I recently received a comment on the blog from Shirley who reported a Ring-billed Gull with bright orange tags on each wing in Dunnville Ontario, close to Lake Erie. This is not a gull banded at Appledore (we only band Herring and Great Black-backed gulls). But, this bird may have been part of a gull banding study taking place in Massachusetts. Ken MacKenzie and Dan Clark at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation are studying wintering gulls roosting on Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs (http://www.mass.gov/dcr/watersupply/watershed/study/).
The study is addressing the following questions about Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed gulls: 1) what and where are the seasonal food sources for each gull species? 2) what are the movement patterns between feeding, loafing, and roosting sites? and 3) what are the population dynamics of gulls in Massachusetts?
Gulls wing-tagged at the reservoirs have been observed as far north as Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba and as far south as North Carolina and Georgia. The researchers also attached satellite transmitters on some of the gulls and have found interesting results. One Herring Gull was captured in early November 2008 at Blackstone Valley Water Abatement Plant in Worcester, MA and following capture remained in central Massachusetts using Wachusett Reservoir, the abatement plant, and other nearby areas throughout December. Then, in mid-December, the bird made a large scale movement out into the Atlantic Ocean heading south until is stopped in central Florida on the western coast! The gull stayed in Florida into early March then, by mid-March, moved north again to central Massachusetts.
Dan and Ken are seeking help from the public on their project. If you see a wing-tagged bird (see photo above for example) try to obtain the alpha-numeric combination on the tag (e.g., A57) and report it using the contact information below. Common places to find these wintering gull species are at landfills, parking lots, and ball fields. DCR will be happy to provide you with capture information about a specific bird.