Tuesday 7 August 2012

Here We Gull Again

Over the last couple of weekends I have further immersed myself into the dark arts of gull identification. To do this I have diced with death along the narrow verge of the A5 road and entered the leafy lair that overlooks the Shawell A5 Lagoons.
A reasonable number of Yellow-legged Gulls have been present with a good spread of ages. Generally this southern counterpart of the Herring Gull is quite distinctive especially in adult plumage, but a few tricky individuals have been present.

Below is a sample of digiscoped images of some of the YLG's present over the last couple of weekends:
3CY Yellow-legged Gull (an interesting bird with retarded body plumage)
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
3CY Yellow-legged Gull
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull 
Adult Yellow-legged Gull is generally a real bruiser of a gull - large headed with a large thick bill and of course yellow legs. The mantle colour in good light is darker than all but the darkest of Herring Gulls but paler than Lesser Black-backed Gull. The primary feathers (wing tip) are extensively black and the longest primary feather (P10) has a large white mirror or tip depending on wear. The next feather (P9) usually has a smaller white mirror and with good views there is a thick black mark on P5 that is missing or very small on Herring Gull.

The juvenile pictured above was a very distinctive individual, compared to both juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull - both present on the day. The photo is heavily cropped as it was taken with my 400 mm lens due to a flat battery on my digiscoping camera. The obvious features are the pale head with the dark mask around the eye; the pale fringes to the mantle and scapular feathers and the dark brown tertials with white rather than buff fringes of LBBG's, or the notched effect of HG's. One feature not quite visible is the heavy streaking of the lower neck which contrasted with the head and upper neck. The bill was black all over and thicker than  the bills of the numerous juvenile LBBG's. 

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