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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS NESTING
ON SLIPPER MILLPOND, EMSWORTH 2012 - 2017

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
They nested again on the same raft in 2013 producing three youngsters.

Year 2014
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
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
They were not deterred by this experience and 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
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.

Here are the nesting records with photos of the Great Black-backed Gulls in reverse chronological order. Please scroll down to get to earlier years. Note some of the early records are not complete.


* * * NESTING RECORDS FOR 2017 * * *
. . . in reverse chronological order . . .

. . .


WEDNESDAY JULY 12 - 2017 - The gulls have left
The Great Black-backed Gulls have finally left the pond. The south raft where they nested is empty. The youngsters must have fledged since I was last here.


MONDAY JULY 3 - 2017
for the two Great Black-backed Gull chicks, they were alone on the south raft, though one of their parents was perched on a chimney pot on Slipper Road, keeping an eye on them. I got the impression that the adult was trying to encourage the chicks to fly. While I was taking photos of the chicks from the west path this adult swooped down low, right over my head. This was the first time I have been 'buzzed' this year, though it has happened in previous years. Quite scary!


THURSDAY JUNE 22 - 2017
The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft with one of the parents. Both looking healthy and stretching their wings. They must be very close to flight.


TUESDAY JUNE 13 - 2017
I had a quick look at the Great Black-backed Gull nesting raft at about 12.30 where I found both chicks on the water swimming around the raft, not straying too far. I watched them clamber back onto the raft which was not an easy task. Both parents were present on the raft, apparently unconcerned.

The lady who lives in the mobile home opposite the raft told me they two chicks had been swimming for a couple of days, but never far from the raft. She also told me that two lads swam out to the raft at the weekend which disturbed all four birds, but they all returned to the raft after the lads left and no harm was done.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 7 - 2017
The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft with one of the parents. Both chicks look healthy and were flapping their wings when I was there, so I assume it will be not much longer before they take their first flight. The adult in this shot is demonstrating just how to do it. There is still no sign of any Coot chicks anywhere on the pond which suggests they have been taken by the gulls.



The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the south raft with their two chicks. The following photo show one of the two adults feeding morsels of regurgitated food to the chicks. Both chicks look healthy and are growing fast.

I spoke to a lady whose caravan home directly overlooks the nesting raft and she told me there were definitely three chicks at first, though one was quickly lost.


THURSDAY MAY 18 - 2017
I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where the Great Black-backed Gull chicks were asleep on the nesting raft with a parent keeping a watchful eye on them from the roof of the old Coot nest box while the other parent was on the water nearby. The chicks have to be especially careful not to fall off the raft as they would quickly become waterlogged and drown. This happened to a two chicks a couple of years ago. Unlike cygnets and goslings, the plumage of gull chicks is not waterproof.


TUESDAY MAY 16 - 2017
The Great Black-backed Gull chicks were being tended by one of the parents while the other had left to get food from the harbour. The box on the raft, originally intended for nesting Coot, has come in useful for the gull chicks as a shelter from the elements.


SUNDAY MAY 14 - 2017 - Two chicks hatched
When I arrived at Slipper Millpond the chicks had already hatched, presumably this morning, and were being closely cosseted by their parents. There are definitely two chicks and maybe a third.

The presence of two chicks is a bit clearer on this video clip at . . . https://youtu.be/rSEf2IdZEkY

I was interested to watch the newly hatched chicks interacting with their parents, with one chick pecking the red spot on the bill of the adult to promote regurgitation of food which it did, though I can't see the chick coping with an item that size.


SATURDAY MAY 13 - 2017
I had a phone call late this afternoon from Sharon Corbett, whose house overlooks Slipper Millpond, to say that five Canada Geese goslings had hatched today on the centre raft which is where the Great Black-backed Gulls have nested for the past 4 years until they were ousted by the Canadas.

Meanwhile, the Great Black-backed Gull is still sitting on the south raft, but she should be very close to hatching.


TUESDAY APRIL 25 - 2017
The Canada Goose is still sitting on a nest on the centre raft. The Great Black-backed Gull is on her nest on the south raft, right beside a luxurious plant of Sea Beet.


