A view from a pipe


In the area of Groningen Gull-billed Terns like to roost on large pipes in sand extraction facilities where they are sometimes too far away from land to be identified by their rings. But Harry Kuipers and Henri Zomer had a smart idea, putting a trailcamera on one of the pipes. Here is Harry's report:

"When Gull-billed Terns leave their breeding colony in Dithmarschen (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) for migration, the first stop for many birds of the colony is at a sand extraction company in the eastern part of the province of Groningen, Netherlands. From the second half of July there are a lot of Great Green Bush-Crickets in nearby barley fields which is super food for the chicks. The Gull-billed Terns often rest on the pipes that transport sand collected from the bottom of the lake by a special boat with a big sort of vacuum cleaner. When the birds sit on the pipes, it is possible to read the rings. Every year I am spending many hours trying to read the rings. Unfortunately, this year was a difficult year to read the rings, because the pipes were too far away from the waterfront. Hence we decided to place a trail camera on the pipes (with permission of the sand extraction company) hoping to eventually have some ringed Gull-billed Terns on photo. After 3 weeks waiting and 11.000+ photos to check, 8 different birds could be identified. Among them a spectacular sighting of YGYY* feeding his chick R36 a Great Green Bush-Cricket. Two days earlier YGYY was seen in the province of Noord-Holland, Netherlands, a place he has been visiting every year so far. Now he flew back to Groningen, to a place where he has never been seen before. But why did he fly back? Lack of food for his chicks in Noord-Holland?"

* Reading order of colour rings is bottom of left leg to top of right leg, using English abbreviations. Hence YGYY is short for Yellow-Green-Yellow-Yellow. By the way, YGYY is a male, born in 2015 at the Neufelderkoog-colony where he has been spotted breeding each year since 2018.

First juvenile reported from Spain


On August 22nd the first of our youngsters was spotted in Spain. Ramon Diaz took photographs of R08 with an unringed parent in the Basque city of Irun (Gipuzcoa province), vis-a-vis the French border. There the river Bidasoa makes a small estuary to the southeastern Biscaya which at first glance doesn't appear to be very idyllic in a busy urban area. But the Gull-billed Terns don't seem to care. This very place has been used in previous years by our terns before and seems to be a regular station during migration - at least for some individuals. R08's last record before this was on July 27th near Groningen.



60% reported back


Shortly after leaving their breeding grounds 31 ringed chicks out of 52 have already been reported back at least once. 29 reports are from the Netherlands, 2 from Germany. Very early in the migration stage this means 60% - a remarkably high rate of readings.

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