The Wanderings of a Black-headed Gull

Lewis James, a colleague in work, told me about a ringed Black-headed Gull he frequently sees on the handrail of the boardwalk that runs alongside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. He grabbed a photograph of it one morning and managed to read the numbers and lettering: ‘2K64’ .

Black-headed gull, Cardiff (Photo: Lewis James)
Black-headed gull, Cardiff (Photo: Lewis James)

2K64’  turns out to have been ringed by John Wells as a nestling on 2nd June, 2008 as part of a study of Black-headed Gulls breeding in the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) on the Glos/Wilts border.  It was next seen in Cardiff Bay in November 2010, at a landfill site at Bishops Cleeve, Glos in March 2011 and it returned to the Cotswold Water Park to breed in May 2012.  It may be five and a half years old but it should have a few years left in it yet – the typical lifespan of a Black-headed Gull is 11 years.

John is a member of the Cotswold Water Park Ringing Group (CWPRG) who have been visiting breeding colonies of Black-headed Gulls at the CWP since 2004 to fit nestlings with a metal BTO ring and a Darvic ring. The purpose of this project is to monitor the birds’ movements and to study their return to the CWP to breed. A significant number have been sighted away from the CWP and thanks to the group’s efforts we now know that many of the CWP birds migrate South and West in winter to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Spain. A few also stay in the CWP over winter and a large number of the adults breeding in the CWP were ringed there as nestlings.

You have to admire ringers. They’re a dedicated bunch, plying their trade week in, week out at highly unsociable hours, often with low returns and freezing cold fingers! They depend on the rest of us making the effort to report sightings of ringed and colour ringed birds. To report a ringed bird please visit the Euring web page where you’ll find a step by step guide of how to submit your sighting.

For a bit of recent local ringing interest I’d recommend a visit to the BTO’s Summary of Ringing Recoveries for Glamorgan 2012 and also to blogs written by Cardiff Bird Ringers and Gower Ringing Group. Citizen science in all its glory!


Roath Park’s Waterbirds Need You

Some birders’ names are synonymous with particular well-known local birding sites.  If you look back through old copies of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report you’ll notice that the wildfowl and waterbirds of Roath Park Lake in Cardiff have been counted regularly for many years. Most of those records since 2001 will have come from two people – Graham Duff and Margaret Morgan.

Graham and Margaret counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) for over 10 years. Graham sadly passed away in 2011 but, after a short break, Margaret continued to visit the Lake once a month to continue conducting these valuable counts.

However, a couple of days ago Margaret contacted me to say that it’s time to hand over the baton to somebody else. It goes without saying that we’re all very grateful to Margaret and Graham for their efforts over the years. Our knowledge of the bird populations of Roath Park Lake would be much the poorer without their important contribution.

Roath Park Lake (Photo: Cardiff University International Office)
Roath Park Lake (Photo: Cardiff University International Office)

Margaret’s ‘retirement’ means of course that a vacancy has arisen as a WeBS counter at Roath Park Lake. Would you like to take it on? If you’ve never done a bird survey before, WeBS is a great place to start.  It’s the survey that monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK and all you need is the ability to identify common waterbirds and to count the birds at Roath Park Lake once a month between September and March (and, although optional, any additional months between April and August too if you can make them). The added bonus at Roath Park is that you can reward yourself after you’ve finished your count by buying an ice cream at the kiosk!

You can find out more about the WeBS survey locally and some more detail about how to do the survey.

If you’ve been looking to add value to your birding this could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.  If you’re interested in taking on Roath Park Lake for WeBS, or if you know of another wetland site which you may be interested in monitoring, please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
t: 029 20 621394

Studying Cardiff’s Blackbirds

The Cardiff Blackbird Project was established in April 2012 to examine the ecology, behaviour and demography of urban birds using Blackbirds as a model.

The Blackbird has many traits that make it ideal as a model species.  It is common, making for large data sets. It is a relatively large species, meaning it is easy to observe. Blackbirds are also widespread, which allows comparison between populations in different habitats and geographical scales.

A Cardiff Blackbird
A Cardiff Blackbird

The project is based around developing a long-term monitoring programme, contributing to the Retrapping Adults for Survival scheme, on which a number of more detailed research projects examining Blackbird ecology in a suburban environment will be based. Currently the study site for the project is the northern part of Pontcanna Fields, in the area which includes the allotments and Cardiff Riding School.

The success of these projects relies on having a large population of individually marked birds that can be followed throughout the year. Unique plastic colour-rings are fitted so that individuals can be recognised through binoculars or a telescope, avoiding the need to capture birds multiple times. The colour-rings in use are yellow with black letters and are placed on the left leg. A standard BTO metal ring is on the right leg.

If you see a colour-ringed Blackbird, the team would love to hear about it, by logging your records online, or by contacting:


The Project is run by members of Cardiff Bird Ringers and Cardiff University School of Biosciences.