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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS NESTING
ON SLIPPER MILLPOND, EMSWORTH

Summary of nesting - see below for full records

Year 2012
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 youngsters.

Year 2013
Back on the pond for the 2nd year!!
They nested again on the same raft in 2013 producing three youngsters.

Year 2014
Back on the pond for the 3rd year running!!
In December 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 youngster.

Year 2015
Back on the pond for the 4th year running!!
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 unsuccessful.

Year 2016
Back on the pond for the 5th year running!!
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.

Year 2017
Back 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.

Year 2018
Back on the pond for the 7th year running!!
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.

YEAR 2019
Back on the pond for the 8th year running!!
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.

YEAR 2020
Back on the pond for the 9th year running!!
13th March - Pair of Great Black-backed Gulls are back on the pond with some nest building activity. No sign of the Canada Geese.
02-Apr - 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 - The Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the south raft have hatched at least two chicks on the south raft. There could be a third one in the nest box.
05-Jun - The two young Great Black-backed Gulls fledged successfully and remained on the pond until early July.
26-Aug - Two young gulls still on pond - on north raft.

2-Nov - One adult on the centre raft.


NESTING RECORDS for 2012 to 2018

For the years 2012 to 2018 go to . . . Early years - 2012-2018


NESTING RECORDS for 2019 and 2020


NESTING RECORDS FOR 2020
. . . in reverse chronological order . . .

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??

WEDNESDAY August 26 - 2020
Two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls were still on the pond - on the north raft

THURSDAY 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!

FRIDAY JULY 3 - 2020
The Great 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.

FRIDAY JUNE 5 - 2020
The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft along with one parent.

SATURDAY 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 photo.

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
The Great 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 clearly.


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.


Friday 13th March 2020
Great 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 a nest.

Video clip of Great Black-backed Gull collecting nest material . . . https://youtu.be/xjKeCN9h7lc


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.



NESTING RECORDS FOR 2019
. . . in reverse chronological order . . .


THURSDAY 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.


TUESDAY 25 JUNE - 2019
Peter 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!


WEDNESDAY 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.


Saturday 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.


MONDAY 20 MAY 2019
This morning 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 seen.

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 them.
See photos and a short video at
: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma2WqLWQv50

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 birding!"


FRIDAY MAY 16 - 2019
Great Black-backed Gull chicks
The Great 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.


WEDNESDAY MAY 1 - 2019
Peter 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 sailing past.


MONDAY APRIL 15 - 2019
All was 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.


THURSDAY 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. ]


MONDAY APRIL 1 - 2019
Normal service appears to have been resumed on Slipper Millpond.

The Canada Goose is snug on its nest on the centre raft

and the Great Black-backed Gulls have returned to the south raft
where there is a good supply of nesting material.


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 yet.

Canada Geese on the centre raft

Great Black-backed Gulls on the south raft


Friday 22 March 2019
Pat Atkin 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.


Tuesday 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.

Here are shots of the two Great Black-backed Gulls. Female on left and male on right (I think)


MONDAY 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.

From previous 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.


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8 - 2019
Storm Eric 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!


THURSDAY 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

Great Black-backed Gulls return to their nesting raft on Slipper Millpond - 7 Feb 2019

For earlier records go to . . . Early years - 2012-2018