TUESDAY APRIL 19 - 2017 - Take-over complete!
Over on Slipper Millpond there was a Canada Goose apparently sitting on a nest on the centre raft, where the Great Black-backed Gulls have nested for the previous 4 years. The take-over looks complete.
The ousted Great Black-backed Gulls are now nesting on the much smaller south raft for the first time, though this is their 5th year running nesting on the pond.


WEDNESDAY APRIL 12 - 2017 - Great Black-backed Gulls ousted!
The Canada Geese are now settled on the centre raft and the Great Black-backed Gulls have been relegated to the south raft. There is no sign of nesting from either.


MONDAY APRIL 10 - 2017 - Nest site take-over?
Brian Lawrence went to Slipper Millpond where he found two Canada Geese on the centre raft and the two Great Black-backed Gulls on the south raft.

Does this indicate a take-over of the centre raft, where the Great Black-backed Gulls have nested for the past 4 years, by these Canada Geese? Surely, the big gulls could see off these larger, but more docile, birds. Clearly, something is happening. Watch this space!


THURSDAY MARCH 30 - 2017
The Great Black-backed Gulls were both present on the centre raft, though it is still a little early for nesting which on the basis of previous years I would expect in the second week of April. But you never know! One bird was snuggled down when I arrived while its mate was in the water nearby. When the second bird came onto the raft it was greeted with a loud cawing, which is promising.

For more photos and the history of their nesting in Emsworth go to . . .


TUESDAY MARCH 14 - 2017
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were both ensconced on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. As far as I could see, there has been no nesting activity as yet, but with both birds present this cannot be too long away.


SUNDAY FEBRUARY 12 - 2017
The pair Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond, no doubt sounding out their nesting site for the coming year. This is the first time this year I have seen both birds on the pond. There are no wires to contend with, so all looks plain sailing for them.


SUNDAY JANUARY 22 - 2017
One of the breeding Great Black-backed Gulls was back on the partially frozen Slipper Millpond along with a variety of other gulls. The gulls often recce their nesting area in the winter months. The centre raft is ready and waiting for them!


* * * NESTING RECORDS FOR 2016 * * *
. . . in reverse chronological order . . .

THURSDAY JULY 21 - 2016
The first thing I noticed about the pond was how peaceful it was. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls or their youngsters from this year's nest. However, when I looked more closely at the centre raft, I could see the corpse of one of the juvenile gulls slumped over the edge of the raft, seemingly having got its head jammed between two boards.

I spoke to Pam Phillips later who said the gulls had left the pond a few days ago, but returned from time to time. She did not know anything about the dead juvenile.

With the departure of the Great Black-backed Gulls the other pond wildfowl are having a field day! First Brendan Gibb-Gray told me he had seen a Coot family with two chicks near his house in Chequers Quay. He thought they nested in the reeds rather than on the rafts. I found them feeding behind the Chequers Quay building, hopefully out of harm's way, though one never knows what is round the corner.

There was also a female Mallard with a little troop of 5 ducklings on the east side of the pond.
Finally, the Mute Swan family with three cygnets appeared from the culvert under the road. Good to know they are still doing well. Pam Phillips says she often sees them sleeping on the island on Peter Pond.


WEDNESDAY JULY 13 - 2016
When I arrived on my bike, members of the Slipper Millpond Association were working on the east side of the pond to reinforce the bank against erosion. Two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls were on the nesting raft with one adult. The other juvenile gull was on the water nearby.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 8 - 2016
The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the centre raft with one of their parents, the other parent being on the water nearby. The chicks were taking a drink while I was present, were growing and looked healthy.


FRIDAY JUNE 3 - 2016
I had a quick look at the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond at about 1pm. All was quiet when I arrived with the three chicks snuggled down in the vegetation. As I watched, one of the adults arrived with a large Eel. How on earth did it catch that? It proceeded to regurgitate the Eel though it was clearly far too large for the chicks to swallow. So the adult consumed it him/herself and slipped into the water to help it down. Here is the story in pictures.

