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BLACK-BACKED GULLS NESTING
ON SLIPPER MILLPOND, EMSWORTH
2021 - The two Great Black-backed Gulls are back on
the pond for the 10th year
of nesting - see below for full records
A pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls nested for the first time
ever in Emsworth, on the centre raft on Slipper
Millpond in 2012 producing two
on the pond for the 2nd
again on the same raft in 2013 producing three
on the pond for the 3rd year
2013 the Slipper Millpond Association decided to deter
the gulls from nesting again due to their predation of
other avian inhabitants on the pond, notably Coot. To
achieve this the three rafts were covered with wires,
but this did not put the birds off and they nested
again successfully in 2014 rearing one
on the pond for the 4th year
They were back
again in 2015 and nested successfully hatching three
chicks, but all three were drowned when they fell from
the raft. So, this year's nesting was
on the pond for the 5th year
The two gulls returned again to the pond in the spring
of 2016. They nested on the centre raft again and
produced three chicks of which two youngsters
survived. One mature juvenile was seen dead on the
raft in July, from unknown cause.
on the pond for the 6th year running!!
They were back
again in 2017, but, very surprisingly, were ousted
from their usual central nesting raft by a pair of
Canada Geese. They settled down on a smaller raft and
hatched three chicks of which two survived and
fledged by early July.
on the pond for the 7th year
They are back
again on the south raft on 8th March where they nested
last year and successfully produced two youngsters. A
Canada Goose was back on the centre raft as last year.
Nest building during March. Both birds were on the
raft on Apr-11 with one bird sitting on nest. Three
chicks were hatched on or before May 16th. See Video .
. . https://youtu.be/dCZmAbgXJgE
Two chicks survived and were fledged in July.
They finally left the pond by July 17th.
on the pond for the 8th year
The pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft in
early February making an early claim to their
preferred nesting site which for the past 2 years has
been occupied by Canada Geese. They were settling in
early March and on the nest in April. Two
chicks were raised and fledged in July.
on the pond for the 9th year
March-early April - Pair of Great Black-backed Gulls
are nesting on the south raft on Slipper Millpond with
the Canada Geese on the centre raft as in previous
years. 14-May - Gulls hatch two chicks on the south
raft. 05-Jun - The two young Great Black-backed Gulls
fledged successfully and remained on the pond until
early July. Late August - Two young gulls still on
pond - on north raft.
on the pond for the 10th year running, but with
Two Great Black-backed Gulls back on Slipper
01-Feb-21 - Great Black-backed Gull pair on pond.
South raft is netted.
22-Feb-21 - Centre raft is also netted to prevent
access to the gulls
24-Feb-21 - Pair on north raft .
RECORDS FOR 2021
. . .
in reverse chronological order . . .
FEBRUARY 24 - 2021
The pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls was on the as yet unnetted
north raft when I passed by this morning. However, I
fear the Pond Association will soon be covering this
raft as well as the other two to prevent the large
gulls nesting. One can just discern a small
collection of twiggy material to the right of the
standing gull in the photo which might be the start of
a nest. This is the time when nest building has begun
in previous years, so watch this space!
FEBRUARY 22 - 2021
I was not
surprised to find the centre raft on Slipper Millpond
had been netted, like the south raft, to discourage
the nesting of the Great Black-backed Gulls.
The north raft is at
present clear, but will no doubt follow suit.
The Pond Association
has tried netting the rafts before (in 2014) but the
gulls found a way around the wires and managed to
nest. The netting this time looks more substantial so
we shall see what if anything happens. There was no
sign of the gulls this morning, but I am sure they
will be back.
Here's a shot I got of the pair of Great Black-backed
Gulls last Thursday on the centre raft.
Interestingly, on the
same occasion a handsome Great Crested Grebe
was swimming and diving on the pond, once coming very
close for a nice photo.
FEBRUARY 15 - 2021
The pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls appear to have taken
up residence on the centre raft. The south raft where
the large gulls have nested for the past 4 years has
been netted by the Association to prevent gulls
nesting there, but the centre raft where they have
nested in the past is not netted. It will be
interesting to see what happens if and when the pair
of Canada Geese which have nested on the centre raft
in the last 4 years return again. There could be
MONDAY FEBRUARY 1 -
Pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was back on Slipper
Millpond which has been their nesting territory for
the past 9 years.
