Reflections post-banding

I have traded the sound of gulls calling and stomping on the roof for the trill of tree frogs here at home in mainland New Hampshire, and, now that I am clean and somewhat rested, and the gull restraint bags are washed and drying on my clothesline, I thought I might write you all a line or two in summary of our banding week.

The final total was 39 adult Herring Gulls caught, bled and banded, and 5 Great Black-backed Gulls (caught on a day when we needed a dose of the instant gratification only Black-backed trapping can provide). Carly Emes, gull team member, has a post planned with all the gory details on how it’s done, so I will limit myself to generalities and mainly focus on praising the hard working team we assembled. Pictured in our official team photo: Bill Clark (kneeling), gull guru and stalwart supporter; North Shore Community College grad Sean Jeffery; yours truly, Sarah Courchesne; Sarah Chieng, soon to be official veterinary technician; Carly Emes, pondering graduate study; and Kristen “K-Cat” whom we poached from the songbird ranks for a day or so–thanks K-Cat!



F07, hybrid offspring of our resident LBBG was indeed seen again, and Lauren Kras has been kind enough to share her photo of this specimen. What do you think? Would you pick this bird out of a crowd as a hybrid?

F07 with a putative mate. (Photo by L. Kras)

F07 with a putative mate. (Photo by L. Kras)

Lauren also happened to take a photo of F07 back in 2011 when it was a callow youth alongside its dapper dad.

One day in July 2011. (Photo by L. Kras)

One day in July 2011. (Photo by L. Kras)

One final item of note: during the week on Appledore, I spent a few hours entering data from an observer who watches gulls visit his pile of deer carcasses and restaurant and butchery wastes. Bald Eagles and ravens also frequent the pile, but among the gulls are several who sport the bands of Appledore. In an odd coincidence, Davis Finch, the proprietor of the pile, lives half a mile from my house in East Kingston, New Hampshire. When I go running on unexpectedly warm winter days, when the pile has thawed a bit and is stinking, I have had occasion to curse Mr. Finch. And indeed, on hour three of data entry from his meticulous record keeping, I felt I had occasion again. But in truth, I am grateful. His sightings have shown us that some of these gulls are routinely making the commute from Appledore to East Kingston and back, a distance of almost 20 miles each way, as the gull flies. It’s a small pleasure to think that I might band a gull in the morning, and then that same bird, bands jangling, could fly right over the backyard where my kids are playing on its way to the infamous bone pile.

Now, I must go gather those gull bags from the line; the forecast promises rain overnight. This’ll be my last post for you all for the foreseeable future. Thanks for reading, and happy sighting!

9 thoughts on “Reflections post-banding

  1. Thanks for the posts and updates from the Appledore gull team! I enjoyed following along and experiencing from afar, from my office in North Carolina, the trials and tribulations of gull research. I could almost smell the salt air and hear the raucous calls of gulls. It brought back memories of my youthful days growing up in New England. Thanks again for sharing these stories.

  2. As a matter of interest, is the island you’re working on heavily littered with chicken bones, on account of the gulls going to the mainland and collecting discarded/intentionally given fried chicken for the youngsters? I’ve heard of some gull colonies where this is the case…

      • Is it a fact that gulls can projectile vomit at will as a defence mechanism? I’ve heard people say that, but I’ve never actually seen it happen. I also watch a lot of gull videos on YouTube and I’ve never seen it documented on there either…

        I found this page a few weeks ago. There’s an account on there of gull colonies covered with cherry stones, on account of the California Gulls raiding orchards to feed their young.

      • We find that the gulls definitely regurgitate very often when we catch them. It does appear to be related to the stress of capture, but regurgitation (from the crop) is quite mild compared with actual vomiting, which most birds do very rarely, if at all. The regurge can come up with some force though. We do give them back what they regurgitate on us, and they re-eat it, generally. Very cool, that link to the fruit eating gulls! The birds do seem to have specialities–once, I had a gull regurgitate nothing but insects! A huge mass of them. Seems like that would be more calories burned finding the insects than would support a large bird, but he seemed to be making it work!

  3. Yeah, I think it’s the fulmars that can purposefully spray and direct their vomit (seems to be an ability unique enough to comment on) – but people just assume that they’re gulls.

    As for insects, I’ve seen gulls gorging themselves on Flying Ant Day, or when the dragonflies and damselflies all seem to come out at the same time. Comparatively large stuff, mainly. They just fly in circles and snap them out of the air.

    Though there are several videos available of gulls eating those small alkaline flies.


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