Ivory Gull Release, Stevenson Point, Ayrshire, 11.02.2019

On the 23rd January 2019, an Ivory Gull was found exhausted and underweight In a Stranraer garden due to a long journey from the arctic where it feeds on carcasses like Polar Bears. At only 368g this bird was not looking very good (Minimum weight for a female is 448g and for a male, it is 500g meaning this is most likely a female) . It was covered in feather lice but with no obvious injuries. The SSPCA were called to pick it up but were unable to identify the bird so they took it to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre who instantly knew what bird it was as they had one in 2007. Unfortunately the 2007 bird died as a result to gape worms. Since they had experienced a previous death, they were not going to take any chances so they gave this bird Antibiotics as well as a Wormer.

During its time at Hessilhead, it made a recovery. It was moved into an aviary on the 1st of February, taking regular baths. By the 6th of February it was flying really well and therefor ready to be released at a suitable location. This location was confirmed on the 8th of February. The date they decided to release it on was Monday 11th February at  Stevenson Point, Ayrshire!

I was off school that day so thanks to Andrew Russell and his dad for giving me a lift to the release location! less than 100 people gathered to witness the release! Andrew and I also met with Elliot Montieth who is a well known birder from Cheshire.

Left: Elliot Montieth, Centre: Michael Sinclair, Right: Andrew Russell (Photo Credit: Zul Bhatia)

We arrived pretty early and waited more than an hour before Hessilhead brought the gull and released it. Just before the release, volunteers from Hessilhead went and got donations from people, Then a speech was made by Hayley Douglas who had ringed the bird with a metal and a colour ring the day before. Andy and Gay (owners of Hessilhead) were also present. We all arranged our selves a good distance from the bird so we would not stress it.


Andy gave a quick speech and told us that the gull was now 600g in weight! He was the lucky one to open the box and let the bird go! When it first flew out, it landed on the grass for less than 20 seconds. It then flew to land with some other gull but was quickly chased off, It then flew around in the sky for a while before heading further down the beach to rest. It stayed for a total of about 20-25 minutes until it flew North.

Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea)
Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea)
Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea)
Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea)

It has not been seen since but hopefully gets reported at some point in the future.

We had a brilliant day and met a few familiar faces. Thanks again to Andrew and his dad for driving me about all day. Earlier on in the day we had 10 Scaup at Auchenharvie Golf Course as well as some other common birds. Finally to round off the day we stopped to see the gull roost at Strathclyde Loch. We saw Keith Hoey and Scott Black (some very good birders) and managed to photograph an Iceland Gull that they had spotted.

Scaup (Aythya marila)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Coot (Fulica)
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)

Hope this was an interesting read, Mike!

Some Social Media/ Website Links (related to this blog):

Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre: http://www.hessilhead.org.uk/

Andrew Russel: @AndyRussOrnitho

Elliot Montieth: @ElliotsPetrel

Zul Bhatia: @ZulBhatia

Author: Michael Sinclair

My name is Michael Sinclair and I’m a young naturalist from Glasgow although I can be seen all over the place doing crazy things.

2 thoughts

  1. Hi Michael.

    I’m not sure if my comment registered on your website so I’m writing again to say thank you for your post. What an interesting day for you. Great you were off school for it! A real success story and I enjoyed your account of it so much.

    Best wishes


    Sent from my iPad


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