However, the Slipper
Millpond Association are determined to deter their
nesting this year. A large net has been erected over
the top of the south raft where the gulls have nested
for the past 4 years. The net has holes large enough
to allow access to Coot and other small birds, but not
large gulls! A similar deterrent was tried in 2014,
which the gulls found a way around, but this one looks
From 2012 to 2016 the
Great Black-backed Gulls nested on the large centre
raft on the pond, but in 2017 they were ousted by a
pair of Canada Geese. They finally settled down on the
south raft where they have nested ever since with the
Canada Geese pair on the centre raft. It will be
interesting to see what happens this year if and when
the Canadas return to nest on the centre raft. Today,
while I was present one of the gulls got onto the
small north raft, trying it out maybe? The gull was
joined briefly by one of the swans so their could be
some friction there too! The small north raft
previously has housed nothing but the occasional Coot
RECORDS FOR 2020
. . in reverse chronological order . . .
DECEMBER 29 - 2020
Slipper Millpond where a Great Black-backed Gull was
sitting on the water near the centre raft where it
used to nest until the Canada Geese arrived. The gulls
do often return to their nest site during the off
season. They will have a shock when they return this
spring as the Slipper Millpond association intend to
block their access to the rafts.
MONDAY November 2 - 2020
I had a look
at Slipper Millpond where a single adult Great
Black-backed Gull was sitting on the centre raft.
Staking out its breeding territory for next year??
August 26 - 2020
Great Black-backed Gulls were still on the pond - on
the north raft
JULY 23 - 2020
There was just
one juvenile Great Black-backed Gull on the pond when
I arrived at about 12 noon with no sign of the other
youngster or the parents.
The juvenile flew off
after a few minutes towards the harbour where I
suspect the Great Black-backed Gull family are now
located. All being well, the parents are likely to
make occasional trips back to the pond to check out
their breeding grounds, but twe look forward to seeing
them again for their 10th year on the pond, though I
fear the Slipper Millpond Association are planning
measures to prevent further nesting of these
magnificent birds due to their predatory behaviour!
JULY 3 - 2020
Black-backed Gull family was on the centre raft - one
adult and two juvenile. The adult flew up and
half-heartedly 'buzzed' me as I was taking photos from
the east side.
JUNE 5 - 2020
The two Great
Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft along
with one parent.
MAY 23 - 2020
I could only
see one Great Black-backed Gull chick standing up on
the south raft when I visited Slipper Millpond this
afternoon. Later I met Pam Phillips on the meadow and
she assured me that she had definitely seen two chicks
standing up on the raft yesterday. So, when I got home
I had a close look at my photos which revealed a
second chick partly hidden in the nest box on the
raft. You can just make out the second chick in this
While I was taking
photos, I was briefly 'buzzed' by one of the parent
gulls which flew low over my head scolding me. This is
normal behaviour from the gulls when there are young
in the nest. Here is a shot of the protecting adult
perched on a chimney.
THURSDAY MAY 14 - 2020
Black-backed Gulls nesting on the south raft have at
least two chicks on the raft. There could be a third
one hiding in the nest box, but I could only see two
Thursday 2 April 2020
Pair of Great
Black-backed Gulls are nesting on the south raft on
Slipper Millpond with the Canada Geese on the centre
raft as in previous years.
13th March 2020
Black-backed Gulls are now back on Slipper Millpond
for their 9th year of nesting on the rafts. When I
arrived at about 12 noon both gulls were on the south
raft where they have nested for the past 3 years.
Prior to that they nested on the larger centre raft,
but were ousted by a pair of Canada Geese which nested
there. So far, I have not seen the Canada Geese on the
pond, though there was a pair last week on Peter Pond
being pursued by the resident cob swan.
While I was present
what I assume was the female gull flew to the centre
raft to collect a beak full of twigs. She flew off
with them probably heading for the south raft to start
Video clip of Great
Black-backed Gull collecting nest material . . .
