Category Archives: Banding

Welcom Back Dave

L52 Welcomes Dave Adrien Back to Hampton Beach from Chasing Great Grey Owls in Montreal

L52 Welcomes Dave Adrien Back to Hampton Beach from Photographing Great Grey Owls in Montreal

Dave Adrien continues to supply sightings of Appledore Gulls as well as other banded gulls and banded shorebirds observed at sites along the New England coast.  His major contribution to research includes thousands of reports of hundreds of different banded birds.  Dave has a treasure trove of photographs of ‘known age’ Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls to accompany his myriad list of bands seen.

L52 was banded while a chick at a nest on Appledore Island July 13 2011.  DNA indicates L52 is a male.  More than 80 sighting reports are on record for L52 showing providing considerable information about his movements.  L52 favors the Hampton Beach area of New Hampshire.




The banding team is on Appledore Island this week (July 11 to 17) banding Great Black-backed and Herring Gull juveniles about to fly.



First Flight

As of Thursday no juveniles had yet been seen flying on Appldore .  So the team was enthralled to witness the first successful flight of a Herring Gull.  As the team watched from across the narrow cove, the youngster practiced a few lifts in place, furiously flapping to rise a few feet above the rock.  Then a pause, followed by a full honest flight for about 50 feet with a soft landing.  Returning at a run up-slope to the rock crest a short rest followed. And then, with a parent ‘cheering’, a true flight about sixty feet, a turn and a flight back to the rock.


Out and Return

This is the first observed juvenile flight of the year on the Island.  In the coming weeks the banded Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls will be dispersing to mainland New Hampshire and then throughout the east coast.  I hope you are able to see one of the banded gulls and report the band number back to us.  Each and every report is most welcome.

Banding gulls is demanding work on rugged Appledore Island in Maine.  Here’s the tough and effective team at work in the rocky terrain.  The Shoals Marine Lab buildings occupy a small portion of the Island and gulls nest along the pathways and buildings but many gulls choose to nest in the jumbled rocky shore areas.


Mary Everett Returning a Banded Gull to It’s Home Territory



Engineer Mike Rosen Successfully Trying the New Banding Pliers He Designed as Taylor Assists and Dr. Sarah Observes.

Bander-in-Charge: Dr. Sarah Courchesne (green); guest engineer: Mike Rosen, and experienced bander: Taylor Ouellette.


Below: The 2016 banding team;  Kyla, Jamie, Taylor, Eric, Dr. Sarah Courchesne, Jinette, Liam. Mary Everett, and Taylor Ouellette.  Mary and Taylor have been ‘On-Island’ involved in gull studies since May; both are experienced gull workers from the 2015 season.  Jamie and Eric have both assisted in prior banding operations on Appledore.



A Family Portrait

IMG_3696 HERG Family Group

Great Black-backed Gulls, one of the study species at Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island.  The present gull study began in 2004 and builds upon prior studies conducted on Appledore.

June 2015 Photographs at Hampton Beach by Jon 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

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 

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)

Banding with Carly: first hand report from a gull team member

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.

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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!

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!