. Here is the bird as it looked when I saw it in July 2013 on Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts:

R92 on the right, strutting sassily.

R92 on the right, strutting sassily.

Then, this July, as it was when Margo and Steve saw it:

Photo: M. Goetschkes/S. Grinley

We don’t have any wintertime sightings of this bird, but it seems to show some fidelity to this area in the summer, Salisbury Beach being just across the mouth of the Merrimack River from Plum Island. Hopefully, we will be seeing this bird back on Appledore to breed in another couple years, and possibly earlier than that to prospect and get beaten about by adult gulls.

We have another sighting to share as well: C17, dubbed in a previous post as “the local gull,” is proving the aptness of that title. This time, it was seen once again on Hampton Beach on July 12th by Michelle Brown. This bird was banded as a chick in 2005, making it nine years old now, and undoubtedly very savvy.

This bird looks extremely savvy, no? (Photo by M. Brown)

This bird looks extremely savvy, no? (Photo by M. Brown)

Posted by: scourc01 | July 7, 2014

Resight report

Greetings, larophiles!

Sarah here again, with a few resights for you, one of them made by yours truly. While I was out on my survey for the SEANET project, looking for dead seabirds, I chanced upon a very much alive Y30, loitering near some likely looking beach goers. As I tried to get a good view of the band, a man in a beach chair called out, “C’mon! I bet you could catch him!” I laughed and said, “I think I already did, actually–he’s got a band on and I may well have been the one who placed it!” The man and his wife looked closely at the bird as if for the first time. “Wow!” the woman yelled, “Look at that! He is wearing a band!” It occurred to me that even when operating right under the noses of most humans, these birds are not ever really seen. A shame, since maybe if people understood them a little better, they would be less reviled. Sigh.

Anyway, here’s my poor cell phone photo of the bird on Salisbury Beach Riverside Reservation in Massachusetts on June 30.


It turns out that this bird was indeed banded last year in July, and since then has been seen again trailing behind a cod fishing boat off Rhode Island in October 2013. A resourceful little youngster, this.

The second sighting I have for you comes from New Jersey, where Renee Franklin spotted this amputee gull on June 30. The right foot is missing, though the leg appears healed from what I can see in this photo. It’s a bit hard to read the band, but we think it says R37. If that is correct, the bird was banded in 2012 as a chick, with both feet intact, and this is its first sighting since then. How it came to lose the foot is not clear, though it’s not the first time we’ve seen that. Whether banded or not, gulls have a remarkable capacity for getting themselves into trouble. I’ve seen fishing line entanglements, burns, gunshot wounds and a host of other unexplained wounds and injuries result in the loss of a foot in gulls. They seem to adapt to the loss very well, as R37 seems to have done. Perhaps we will see it back on Appledore to breed when the time comes. After all, there was, for a long time, a one footed gull nesting successfully outside one of the dorms. Hopefully this is not the last we’ll see or hear from R37, and thank you to Renee for the sighting!

Tagged gull at Point Pleasant, NJ. (Photo by Renee Franklin)

Tagged gull at Point Pleasant, NJ. (Photo by Renee Franklin)

This is Carly Emes, reporting back with the promised “gory details” of how we band the gulls! I’d like to describe the step-by-step process of catch and release; and also touch on the importance of various samples we collect from each individual gull.

Participating in field research is not glamorous. As many of you are aware, Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls will stop at nothing to defend their little patch of territory – especially when mates have invested so much energy into a clutch of eggs. This strong parental behavior is an important factor that we use to our advantage as we proceed with caution into the thick of the colony.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.57.02 AM

The colony of aware and vigilant parents.

This May, our team focused on banding Herring Gulls. Nowadays, scientific research typically uses the most specialized gadgets adapted to collect necessary data at the highest efficiency. However, our methods do not fall into that category. In fact, most of our techniques are quite comical and simplified (but nevertheless they are great at getting the job done).

Fully clad in our fashionable hat-underneath-helmet look paired with gull poop stained jackets, the team seeks for reasonably level terrain to set up several buckets of our more clinical tools for banding. Meanwhile, two or more members will branch off and look for unbanded Herring Gulls with a notably strong instinct to incubate their eggs. If the gull is dedicated to staying seated, then we can simply and safely pluck them off of the nest and into a gull-sized cloth bag. If not, then we have a choice of using two different traps.

Sean Jeffery and I attempting the tactile approach (as the wary mate above watches our every move).

Sean Jeffery and I attempting the tactile approach (as the wary mate above watches our every move).

Our trap of choice (based on the convenience of nest location this year) was the “Wiley trap.” Aptly nicknamed after Wiley Coyote, this trap is comprised of a box propped up by a stick attached to a string.

The classic cartoon trap positioned for our next prospect.

The classic cartoon trap positioned for our next prospect.

Once the gull is in custody, we bring them to basecamp to process them in a timely and quiet manner.

The first step is to obtain a blood sample. This is an important element of genetic analysis which can be useful for tracing breeding relationships among the returning population.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.57.19 AM

After bleeding, we place a federal band (USGS) on the right leg, and a field band on the left leg. This is a key component of Julie Ellis’ research which allows her to track where the gulls are located on a global scale, and if they are alive and well. Of course, this is made possible by the helpful citizens who report their sightings.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.57.23 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.57.39 AMNext, we weigh the bird and take several different measurements including the length of the tarsus, back of the skull to the tip of the bill, and wing chord. At their adult stage, documenting body dimension is another useful piece of data that we like to keep in our bank of records. Lastly, In order to not further disorient this troubled bird, we must release him or her within the range of its own territory.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 8.57.45 AMDuring our week stay, we try our best to complete this course of action as many times as possible. As you may imagine, these activities have left me with phantom binoculars and an irrational paranoia of dive-bombing gulls. Even with the scientific duties we performed as a team, at the end of the day I can only describe this experience as rowdy and rewarding.

Happy gulling and thanks for your time!

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