Gulls, Terns, Skuas

ARCTIC SKUA   Stercorarius parasiticus   Scarce passage visitor
A bird initially seen very close was watched from the Oxenhope Watchpoint as if flew north westwards into the Worth Valley on 25th September. The was ninth Group record.

ROSEATE TERN   Sterna dougallii   Increasingly uncommon migrant and summer visitor; particularly scarce inland
The description of a bird seen at Yeadon Tarn on 21st April 2014, has been accepted by the Group Records Panel, and thus becomes our first record of the species. Perhaps appropriately, it becomes the final example of several such firsts found by the late Tony Gough. 
This record is an addition to the 2014 Report.

COMMON TERN    Sterna hirundo   Passage and summer visitor and uncommon breeder.
Two birds were seen from 18th to 26th April at Yeadon Tarn and another pair was first reported at Otley Wetland from 21st April. There were numerous sightings of this latter pair throughout the summer.  On two occasions a third bird was thought to be on the reserve, but unfortunately, there were no reports of breeding.  Over a three day period in July, a juvenile briefly joined roosting gulls on the Beckfoot (Bingley) playing fields and two birds were watched as they fished in the canal at Saltaire. The final report was a bird on Soil Hill on 27th July.

ARCTIC TERN   Sterna paradisea   Uncommon passage visitor
On 4th July, a bird resting on the shore at Leeshaw Reservoir remained for another 50 minutes before flying away to the west.
KITTIWAKE    Rissa tridactyla   Uncommon passage/winter visitor
Three birds this year, the first records since 2010.  On 10th May, the first one was seen in the Riddlesden area and then on the 18th an immature bird bathed in Warley Moor Reservoir before continuing its journey northwards.   During a heavy rain shower, the final bird dropped onto Leeshaw Reservoir with several Black-headed Gulls on 20th November. Once the conditions improved it flew away to the west.

BLACK-HEADED GULL    Larus ridibundus   Common resident breeder and abundant passage/winter visitor.
Once more there were around 350 records of our commonest gull, with winter totals at roost sites attracting large four-figure totals. During the first winter period numbers at the gull roost at Swinsty Reservoir, containing both Black-headed and Common Gulls, reached 15,000 in February. Towards the end of the year numbers were again building, with daily totals of 3,500. In December, Thornton Moor Reservoir, Cononley Ings and Silsden Ings all contained sizable assemblies. At Brown Royd (Bradford), the number of birds assembling prior to roosting occasionally amounted to over 1,000.    The only reference to breeding birds was at the traditional site at Upper Barden Reservoir, when 850 birds were there in April. Juveniles were seen in that area during July and elsewhere across this area later in the summer.
A bird at Redcar Tarn on 21st October and again in early December was carrying a green colour ring with white JE09 on the right leg.  It was first ringed in a nest near Oslo, Norway on 12th June 2014 and had previously been seen on various dates at the tarn between 12th July 2014 and 13th June 2015.
MEDITERRANEAN GULL    Larus melanocephalus   Uncommon but regular winter and passage visitor.
Just four records and, as last year they were all from the same observer. Two adult birds were seen on 26th May at Redcar Tarn and a juvenile was at Lower Laithe Reservoir on 23rd July. The other two records involved single adults, both at Cullingworth Fields, in November and December.
COMMON GULL Larus canus 
Very common passage/winter visitor.
The large winter roost at Swinsty Reservoir on 20th February contained 15,000 birds. Although an accurate split between Common and Black-headed Gulls was not made, taking the proportions from 2014 as a guide, it is likely that 40% were Common Gulls. A figure of 6,000 of this species on the reservoir at the end of January is in line with this estimate. Sizeable gatherings during the second winter period were at Cullingworth Fields, where 3,200 birds were counted on 21st November, and 1500 at Thornton Moor Reservoir on 20th December.

