Saturday 13 April 2013

Challenging Gulls

It was great to look out of the window this morning and see blue skies. I was feeling good about the world until I reached Stoney Stanton where the higher ground had attracted fog. First off I checked out a barn that a Barn Owl has been using occasionally. Instead of a Barnie, a pair of Little owls were sitting on the roof. I watched them from my car until they disappeared from view and then set off towards Cotesbach landfill site.

Hirundines have started to appear in good numbers locally and it wasn't long before my first Swallow of the year flew past followed by three Sand Martins.

I didn't stay long at the landfill site, as many of the gulls had flown towards the Shawell A5 Lagoons and viewing is difficult from the north side in bright conditions.

Two colour-ringed LBB Gulls were on the shore at the A5 Lagoons - J1PV ringed in Norway as a pullus (chick) in 2011 and HZB an adult ringed in Gloucestershire.

Around mid-day the first of three 1st-winter Caspian Gulls appeared. 

The gull pictured below was immediately striking with its clean white head and stilt like legs. In the photo the head appears nice and snouty and the bill is dark and fairly long and slender. Pencil fine streaks were evident on the neck, which is a feature of immature Caspian Gulls. The dark brown tertials are typically white tipped (thumb nail on the tips), but the coverts are bleached and the mantle and scapulars are also faint, but still appear quite silvery. Worn faint coverts and scapulars are not unusual at this time of year. Pale edges to the greater coverts are still visible. The tail had a distinct black band and the underwings were mostly white. This bird was large and very aggressive.

The One on the Left
Aggressive or What

The second bird (photo below) appeared almost as soon as the first one disappeared. Again its white head and long legs caught my attention. The greater coverts are not as faint and worn as the previous bird. They create a faint but dark bar and there is two thin wing bars created by the pale tips to greater and median coverts. The dark anchor marks on the mantle and scapulars are quite heavy, but they probably still fall within the range of this species. The bird also appears slightly dumpy, so could it be a hybrid? The underwings were spot on for Caspian Gull as was the dark tail band.

Same as Above - Nice Kink in the Neck
I initially thought the gull below was the first one re-appearing, but what was that pale mark on its bill? A zoomed in view revealed that the pale mark was part of the bill rather than something stuck to it. This one had a very long bill and a sloping forehead. The bill colour clearly separates this one from the first one and so does the dark bar across its greater coverts. The tertials are slightly  paler than the previous birds, but the overall pattern is OK. Again this bird is long-legged and white headed. Just as with the previous two birds the underwings were mostly white. I took the opportunity to look at the underwings of some of the 1st-winter Herring Gulls when the opportunity arose and they all had greyey brown underwings.

These three are new in, as I haven't seen a 1st-winter Caspian Gull for a little while. Recently it has been all 2nd-winters. Where are these birds coming from at this time of year? Are they coming through with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls from further south? 

Constructive comments are always welcome.

Adult or 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 lagoons, 13/04/13

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