Meanwhile the three chicks went to the edge of the raft for a drink - be careful little fellers otherwise you could meet the same fate as your siblings last year.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 1 - 2016
I could definitely see three chicks; previously I had only seen two and thought they had lost one, but no, there were definitely three. While I was there the male parent came in with food for the chicks.

I was pleased to watch the feeding process which involved the adult regurgitating whatever it was he had caught for the chicks to consume. The female meanwhile, sat patiently on the other end of the raft, taking no part in the feeding.

At the end, the male slipped off the raft into the water for a wash.


TUESDAY MAY 24 - 2016
I could only see two Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the centre raft with their parents. Both were moving around, but there was no sign of the third that Mike Wells got on camera on May 20. I fear one could have been lost.


MONDAY MAY 23 - 2016
The Great Black-backed Gulls were present on the centre raft when I visited this afternoon and I could just see two chicks. Three chicks were seen last week by Mike Wells, but the vegetation on the raft is so dense that the other one could easily have been hidden.


FRIDAY MAY 20 - 2016
The big news while I was away on the Isle of Wight was the hatching of three Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. I am grateful to Mike Wells for sending me a nice photo of the chicks. I hope they are still there!


MONDAY MAY 16 - 2016
I carried on to Slipper Millpond to check on the Great Black-backed Gull nest, as this was my predicted hatching date. However, there was no change; the female was still sitting tight on the nest with no sign of any activity beneath her while her mate waited patiently beside her.


TUESDAY APRIL 12, 2016
At first there were no Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft, but they both turned up while I was there and proceeded to display and to mate. When I left one gull was sitting on the nest, presumably laying eggs as mating is still happening.


THURSDAY APRIL 7 - 2016
The Great Black-backed Gulls are nesting again on Slipper Millpond for the 5th year running. What I assume was the female bird was sitting on a nest of twigs on the end of the centre raft with its mate on the water nearby. I last checked on Apr 3 when neither of the gulls was on the pond, so the nesting and laying must have occurred in the intervening period. Incubation takes 27-28 days, so hatching is predicted for May 2-5. This is about the same date as the expected hatching of the Mute Swan eggs, so that could be interesting! This morning, the Mute Swan was snug on her nest in the reeds on the east side of the pond. Coots are also nesting on the north raft.


WEDNESDAY MARCH 30, 2016
Great Black-backed Gulls are back!
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft where they have nested for the past 4 years and there seems little doubt that they intend to do the same this year, particularly as the deterrent wire structure has been removed. However, they have not settled down to nesting as yet, though it can't be long before they do.

I was pleased to meet Sharon again who lives on Slipper Road overlooking Slipper Millpond. Sharon was the person who informed me about the drowning of the Great Black-backed Gulls chicks last year when they fell off the nesting raft. I asked her to keep an eye on the gulls again and to let me know when they start nesting and any other activity of interest. I am sure they will be getting up to some mischief as they have done in the past.

 


* * * NESTING RECORDS FOR 2015 * * *
. . . to be completed . . .


* * * NESTING RECORDS FOR 2014 * * *
. . . to be completed . . .

THURSDAY APRIL 24, 2014
Great Black-backed Gulls are nesting again!
I had an e-mail from Nick Medina from the Slipper Millpond Preservation Society this morning to say the Great Black-backed Gulls were back nesting on the centre raft of the pond despite the best efforts of the group to deter them by installing wires and canes across the rafts. Nick says they cannot take any further action against the nesting as this would be in violation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
When I passed this morning the female was settled snugly on a nest of twigs underneath a network of wires with her mate on the water nearby. So, we are back to square one. The other nesting birds on the pond will need to be extra vigilant to protect their young from predation from the gulls. Info sent to SOS Sightings.


SUNDAY MARCH 2 2014
Great Black-backed Gulls are back!
The pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls were on the pond at about 10.30 this morning. While I was there, one of the gulls flew around a few times then headed towards the harbour.

The other gull remained on the water bathing. I can now see clearly that both the small rafts have also been wired as a deterrent to the gulls.


SATURDAY MARCH 1 2014
Great Black-backed Gulls are back
The Great Black-backed Gulls were back on Slipper Millpond despite the new wiring structures to deter them. But will they nest?

