NATURE NOTES with Roger Thomas
With Ballarat being 70 or more kilometres from the sea, why is it that seagulls can always be seen at Lake Wendouree and other parts of Ballarat?
The Ballarat seagull is found all around the Australian coast, as well as at many places inland. While "seagull" is its usual common name, its proper name is silver gull.
Studies have shown that silver gulls move around a lot, particularly in their younger years.
It's possible that many coastal seagulls never leave the coast, but there is a report of one from coastal New South Wales being sighted at Alice Springs.
It is also possible that some of the inland gulls never see the sea. They have bred, for example, near Mildura and at other places in the Murray Valley. Others have nested in far south-west Queensland.
IN OTHER NEWS
Banded birds sighted at Lake Wendouree have originated from south-eastern South Australia and northern New South Wales.
The silver gull usually nests on islands, where it gains extra safety from foxes and other predators.
In the 1980s, there was an active nesting colony at Mullawallah Wetlands, on the western edge of Ballarat. The birds nested on islands there for several years, but the colony was then taken over by white ibises. The ibises then departed too, and neither the gulls nor the ibises returned. The ibises then started nesting at Lake Wendouree, and have done so ever since.
Silver gulls have attempted nesting on the mud islands at Lake Wendouree on only a couple of occasions, with very few pairs involved and no survivors from their efforts.
Like the ibises, silver gulls sometimes fly long distances to feed. From a large colony at Mud Islands in Port Phillip Bay, they fly up to 50km to feed at rubbish tips around the bay.
Many gulls eventually return to their birthplace to breed.
A couple of months ago there was a mottled, juvenile silver gull at Lake Wendouree that would not have been flying for long. It may have been hatched in the Werribee or Geelong areas.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to email@example.com, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.