Where to watch Mediterranean Gull rings in Hampshire (UK) ?
Mediterranean gulls at Badminston Gravel Pit, by Paul WinterBadminston Gravel Pit has, in spring 2009, become the best place in Hampshire (UK) to see Mediterranean Gulls and read their colour-rings. Within the New Forest Natural Park, less than 2km from the coast, and surrounded by pig fields, the fresh water of the excavated gravel workings acts as a magnet for the gulls.
How to get thereFrom M27 Junction 2 (Ower) take the A326 south towards Fawley and Calshot. Just before Fawley village (c.12 miles from Ower) the road becomes the B3053. Drive past Fawley village and shortly after the speed limit goes from 40 to 50 you see the first entrance to Fawley Power Station (on your left). About 100m further on at c.SU464024 turn right into Badminston Lane (obvious signs for Badminston Garage). Park near the garage, walk on southwest past the garage, around the metal 5 bar gate and after 100m bear left at the NW corner of the pit. Walk along the track 200m until the pines disappear and there are gaps in the gorse at c.SU462018.
The gulls are usually at least 80m away (main pit is c.280m across) so a telescope is necessary.
When to visitThe best times of year to see Mediterranean Gulls at Badminston GP are pre-breeding gatherings in spring (March to the 3rd week of April) and June / July when immatures and then post breeding adults gather.
The summer gatherings were first noted in 2007 with 105 birds on 10th June (3ad, 32ss, 70fs) and then again in 2008 with 174 present on 2nd July (including 36fs) with nine colour-rings read and reported.
There was a maximum of 45 in spring 2008 but in 2009 numbers rose from c.30 present throughout the winter to 251 on 21st March, a record 554 on 1st April and still 448 on 14th April. At least 47 different colour-rings have been read and reported between 21st March and 14th April 2009 with a maximum of 21 colour-ringed birds in a flock of c.450 in a 3 hour session.
The best time of day seems to be from late morning through to mid afternoon - particularly when large high tides push the birds off the nearby beaches at Lepe and Inchmery. Sunlight will be to the side or behind you at these times making viewing easier.
Mediterranean Gulls can be found feeding with the other local gulls in the pig fields nearby and towards Lepe. Obtaining an accurate count is not usually a problem but reading rings can be difficult and frustrating! There is a public footpath through the middle of the gravel pit and occasionally walkers and/or dogs will put all the birds up and it will be quiet for a while!
Nearby sitesIn winter the gulls when disturbed from the pit sometimes fly to rest on Badminston Common when it is flooded. At all times of year they also fly SSW across to Lepe and the River Darkwater. The birds are too distant at Darkwater to read rings but low tide can be productive at Lepe foreshore. There were 5 CR birds amongst 84 Mediterranean Gulls there on 28th Feb 2009. There were 240 Mediterranean Gulls at Lepe on 1st March 2009 and 300+ at Inchmery three days later. At both these sites sunlight can be difficult for reading rings and the Lepe foreshore is popular with much disturbance. A little further west Mediterranean Gulls gather in spring off the sea wall at Pennington in the afternoon at low tides. A short distance east from Badminston is Titchfield Haven which had over 320 Med Gulls in April 2008 although numbers are considerably lower in 2009 as the birds are using Badminston GP.
The futureThe restoration plan for the GP is a gradation of heathland in the west to agriculture in the east, i.e. to fill in the pit where the Mediterranean Gulls gather!. The operator has raised the possibility of varying the current restoration to include a water body. It would be useful if visitors to Badminston GP send all their key sightings to Hampshire Ornithological Society and records of any colour-rings either to the coordinators as found at the Mediterranean Gull Official Website or via the BTO - hopefully the information will help preserve Badminston GP as a hotspot for Mediterranean Gulls.
Links to sites mentioned on the page
Hampshire Ornithological Society
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