Monday 9th March 2020
I was intrigued to see the pair of Great Black-backed
Gulls snoozing together on the centre raft on Slipper
Millpond. This will be the pair that has nested on the
pond for the last 8 years. For the past 3 years they
have been ousted from their preferred nesting site on
the centre raft by a pair of Canada Geese. It will be
interesting to see if this happens again this year.
RECORDS FOR 2019
. . in reverse chronological order . . .
4 July 2019
It was such a
beautiful evening so I popped down to Slipper Millpond
to check on the Great Black-backed Gulls. One
of the adult birds was keeping watch on the southern
raft where the pair nested.
The two youngsters
from this year's brood were snoozing on the larger
centre raft. They presumably flew the 50 yards or so
from the nesting raft which means they have now
fledged, though are probably not confident enough as
yet to venture far from the rafts.
25 JUNE - 2019
Milinets-Raby had a wander around Emsworth and
Langstone Mill Pond this morning (9am to 11:30am) and
saw the growing Great Black-backed Gull juveniles. The
adult Great Black-backed Gulls did not mind Peter's
approach, but as soon as he set up his tripod they
were up in the air and half bombing him!
19 JUNE - 2019
The two Great
Black-backed Gull chicks on the south raft are growing
well, though they are some way off being able to fly
freely. As I was standing on Slipper Road I was
'buzzed' briefly by the parent gull who then
positioned itself on one of the chimneys.
1 June 2019
I had a quick
look at the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the
south raft on Slipper Millpond this afternoon. As can
be seen from the photo the two chicks are growing, but
there's still a lot of growing to be done before they
can contemplate leaving the safety of the raft. I
think it may be 4-6 weeks before the youngsters have
developed wings to enable short flights. One of the
parents is snoozing on top of the nest box.
20 MAY 2019
at 9am, Peter Milinets-Raby ventured down to Peter
Pond and Slipper Mill Pond to mainly grab some photos
of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks. Peter's report
follows with some great photos . . .
"Like you reported on
your blog the female bird did some half speculative
dives at me as I walked passed, before she alighted on
one of the nearby chimneys, where she kept a very
beady eye on me. The male then came out of nowhere and
again half-heartedly dive bombed me a couple of times
before he landed on the raft, where he really did give
me the eyeball. The chicks were nowhere to be
A huge Great
Black-backed Gull diving at you initially is quite a
scary sight, especially from a great height, however
about 15 metres away they pull out of their dives to
semi hover above your head, calling aggressively. This
standoff of the female on the chimney and the male on
the raft lasted 50 minutes before eventually the male
called the chicks out from their hiding place to feed
See photos and a short video
Initially the male was
just sort of controlled vomiting/emitting some juice
of his stomach contents and delicately feeding it to
the two chicks.
Then after 10 minutes
he regurgitated a hefty chuck of fish/squid to the
floor of the raft, where the chicks pecked at it. He
helped tear off bits for them. Then after about
another ten minutes he swallowed the chunk of
fish/squid and flew off. A great 20 minutes of
MAY 16 - 2019
Black-backed Gull chicks
Black-backed Gulls have hatched at least two chicks on
Slipper Millpond. I was alerted to their likely
presence as I walked slowly along Slipper Road by the
somewhat frenzied activity of a guarding parent who
flew squawking over my head several times as I
approached the nest area. I have been similarly
'buzzed' by these magnificent birds in the past, a
scary experience indeed! It flew around the pond and
perched high on one of the chimneys in Slipper Road. I
could not see the chicks very well on the raft, but
could clearly make out two, but no more.
MAY 1 - 2019
Milinets-Raby found the Great Black-backed Gull on the
nest on Slipper Millpond keeping a keen eye on a the
family of Canada Geese with 5 newly hatched goslings
APRIL 15 - 2019
peaceful over on Slipper Millpond where the Canada
Goose was on its nest on the large centre raft with
its mate standing on the north raft nearby and the
pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the south raft
with one sitting on a nest.