The photo shows the two gulls on one of the small rafts and not the large central one which has been extensively wired to deter them from nesting there this year. This small raft has also been wired, though I doubt of they would try to nest on this one, but you never know. So, watch this space!


* * * NESTING RECORDS FOR 2013 * * *
. . . in reverse chronological order . . .

MONDAY DECEMBER 15 - 2013
Wiring of the gull nesting raft
The wooden framework on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond had been completed and what looked like wires wewre stretched across the whole length of the raft. Two Cormorants were on the raft, one perched on a cross trestle, so clearly they have not been detered by the structure.

But what about the Great Black-backed Gulls? There was no sign of them this morning. However, I had an e-mail from Nick Medina this to say at 1,30pm he had seen two Great Black-backed Gulls circling the raft and making a lot of noise but not landing. So, it looks as if it might be working. Here is the design of the structure for the raft from Nick Medina.


THURSDAY DECEMBER 12 - 2013
Deterring the Great Black-backed Gulls
I was interested to see a couple of chaps from the Slipper Millpond Preservation Association constructing a low wooden framework on the centre raft which presumably will hold a cover as a barrier to the future nesting of the Great Black-backed Gulls.


FRIDAY AUGUST 2 - 2013 - All gulls have left the pond

All is quiet and peaceful on Slipper Millpond now the Great Black-backed Gulls have left with their three youngsters. The Mute Swan family that nested on Peter Pond swim quietly around the pond with their one remaining cygnet (the other 7 were lost to various causes) while the Coots scuttle about in their busy fashion with the occasional skirmishes when they get too close. Cormorants are also back on the centre raft which will be their home for the winter period.

I have suggested to the Slipper Millpond Association that they try to discourage the Great Black-backed Gulls, possibly by moving the centre raft, where they have nested for the past two years, to the edge of the pond. Although these are truly magnificent birds, their presence has unbalanced the ecology of this small pond.


JULY 23 - 2013
I could only see two of the three Great Black-backed Gull chicks on Slipper Millpond, which suggests that they are now becoming more mobile and that one has left the pond. However, on the basis of last year's experience I expect it to return. One of the chicks was on the north raft near the bridge and while I was watching one of its parents arrived and literally grabbed the youngster by the scruff of the neck and flung it into the water. Clearly, the intention was to get the young bird to get moving. The effect on the chick was to send it scuttling over to the wall next to the Chequers Quay buildings where it was still cowering when I left.

Cormorants are back on the centre raft now that the Great Black-backed Gulls have vacated it; there were 6 there this morning.


SUNDAY JULY 21 - 2013 - Cygnet attacked
I had a phone call last night from a resident of Slipper Road to say that one of the two Mute Swan cygnets was badly injured near Chequers Quay on Slipper Millpond. I also had an e-mail from Brendan Gibb-Gray who lives in Chequers Quay with the same news. He said local residents had done what they could, but to no avail. Both thought the cygnet had been attacked by one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks which had been in this area during the day. This is no surprise as the chicks are now large and fairly mobile birds and will be developing their predatory instincts.

The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were near the north raft on this photo with an adult

I shall be recommending to the Slipper Millpond Association that the centre raft where the gulls have nested for the past two years is moved to the side of the pond so as to deter them from nesting there next year. Although they are magnificent birds their presence has unbalanced the ecology of the pond to the extent that no other birds have been able to nest successfully on the pond, in particular Coots, Mallard and Mute Swans. They are just too big for our small pond!


JULY 19 - 2013 - Great Black-backed Gull chicks
Two of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the centre raft in company with 6 Cormorants. The other chick was on the north raft begging for food from a visiting adult as shown in this photo.


JULY 12 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull chicks being fed
The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were still on the north raft which is where I saw them yesterday evening. While I was there one of the adults came in with some food for the chicks. The chicks are now growing fast and I saw one make a short flight of a metre or so from the raft. It will not be long before they are fully fledged, though I suspect they will remain on the pond for a while. They certainly are very big birds!


