It’s April and over the last few weeks we have enjoyed seeing the return of the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls that breed in the colony at IJmuiden Forteiland, the Netherlands. They have left their wintering locations in southern Europe and North Africa and are joining the Herring Gulls which have already returned since the beginning of January after spending their winter in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Many Lesser Black-backed Gulls are still arriving on a daily basis.
For us as the research team it means that our season of visiting the colony to do field work is also starting. We had our first visit to the colony on March 29 and will start visiting the colony on a regular basis very soon.
As is the case each year, it is very exciting to discover which of our birds will return and who they will pair up with. It is great to see that many partnerships are re-established and that new ones are being created. By being able to follow our colour-ringed birds individually, we feel that we really know them well and know how they behave and where they will occupy a territory.
The group of returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls also contains individuals that are fitted with a GPS logger as part of a project of the University of Amsterdam. Eight individuals have already returned and it is exciting to find out where they have been and what they will do during the upcoming breeding season. More on this below, but first some general images that I took during our visit.
Of the various adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls which have been fitted with a GPS logger over the last 2 years (see About the project below), 8 have now returned.
As we noticed last year, they very quickly return to their daily schedule of visiting their favourite foraging locations in and around Amsterdam and out to the North Sea.
The data that has been stored during the winter in the logger that they are carrying is currently being downloaded and we are looking forward to discover what journeys this will reveal.
About the project
The tracking study is part of an ongoing collaboration between the University of Amsterdam UvA (Dr. Judy Shamoun-Baranes) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research NIOZ (Dr. Kees Camphuysen).
The study is being conducted within the project “Interactions between birds and offshore wind farms: drivers, consequences and tools for mitigation” funded by NWO Applied and Engineering Sciences Open Technology Programme, Rijkswaterstaat and Gemini windpark.
The tracking study will provide complementary information on the movement patterns of gulls breeding along the North Sea coast, with similar objectives to the studies conducted on Texel and Schiermonnikoog.
The main aim is to identify intrinsic and external drivers of movement from fine scale flight behaviour to seasonal migrations. While adult gulls from other colonies have been tracked since 2008, little is still known about the daily movements and flight behaviour of juveniles and how this differs from adults.
This study will contribute to our knowledge on how juvenile birds develop their foraging and migration strategies and how their flight behaviour differs from adults.