Happy new year everyone! The gull research world has been very busy lately which has made me quite neglectful of this blog since the summer field season. I just got back from another trip to Sable Island which reminded me to update you on some of our gull work.
This winter’s trip to Sable was especially cold, snowy, and WINDY which made for difficult gull catching. The Sable Island weather station recorded maximum wind gusts of more than 60 km/h on 8 of the 13 days we were out there and gusts of 93 km/h, or 50 knots, estimated on January 11th…the day we were supposed to leave but our flight was canceled. With these blowing winds the whole island feels like sand blasting in a wind tunnel and evenings are spent wiping sand from the corners of your eyes. Nonetheless, we managed to catch 12 Great Black-backed Gulls (same as last year) and deployed colour leg bands on each of them. Like last year, our captures were assisted by carcasses….of seals. The gulls are ravenous in the cold winter days so we set our traps around the dead seal pups where the gulls flock to scavenge on tasty blubbery morsels. This year’s captures were assisted by one extra rotten and extra large carcass that fed dozens of gulls at a time… a large male sperm whale had washed up on shore some time ago and was decaying in the surf while being pecked at by gulls.
Here are a few pictures to share the awesome sense of the Sable land and seascape in the cold winter months. Stay tuned to the blog over the next couple months and I’ll bring you stories of Sable gulls that have been spotted this past fall at garbage dumps, beaches, 100’s of km offshore, and even a cemetery.
Happy gull watching in the new year!