History made near Fraserburgh as little gulls hatch

Little Gull and chick at Loch of Strathbeg (PICTURE: RICHARD HUMPIDGE)
Little Gull and chick at Loch of Strathbeg (PICTURE: RICHARD HUMPIDGE)

Two tiny chicks have made Scottish history after they hatched on a nature reserve near Fraserburgh earlier this week.

Two Little Gull chicks have hatched from their eggs at Loch of Strathbeg -a few weeks after their parents nested there, the first set of Little Gulls to nest in Scotland ever.

Richard Humpidge, RSPB Scotland Sites Manager, said: “We were really excited to discover that the little gulls had successfully hatched.

It wasn’t long ago that the island was home to just 10 pairs of common terns that struggled to raise any chicks. Four years, hundreds of hours of help from volunteers and 10 tons of shingle later, there’s more than 130 pairs of terns with lots of large tern chicks and now we’ve got two tiny little gull chicks as well – a first for Britain.

“We are really pleased.”

The nest is tucked away at the back right corner of the island in dense vegetation, but the adults are regularly seen flying around.

An RSPB Scotland spokesperson said: “This is the first record of little gull chicks hatching in Britain, so everyone will be on tenterhooks for the next few weeks before they are big enough to take their first flight.

“Not that the two youngsters will be aware of the weight of expectation on their shoulders.”

It appears that the Little Gulls choice of nesting area at Loch of Strathbeg may have helped so far.

The pair have set up home on the tern nesting island which along with the protection provided by being an island, is inside a fence designed to keep out ground predators.

Add to this 130 pairs of feisty common tern parents that share the island and work together to drive off any intruders that they see as a threat it is thought that the young gulls will be relatively safe.

The visitor centre at Loch of Strathbeg is still closed for renovations, but visitors can get great views of the nesting island through the viewing screen next to the car park.

Little gulls, as their Latin name Hydrocoloeus minutus suggests, are the smallest species of gull.

Weighing not much more than a blackbird, they are often thought to more closely resemble terns than larger gulls.

They normally breed in northern Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia and Siberia. Breeding adults have jet black heads with a small dark bill, short red legs and dark smoky grey underwings that are unmistakable when the birds are in flight.