JULY 11 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull chicks
The 3 Great Black-backed Gull chicks had migrated onto the north raft which the two chicks also did last year. One of the two adult Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft along with two Cormorants and the other one was on the water. Here are the chicks basking in the evening sunshine on the north raft.


JULY 5 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull family with the 3 chicks

The Mute Swan family with 3 cygnets was at the far end of the pond near the sluice gate. Don't go too close! The Great Black-backed Gull family with the 3 chicks now growing fast showed well on the centre raft along with one of the parents.


JUNE 25 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull attacks Cormorant
Tom Bickerton told me about a violent confrontation he witnessed over the weekend between the Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft and a visiting Cormorant. The match, of course, was quite unequal and the Cormorant was driven off with 'its tail between its legs'.

Tom also saw one of the gull chicks taking a Coot chick 'in one gulp'. That must have been one of the Coot's second broods. I wonder if they could get a cygnet down in one gulp? Interestingly, Tom says with the arrival of large shoals of cuttle fish in the harbour, there is actually plenty of natural food for the gulls, though the presence of a live Coot chick nearby is clearly beyond their temptation. Tom thinks stopping feeding of the Coots and swans would help, but there is no way to control this.


JUNE 7 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls with their 3 chicks
The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond with their 3 chicks, one of which was on the water.


THURSDAY MAY 30 - 2013
Three Great Black-backed Gull chicks
The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were clearly visible on the centre raft this morning from Slipper Road. One of the chicks looks less active and well developed than the other two and tended to remain hidden in the vegetation. This is the one on the left in the photo. Last year the gulls lost one of their three chicks, so this scenario could happen again.

While I was taking photos from Slipper Road, one of the adult gulls repeatedly 'buzzed' me, by flying over my head with aggressive calling, 'ga, ga, ga, ga' . I recall, this also happened last year. It was interesting that a pair of Mallards that were on the raft throughout my visit were tolerated by the adult gull.


SATURDAY MAY 25 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull chicks
I went down to Slipper Millpond with the scope at about 9am this morning. From the western path I could clearly see three Great Black-backed Gull chicks in the nest on the centre raft. The photo clearly shows two of the chicks beneath the gull on the left which I think is the male from the relative size of its bill. The third chick is tucked away deeper in the nest and is not visible. I went down to have another look this afternoon at about 4pm and again clearly saw the three chicks. They also had three chicks last year, but they lost one.


 FRIDAY MAY 24 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gull chicks
Sharon, whose house in Slipper Road overlooks Slipper Millpond, phoned to say that two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the raft, hatching one day earlier than I predicted. I popped down in the car with the scope, but could only find one; the other must have been snuggled under its parent's body; not surprising since the weather was foul, cold wet and windy. But despite the conditions I managed to get a digiscoped pic.


FRIDAY APRIL 26 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls nesting
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond this morning, one bird (female) was sitting on a nest while the other (male) did some repairs to the nest.


WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls nesting
The gulls are now sitting on a nest on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. This is the first time I have seen one actually sitting on a nest of twigs. Interestingly, it is almost precisely the same date that I first saw one on the nest last year (Apr 27).


SUNDAY APRIL 14 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls mating
Passing Slipper Millpond Jean and I noted the presence of the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, one standing and the other sitting, but not obviously on a nest. On our way back from Thorney we happened to catch the gulls in the act of mating. This is the first time I have seen this dramatic event with these large birds.

Roger and Linda Mills also saw the two gulls mating last Thursday (April 11) on the north raft. So, they are clearly enjoying themselves!


WEDNESDAY APRIL 10 - 2013 -
Great Black-backed Gulls nesting
The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft with one apparently sitting on a nest of twigs. This is the first confirmed date of nesting. This is earlier than last year when my first sighting of one sitting was 27-Apr.

Here is what I assume is the female sitting on a nest of twigs


SUNDAY MARCH 31 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls return
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, both sitting, but not, so far as I could see, on a nest. But, clearly they are back for a second nesting season!

Pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond


SATURDAY MARCH 2 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls return
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was back on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, looking as if they intended to stay! There was no sign of the Lesser Black-backed Gull that was on the pond yesterday. Two's company three's a crowd!


