Week 2

After my first week in Wellington I was off to meet with my host at Unitec Institute of Technology. I am hosted for terms 1 and 2 with a Senior Lecturer Mel Galbraith in the Natural Sciences Department here. 
I've been given my own little project to do, as the university classes don't start until February 29th. I am working on establishing the age structure of the black backed gulls at Western Springs. Armed with a telescope and identification rubrics I have been sitting at Western Springs trying to determine whether birds are 1, 2, 3 or 4+ years old. This is trickier than it seems, as there is very little difference between 3 and 4+ year old birds!! However, after lots of observation I have decided that the older birds have a much brighter bill with a very bright red spot, and have pure white tails. The 3 year old birds tend to have some brown streaking on their tails. But when the birds are sitting still with their wings folded in, it's hard to see their tails!

I will also be analysing what the birds are eating, so am collecting as many samples of pellets as possible. Do you know what pellets are? The birds vomit back up what cannot be digested! So you find little piles of bones, feathers, shells etc. Some of them are rather smelly and I have to be careful to keep my hands clean afterwards! To get a good idea of what the birds are eating I have to collect as many pellets as I can. There are a couple of pictures of pellets below. Can you see what the birds have been eating? 


Black Backed Gulls at Western Springs

A Year 1 Gull

A Year 2 Gull

A 3rd Year Gull - note the lighter bill and the black on the tail feathers. 

An Adult (4+) Gull, note the pure white tail.