After making history earlier this month by being the first little gull chicks ever proven to definitely hatch in Britain [listen to the story here or watch here and here], all eyes have been on the two youngsters to see if they would survive to take their first flight and they have, making their parents Britain’s first ever successfully breeding little gulls.

The nest at Loch of Strathbeg has been monitored with growing excitement over the last three weeks as the tiny chicks grew larger and feathers replaced their down.

Then on last Monday (25 July), the wait was over and one was seen as it took its first flight. This has developed from a story about the first little gulls ever to definitely nest in Scotland, to the first little gull chicks ever to hatch in Britain, to now the first to fledge, as these little birds smash record after record. (photo timeline below).

                          The pair getting ready to mate. Photo by Brian Sandison.

                          The photo where we first spotted the egg.

                          Photo of one of the chicks on the nest.

                          A juvenile little gull takes to the air for the first time. Photo by Morwenna Egan.

                          And then takes a well deserved rest. Photo by Tim Marshall.

Richard Humpidge, RSPB Scotland Sites Manager, said: “We are delighted that they have taken to the air for the first time. It was exciting to have the first little gulls ever proven to hatch in Britain on the reserve, but seeing one take flight for the first time is really special. I’m sure their choice to make their home on the tern island has helped and we are thrilled that the terns seem to have had a good year too”.

Four years ago, there were just 10 pairs of common terns nesting on the island at Loch of Strathbeg. This year, thanks to the addition of the predator fence and to hundreds of hours of help from volunteers to relevel the island and add 10 tons of shingle, there’s more than 130 pairs of terns along with Britain’s first ever successfully breeding little gulls [note 3].

Before now the young birds had spent all of their time around the nest in deep vegetation and only the adult birds could be seen. Visitors to RSPB Scotland Loch of Strathbeg should now increasingly see the young birds as they fly around building up strength and improving their technique. You can still enjoy watching the adults too, with their characteristic smokey grey underwings.

                          Adult little gull flying. Photo by Graham White.