This species is predominately a winter visitor and records in the summer months are unusual and mainly concern non-breeding birds. A 1st-winter bird was at Stockbridge on 29th June and an adult dropped onto Keighley Moor Reservoir to roost on 5th July.
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL    Larus fuscus   Common passage migrant.
This is a species that is mainly seen during the period from April to October when relocation takes place. During these months 11 three-figure totals were recorded, all of them within a relatively small area in the south, namely Cullingworth Fields, Harden Moor, Leeshaw Reservoir, Keighley Moor Reservoir, Redcar Tarn and at the watchpoint at Oxenhope. At the latter location, 1,714 birds were recorded during 34 days of observation, most of them moving south.   Roosts at Thornton Moor Reservoir were considerably down, with averages nearer to 100 than the 350 recorded during the summer of 2014.    A 1st-winter bird carrying a coloured ring inscribed VPM9 was ringed as a pullus at Hirsholm, Frederikshavn, Denmark on 9th July 2014 and was seen at Fairweather Green, Bradford on 4th March remaining in the area until the 13th. Other notable sightings included birds with the dark mantle of the Continental race (L.f.intermedius), of which 53 birds were recorded. There were ten at Brown Royd, Bradford on 28th July, seven at Redcar Tarn on 25th August and smaller numbers at both these places and at Wilsden, Leeshaw Reservoir and Cullingworth Fields at other times.
HERRING GULL    Larus argentatus   Fairly common passage migrant and winter visitor.
The dramatic increase witnessed over the past two years has continued, as reports show that this species is once again flourishing in the area. In 2012 there were 52 reports, involving 150 birds; this has now grown to 154 reports concerning 2903 birds, the highest totals since local landfill sites ceased operating around 2000. Nowadays, many birds continue to take advantage of the fields around Cullingworth, and it's clear many are now visiting two food-processing factories in the western part of Bradford. What is remarkable is that nearly all of these birds were seen within a five mile radius of Thornton and, as most birds appear to be on passage, double-counting is unlikely. 
 
At sites which were visited regularly, the picture (as supplied by KM) was as follows:
                                          Total number recorded    Highest monthly    total Monthly maxima
Wilsden                                233 (Aug. to Nov.)          135 (August)            39 on 26th Aug.
Redcar Tarn                          195 (Jan. to Dec.)           35 (October)            21 on 9th Feb.
Cullingworth                          943 (Feb. to Dec.)        363 (November)       58 on 15th Nov.
Brown Royd                           656 (Jan. to Dec.)        245 (December)      85+ on 26th Aug.
These impressive totals, particularly at sites such as Brown Royd, mark a decisive change away from the more traditional areas such as Thornton Moor Reservoir, which has always dominated past records. Other significant counts consisted of 30 birds at Swinsty Reservoir on 25th January, 19 flying over Queensbury a day later and a flock of a dozen attracted by silage cutting at Glovershaw during early July.

YELLOW-LEGGED GULL    Larus michahellis   Increasingly common and regular passage migrant.
It was a very similar picture to 2014, with 18 birds seen at seven locations; all except one bird were reported by the same observer. Seven of the gulls appeared at Redcar Tarn between May and November, these all being non-breeding birds in various stages of development - two juveniles, three 1st-winter, a 1st-summer and a 2nd-summer bird.   At Leeshaw Reservoir, what was thought to be the returning bird of 2014 (now in 2nd-summer plumage) was seen intermittently from spring to early autumn, and briefly also visited nearby Lower Laithe Reservoir. A 1st-winter bird appeared during the last week in August, and a different 2nd-summer was here in early October, also being seen at Thornton Moor Reservoir. The latter site also hosted one of the year’s few adults, in April, and a 3rd-summer bird in late June.   In Bradford, a 1st-winter, was at Girlington for three days in October, and a juvenile at nearby Brown Royd on 11th August. Finally, four different adults were in the flocks at Cullingworth Fields during late August and early September.
CASPIAN GULL    Larus cachinnans    Scarce migrant/possible winter visitor.   Addition to 2014 Report
The Group’s first records concerned three, and possibly four, different birds. A juvenile was found at Redcar Tarn on 31st July 2014, and another, a juvenile moulting into 1st-winter plumage, was there on 12th August 2014. The same location had an identifiably different 1st-winter bird on 5th September 2014, and what may have been the same one was observed briefly at nearby Cullingworth Fields the following day.
All the birds were photographed, and the records have been accepted by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union.
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