27th February 2009, Friday

The area is mobbed with Black-headed and Common Gulls, moving back north to their breeding grounds in the Netherlands, Denmark, Fennoscandia and the Baltic States. The movements of gulls are quite well documented thanks to ringing studies, which in turn are well furnished with data since gulls are fairly easy to ring, nesting as so many do in colonies on the ground. In addition, their propensity to gather in dense flocks at rubbish tips and coastal roosts has made it possible to trap large numbers by using cannon-nets.

Several hundred pairs of Black-headed Gulls nest by shallow lakes in the RX area, at Rye Harbour and Dungeness for instance, where their excited screams can already be heard drifting on the wind. Dungeness is the only place locally where Common Gulls breed regularly, though in small numbers.
Thousands of these gulls are out feeding on pastures or plundering the ditch-spoil dredged up by diggers on the marsh. Loud yelping calls signal the presence amongst them of Mediterranean Gulls, of which there were about 40 scattered about Pett Level today.

A mystery this winter has been the gathering of up to 500 Knot at Rye Harbour, where they are normally rather scarce. They are even scarcer at Pett Level, where I hardly ever see them in winter but this morning there were 29 on the water’s edge at high tide.
Out beyond them, a misty skein of Brent Geese headed north along the horizon as a migrant Grey Wagtail flew overhead.

Although they too have black heads, these are sheep rather than gulls. They have just about consumed the kale provided as winter feed and, now that the grass is growing again, will soon return to pasture.