Monday 16 July 2012


I decided to abandon the Little Owls in favour of gulls this weekend. Yes, I swapped one  difficult test for another. Gulls are not easy, but the challenge can become all consuming. I'm keen to get to grips with young Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls (Larus michahellis and Larus cachinnans) this autumn, so now is a good time to start. The gulls from further south fledge earlier than the more northerly nesting species and begin to disperse earlier as a result. Shawell in Leicestershire is the nearest gull watching location for me, so I set off for the Shawell A5 Lagoons at around lunchtime on Saturday.

There was a reasonable gathering of gulls at the site when I arrived and their numbers increased, as more came from the nearby landfill site. I quickly located three Yellow-legged Gulls amongst the more numerous Lesser Black-backed Gulls - an adult and two 2nd-summers. The adult was a great bruiser of a bird, often acting aggressively towards its near neighbours. One of the two 2nd-summers had a very long bill, but it thickened at the tip and it had a noticeable Gonys angle.

The light varied quite a bit on Saturday. At times the birds were bleached by bright sunlight and at other times they darkened when the sun went behind the clouds. The mantle colour of the different gull species was most accurately determined when the light was duller. Yellow-legged Gulls have a distinct mantle colour when seen in flat light - it has a more blueish cast to it compared to Herring Gull. 

Dave Gray arrived about half an hour after me, which surprised me as I expected to be on my own this early in the gull watching season.

In addition to the birds mentioned above, Dave and I saw a good candidate for a 1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull. It was a large bird with a large bulbous tipped black bill. It was pale headed with a dark smudge around the eyes. The head shape looked good for this species  being quite rounded. The mantle and scapulars were mainly a bluey grey though some older thick dark anchor marked feathers were visible amongst the newer grey ones. The coverts were buffy and seemed to have more of a chequered pattern than the LBB Gulls of a similar age. The wing projection was shorter than the LBB Gulls and the general profile differed.
1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull
Comparison With Similar Aged LBB Gull
Your comments are welcomed, as I still have a great deal to learn about immature Yellow-legged Gulls.

I also managed to read colour rings on two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. One of them was quite interesting, as it appears that it spends its summer in Norway and winters in Spain (Black ring J7AC).

Gull colour ringing in Norway
Last CR-Code Black ring with white code: J7AC LBNW(J7AC);RBM
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number 4225817
Species Lesser Black-backed Gull (intermedius)  Larus fuscus intermedius  


06.07 2009   
Østre Klovholmen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway
58°00'57"N 007°19'54"E

05.09 2009   
Playa La Salvé, Laredo, Santander, Spain
43°24'58"N 003°26'06"W

10.09 2009   
Ría de Villaviciosa, Asturias (Oviedo), Spain
43°31'17"N 005°23'40"W

14.07 2012  
Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicester & Rutland, Great Britain
52°24'50"N 001°12'52"W

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