Poole Harbour gull colony begins to recover due to police and public support

Poole Harbours Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull colony is showing signs of recovery after it was discovered last year that egg thieves had targeted the islands. Local charity ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ conducted their annual survey of the islands on Tuesday 23rd May, and was thrilled to find that the population was beginning to recover after last year’s incident. This spring the islands received police protection from the Dorset Police Marine division and both the police and the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ charity called upon the local community to be vigilant and report any unusual and suspicious behavior.

Paul Morton from the BoPH charity stated…..

This is such great news for the colony and we can’t thank Dorset Police Marine Division and the local community enough for their vigilance and support this spring. Our survey highlighted that the colony is now beginning to recover with nearly 6000 Black-headed Gull nests compared to only 2589 last year. Whilst surveying we found zero evidence of egg collecting too which is excellent ”

The much rarer Mediterranean Gull which nests in amongst the Black-headed Gulls and is a schedule 1 species, meaning it has the highest level of protection under the Wildlife and Countryside act were also thought to have had their eggs stolen last year too. Its thought egg collectors had targeted the islands to gather eggs, which would then be sold on to suppliers who sell the eggs on to high-end retailers. Black-headed Gull eggs are an expensive delicacy, which can be found on the menus of some of the top restaurants in the country, and there is a small legal, licensed market for this product during the spring, which is closely controlled by Natural England. However there is no licensed egg collecting in Dorset meaning that the collection of eggs of any kind from Poole Harbour is illegal and after it was discovered last year that the Poole Harbour colony had been targeted the police were contacted.

Joel Brookes from Dorset Police Marine Division added…

“It’s really encouraging to think that the hard work we have all put in has paid off and that the colony is recovering. I believe that the media has helped in educating people about this previously unknown problem. The proactive patrols on the water in partnership with the EA and Birds of Poole Harbour’ has certainly helped and finally the message has been put across strongly, that wildlife crime will not be tolerated”

Its thought that due to the exceptionally dry spring this year the breeding season was delayed by a few weeks meaning that some of the gulls have decided not to breed at all which has restricted the numbers. During this weeks survey the first hatched chicks were also recorded meaning that the eggs are all likely now to be ‘beyond the picking stage’ rendering any collection of eggs useless to the food and restaurant industry. For this year at least it seems the colony has evaded any illegal activity and therefor been able to grow.

Paul Morton concluded

“We’ll continue monitoring the colony each year to make sure the gulls are allowed to fully recover, but the local support has been over-whelming. We even had concerned members of the public reporting our presence on the islands yesterday morning unbeknown that we were out surveying, which just goes to show how much people have taken this issue on board”

First hatched Black-headed Gull chick of the summer

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