Saturday 8 December 2012

Caspian Gulls

I offer no apologies for posting yet more Caspian Gull pictures, as the only way to really get to grips with this difficult species is to keep looking and learning. It is fascinating to compare the interest my Waxwing posts created in comparison to the ones about gulls. For some reason most of you appear to prefer pretty pictures of Waxwings?

The number of gulls visiting Shawell A5 Lagoons is on the increase. There was well over a thousand gulls at lunchtime today. An adult Caspian Gull put in a brief appearance, but didn't stay long. Resuming my search, I immediately came across another Caspian Gull - this one was a real classic individual. I identified it as a 3rd-winter due to the size of the dark mark on its bill; the lack of white tips on most of the primary feathers; the faint streaking on the  neck and the longest primary feathers (P10) showed just small white mirrors . All the standard features were there and this bird looked really sleek and had a very small head in comparison to its body. Almost all of the images I have taken of Caspian Gulls on water show they hold their heads high on an upward stretched neck. Other gull species obviously lift their heads up, but not as often as Caspians appear to. The adult re-appeared later, but photography was difficult as the light was too bright.

3rd-winter Caspian Gull
3rd-winter Caspian Gull

As well as the gulls mentioned above, I had another possible Caspian Gull. I initially identified as such due to it having a spot on primary pattern, but I became slightly unconvinced due to its pale eyes and the bill shape. I decided to ask John Wright for his  opinion and his answer has helped me with setting my own parameters for this species: 

"I wouldn't hesitate in calling that a Caspian from those two photo's. P10 is perfect, upperparts shade looks good, head shape looks good. The paler eye is not a problem. The bill length/thickness looks ok to me. The bills of Caspian Gulls are so unbelievably variable and sometimes it doesn't actually help having them too close because it can make some individuals bills look too thick". 

Pale eyed Caspian Gull (probably a female)

Pattern on P10

At least three adult Yellow-legged Gulls were also present this afternoon.
Adult Yellow-legged Gull

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