APRIL 11 - 2019
All was peace
and quiet when I walked round Slipper Millpond this
morning. The Canada Goose was on its nest on
the large centre raft, though not all that easy to
see.I was a little surprised to see its mate standing
on the south raft, seemingly watching over one of
Great Black-backed Gulls which was sitting on a
nest at the other end of the raft.
The two gulls changed
over their nest sitting duties while I was there but
the Canada Goose remained unmoved. I continue to be
surprised at the dominance that the Canada Geese
appear to exert over the Great Black-backed Gulls.
Goose is snug on its nest on the centre raft
APRIL 1 - 2019
appears to have been resumed on Slipper Millpond.
and the Great
Black-backed Gulls have returned to the south
where there is a good supply of nesting material.
Geese on the centre raft
SATURDAY MARCH 23 - 2019
I made my way
to Slipper Millpond where I found the pair of
Canada Geese on the centre raft as reported by Pat
Atkin yesterday with the Great Black-backed
Gulls relegated to the much smaller south raft. I
assume these two pair of birds will make their nest on
these two rafts as they have done for the past two
years, but there was no sign of any nest building as
Black-backed Gulls on the south
22 March 2019
reports that a pair of Canada Geese was back on
Slipper Millpond and that the Great Black-backed Gulls
have moved onto the south raft. This is not entirely
unexpected as Canada Geese have nested on the centre
raft on Slipper Millpond for the past two years,
displacing the Great Black-backed Gulls to the south
raft. Also Peter Milinets-Raby reported seeing a pair
of Canada Geese on the town millpond yesterday,
probably intending to move across town.
are shots of the two Great Black-backed Gulls. Female
on left and male on right (I
19 March 2019
From Nore Barn
I went over to Slipper Millpond to have a look at the
other star birds of Emsworth, the Great
Black-backed Gulls. These two magnificent birds,
which have been nesting on the pond for the past nine
years, were on the water while I was present keeping
well clear of the resident pair of Mute Swans
which usually nest on the adjacent Peter Pond. I know
there has been friction between these pairs of large
birds in the past, but they have always managed to
nest and bring up their youngsters without too much
bother. Interestingly, there has been no sign of the
pair of Canada Geese which for the past two
years has ousted the Gulls from their traditional
nesting site on the centre raft.
MARCH 4 - 2019
I had a stroll
down to Slipper Millpond this morning where I found
the regular pair of Great Black-backed Gulls
seemingly settled on the centre raft in
preparation for nesting on the pond for the 8th year
running. It will be interesting to see if the gulls
manage to remain on the centre raft for in the
previous two years they have been ousted by a pair of
Canada Geese which nested there, forcing the gulls to
nest on the smaller south raft.
experience I would expect the gulls to be nest
building towards the end of this month and sitting in
early April. They usually lay 3 eggs and, if all goes
well, we should see chicks in early May. Last year,
three gull chicks were hatched of which two survived
and fledged successfully.
This morning the gulls were accompanied on the centre
raft by a Cormorant, which is unlikely to be tolerated
once nesting begins in earnest.
FEBRUARY 8 - 2019
made walking quite a struggle this morning on the way
to the Hermitage Millponds. When I got to the ponds, I
had a job standing up, let alone keeping the camera
still. On Slipper Millpond, I managed to get a hazy
snap the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, that I
first saw yesterday on the raft, riding out the storm
on the choppy waters of the pond. They are clearly
here to stay!
FEBRUARY 7 - 2019
I had an
afternoon walk down to Slipper Millpond where I found
the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre
raft - making an early claim to their preferred
nesting site which for the past 2 years has been
occupied by Canada Geese.
This pair of Great Black-backed Gulls has nested on a
raft on Slipper Millpond every year since 2012 - so
this could be their 8th year. The Sussex Bird Report
for 2017 describes Great Black-backed Gulls as 'mostly
non-breeders, but very scarce breeder since 2000' Only
three pairs were confirmed to have bred in the county
in Year 2017. So, they clearly do not have the Slipper
Millpond records! This omission needs to be rectified
as Slipper Millpond is just over the border in West
Sussex. Note sent to John Newnham at SOS
Black-backed Gulls return to their nesting raft on
Slipper Millpond - 7 Feb
For earlier records
go to . . .
years - 2012-2018