A diary with a difference…..

Flat Holm 2017; the Return of the Gulls

Welcome to 2017 on Flat Holm! It’s been over 3 years since the last post on here, the island has seen wardens and volunteers come and go but the seasonal cycle of wildlife continues. The Herring Gulls are already building up in numbers, staking out their territories on the cliffs, waiting patiently for their life mate to return so they can reconnect in preparation for breeding come spring.

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Gulls returning to the cliffs (photo: Rachelle Regan)

There are around 300 pairs of Herring Gulls that nest here on Flat Holm, this number however pales in comparison to the 3,500 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls that generally nest inland on the plateau of the island. The majority of the Lesser Blacked-backs are yet to return from their wintering grounds with only a few being sighted daily, but we will be expecting to see the numbers start to swell soon.

From ongoing ringing projects allowing the movements of individual birds to be tracked through re-sightings of uniquely alphanumeric coded PVC colour rings, we know that some Lesser Black-backs will overwinter locally, whilst others will travel south to Spain, Portugal and North West Africa.

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Lesser Black-backed Gull (photo: Giulia Neri)

Flat Holms only breeding pair of Great Black-backed Gull, Britain’s largest gull, choose Castle Rock to nest upon, bringing a whole new meaning to ‘King of the castle’! An individual has been seen daily since the 4th January and we are hoping to catch sight of their mate soon.

Although Flat Holm is known for its population of breeding gulls it is also an important spot for passerines feeding up over winter. We have been enjoying watching flocks of finches and thrushes gorging on berries, seeds and snails (of which there is no shortage of on Flat Holm!).

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Chaffinches (photo: Lonieke Horninge)

Song Thrushes often have favourite rocks that they utilise as an anvil to crack open snail shells and get to the ‘juicy’ bit; if you look closely you see signs of this behaviour dotted all around the island.

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Rock used by a Song Thrush (Rachelle Regan)

The days are definitely getting busier (and noisier!) here on Flat Holm and we’ll be back soon with an update on the spring gull take-over!

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Lighthouse sunset (photo: Marianne Bony)

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