MONDAY FEBRUARY 25 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls are back
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond today, one was standing, the other sitting on what could have been a nest but I could not see it clearly.


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 22 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls are back
The Great Black-backed Gulls were back on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond this morning. These two adults have been regular visitors to Slipper Millpond over the winter. I could not see any signs of a nest, but their intention is clearly to nest on the raft again for the second year running.


SUNDAY JANUARY 27 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls visiting
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on their nesting raft in the centre of the pond with three Cormorants. They have been regular visitors this winter and are clearly intending nesting there again this year.


SUNDAY JANUARY 13 - 2013
Great Black-backed Gulls on the pond
The two adults have been regular on the pond this winter, no doubt staking out their territory,


* * GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS NESTING - 2012 * *
. . . in chronological sequence . . .

A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls nested, probably for the first time ever in Emsworth, on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond in 2012. It was a fascinating experience to watch the progress of these magnificent birds, through nest building, laying, sitting, hatching, tending to the young and finally fledging. It did not all go smoothly and they had some hard times as the weather was awful. However, they came through it all and good luck to them.

I checked the nest site on a daily basis. Viewing the nest was very easy from either side of the pond, though most of my photos were taken from the east side. I kept everyone fully informed of progress through the wildlife 'blog' and via the fortnightly Brook Meadow Conservation Group e-mail newsletter. I had to convince some local sceptics that they were a benefit to the ecology of the pond, but most people soon appreciated the fact that a unique wildlife event was taking place in our town.

Nest building started on about April 22 and was finished by April 24 when this first photo was taken. The female at the back of the raft is sitting on the nest of twigs and dry grasses while the male stands guard.

Three eggs were laid around April 31st and for the next four weeks the two birds took it in turns to sit on the nest , sometimes in very wet and windy weather and other times in blazing hot sunshine. There is no shelter on the pond! But they stuck at it.

As shown in the following photo the gulls were not averse to sharing the raft with the occasional Mute Swan. The female is on the nest behind the swan. The Coot persevered in the nest box on the left of the raft and actually produced at least one chick, though, not surprisingly, it did not survive. I also noticed a Common Sandpiper on the raft on one occasion. I hope it survived!

Gulls were usually driven off as shown in the next photo. A great shot by Tony.

Three chicks were hatched about May 30th and here they are having a look around their new home the following day.

The weather in June was absolutely awful with rain and srong winds. That was when Bridge Road was flooded for the second time. The Great Black-backed Gull parents stuck to their task, but one of the chicks succumbed to the cold and wet conditions. However, the other two came through the ordeal and looked healthy as shown in the following photo.

The chicks were developing quickly and by the time they were 4 weeks old were already developing their juvenile plumage and flexing their wings. But fledging would not be for some while yet.

Meanwhile, Cormorants started to gather on the raft and with these numbers there was not much the gulls could do about it. In fact I saw no aggression and the two species seemed to tolerate each other.

By the middle of July the juvenile gulls were making short flights from the raft. They gradually became more and more adventurous. Here is one of the juveniles showing off its new skill.

The family finally left the pond in early August some four months after the nest was established. What a privilege it was to watch them at such close quarters. Earlier in the nesting I was frequently 'buzzed' by one of the adults while watching from Slipper Road, with the gull mewing and swooping farily low over my head. I felt it was more a gesture than a serious threat and I was never in any danger of being hit.

Two adults and the youngsters frequently returned to the pond in following months. However, they were more often seen in the main harbour. Sometimes the juveniles migrated onto the town millpond where they shared the food being thrown to the gulls, ducks and swans.

Here is one of the adults back on the centre raft with the Cormorants. I often see one of the adults on the pond, sometimes with a juvenile, but they do not stay. They seem to be based in the main harbour.


Winter visiting by Great Black-backed Gulls

The Great Black-backed Gulls have remained regular visitors to Slipper Millpond throughout the autumn and into winter. Today (Nov 26) an adult Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft along with 4 Cormorants. This is most likely one of the paiur that nested here this summer. They appear to have taken up residency, though without threatening any of the other birds on the pond. I wonder if they will nest again next year?