Friday, 25 October 2013

A Couple of Interesting Immature Yellow-legged Gulls

During my trip to Portugal in late September and early October I photographed a couple of immature colour-ringed Yellow-legged Gulls, which I identified correctly. However, I had a few lingering doubts. The first one was in juvenile plumage, which was unusual as all the other first year Yellow-legged Gulls had made good progress towards first-winter plumage. The fact that it had been taken into care might well be the reason for it still being in juvenile plumage as stressed birds often stall their moult. 

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Azorean Gull in Portugal

Last year I found a Yellow-legged Gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicestershire, which showed extensive head streaking and a primary pattern that resembled that of an Azorean Gull Larus michahellis atlantis, also known as Atlantic Gull. In the end I concluded that this gull was not an L. m. atlantis, but more likely a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis from a western population due to its upper parts being too pale.

I was, however, intrigued by the gull at Shawell and other sightings of probable  L. m. atlantis seen in the UK, so I decided to visit the Algarve in Portugal to study Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis present there in autumn. I based myself at Praia da Rocha, close to the fishing harbour at Portimao. This site is excellent, as it is easy to study gulls at close quarters.

During my second visit to the fishing harbour, on October 1st, I spotted a very distinctive gull, which I immediately felt was a good candidate for being an Azorean Gull L. m. atlantis

Azorean Gull L. m. atlantis

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Second-winter Caspian Gulls

Three different second-winter Caspian Gulls have graced Shawell A5 Lagoons over the past couple of weeks. Each bird had a different bill pattern and slightly different plumage. Photography was difficult due to the light and the distance involved.

The video below is great for seeing them just as I did. The poor light made it difficult to re-produce the grey on the mantle and scapulars as I saw it through my scope, but the first one on the bank shows how pale silvery grey they are. The first one is preening its breast in front of an out of focus piece of vegetation.

The last bird shows more contrast in the plumage than the other two and its dark bill adds to this effect. Check out the white underwings as it takes off. Other large gulls species will have more brown on the underwings at this age. 

The first two are typical of 2nd CY Caspian Gulls at this time of year, but the third one appeared more advanced except for the all dark bill.

Head size appears to be variable amongst Caspian Gulls with some birds having noticeably small heads whereas some not so. Studying photographs, it may be that the head size decreases the further east they come from. Chris Gibbin's photographs of Caspian Gulls from the Ukraine seem show them having larger heads than those from Azerbaijan - see the list of blogs that I follow for a link to Chris's blog. I have seen some really small headed Casps with the one in the video HERE having a small head. It is impossible to know where most of our birds are coming from, but there have been some colour-ringed Polish birds in the county. Unfortunately there are supposed to be quite a lot of hybrids in Poland!

As always feel free to offer any comments or disagreements: 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Gallery of CR Gulls From Portugal

As I've already mentioned, during my trip to Portugal I read the plastic colour rings on 60 gulls.

Below is a selection of photos of some of these birds starting with my favourite image:

Lesser Black-backed Gull, J6UX, Norwegian Ringed, Regular Records from Spain and Portugal in Winter 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Yellow-legged Gulls in Southern Portugal

As I've already mentioned, while I was in Portugal I wanted to take a good look at the Yellow-legged Gulls. These gulls should look similar to the ones we see in Leicestershire, but I was expecting to see some un-familiar ones from further north and west. 

Most of them did look the same as the ones that turn up at various sites here in Leicestershire, but some had similar streaking on the head and neck to Herring Gulls at this time of year and maybe a more Herring Gull look about them. 

Below is a selection of Yellow-legged Gulls taken in southern Portugal during late September and early October 2013. The first five are of adult birds that to me are not typical of the birds we see in the UK: 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Portugal Trip Report

I jumped at my good ladies suggestion that we should try Portugal for a late summer holiday. A few Jedi mind tricks helped her choose the destination, which as look had it was close to some renowned gulling sites. On September 27th we flew from East Midlands airport to Faro. From Faro we were transferred to our hotel at Praia da Rocha, near to Portimao. Azure-winged Magpies teased as they flew overhead in groups of up to 30 at times. White Storks and Cattle Egrets were seen seen feeding in roadside fields.

It was dark shortly after we arrived, so we found a suitable watering hole and then crashed out for the night. The following morning dawned a little overcast, but I headed in search of gulls and the location where we would be picking our hire car up from. I soon found a group of gulls on the beach and amongst them was two colour ringed Lesser Black-backs. I'll bore you in another posting about all the colour ringed birds seen on the trip.

Gulls on the Beach at Praia da Rocha
At 10 o'clock we collected our nice little Seat Ibizia and then a trip to the nearby small town called Alvor was the order of the day. Here we enjoyed a walk on the beach and the boardwalks that allow good views over the estuary. Four Med Gulls were seen: an adult and three second-winters. The estuary held good numbers of waders. It was similar to a day out to Titchwell to be honest, although a couple of Caspian Terns brightened up the day. Crested Larks flitted about as did migrant Wheatears. I turned to Dawn and said I'd be surprised if we didn't see a shrike on those distant bushes and right on cue one appeared - an Iberian Grey Shrike. She initially accused me of stringing, but accepted I was right after setting my scope up and making her look through it. This was the only shrike we saw along the coast.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013


I've just returned from an excellent trip to Portugal, based in the Algarve.

The birding was great with many highlights including somewhere in the region of 100 Booted Eagles and other raptors circling overhead.

I couldn't leave the gulls alone and ended up reading 60 different colour ring readings.

I am overwhelmed with paperwork as a result, but I will write a full trip report shortly.

The gull below was ringed by Peter Stewart, whose gulls regularly turn up at Shawell, so I was pleased to see it. The pose is great don't you think?

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Portimao, Portugal