Friday, 26 December 2014

Review of the Gulls at Shawell During 2014

During 2014 my fascination with gulls at Shawell continued unabated. The standout highlight for me was finding three juvenile Caspian Gulls during August. The subtle differences between the juveniles of other similar species and Caspian Gull juveniles take time and practice to appreciate.

My total gull species recorded was up by one this year thanks to a sighting of a Ring-billed Gull. In all I recorded 11 species and of these six were seen on most occasions. 

I made visits during each month and found once again that there is no gull season, as interesting gulls can turn up at the site at any time.

All gulls found by myself unless indicated otherwise.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Species Accounts:

Black-headed Gull    Chroiccocephalus ridibundus

Common throughout the year apart from June. By mid-July numbers began to build up and on the 12th 681 were recorded at the A5 Lagoons. The peak count was less than in 2013, but several gatherings of 2000+ were recorded

Five colour-ringed birds were seen: two from England and one each from Denmark, Scotland and The Netherlands 

Mediterranean Gull    Larus melanocephalus

This species remains scarce, but four was a better return than the previous two years.
  1. Adult, summer-plumage, March 15th
  2. Adult, summer-plumage, April 5th
  3. First-winter, September 17th
  4. Second-winter, December 25th (found by Steve Lister) 
Adult Mediterranean Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, April 2014

Common Gull    Larus canus

This species is never common, the maximum day counts are rarely much above 50. The highest count was 102 on April 5th.

Three colour-ringed birds were recorded: two Norwegian ringed ones and one ringed by the North Thames Gull Group at Pitsea LF, Essex in February 2013.

Ring-billed Gull    Larus delawarensis

A second-calender year was present briefly at the A5 Lagoons on March 30th. The LROS records committee has accepted this record.

Lesser Black-backed Gull    Larus fuscus

For much of the year this species is the commonest, only being outdone by Herring Gull in the very depths of winter. Counts of over 1000 are achievable during most visits. Numbers peak in spring and autumn when they are migrating to or from warmer climes. During November several counts over 2000 were made with the best being around 2400.

In total I read 179 colour-rings from 12 countries. The furthest south that any of the ones seen this year have been reported is Morocco. However, one that I saw in 2013 (orange PB4T) was seen by Leicestershire & Rutland birder John Wright in Senegal during January 2014. 

Several of the ones seen this year are fitted with data loggers. It will be interesting to see their wanderings as the data becomes available. Below is a map of the travels of one of them:

The Travels of Dutch Ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (green MAFB)
One of the Colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls From 2014

Herring Gull    Larus argentatus

Seen during all months with peaks in January and December when counts of 2000+ were made. A count of 23 on June 18th hinted at a local, so far undiscovered, breeding colony.

A probable 'omissus' or Baltic yellow legged Herring Gull was at both the lagoons and the landfill site on December 3rd. 

25 new colour-ringed birds were seen throughout the year. Of these just two were ringed away from England. An adult ringed in Finland almost 2000 km away was at the A5 Lagoons on February 18th and another adult that was ringed 2576 km in Norway was at the same location on December 29th.

A fourth-calendar year that had been colour-ringed by the North Thames Gull Group at Pitsea LF, Essex on March 10th 2012 has already made some interesting journeys - see map below. To Visit the North Thames Gull Group's website click HERE.

Sightings of Colour-ringed Herring Gull FX7T So Far

Yellow-legged Gull    Larus michahellis

Seen during all month’s with a peak in mid-summer. All ages were seen; including several juveniles that first appeared near the end of July. An impressive 12 first-calender year birds were seen on August 30th. 

Below is a chart showing the best day counts for each month of 2014. 

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 2014

Caspian Gull    Larus cachinnans

A total of 39 were recorded compared to 38 last year. No doubt some were returning birds, but many were new. This species offers many challenges and as well as the ones considered by myself to be OK, I also saw at least 12 hybrids.

Amongst them were four colour-ringed ones: two from eastern Germany and two from southern Poland. Another at Cotesbach LF site that was ringed as a Caspian Gull by the North Thames Gull Group may have been a hybrid. 

Colour-ringed Second-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 lagoons, October 2014

The most challenging are the juveniles, so it was really pleasing to identify three different ones. The first is pictured below. Juveniles are quite different to the first-winters seen later in the year. For those interested in learning more about juvenile Caspian Gulls and other age groups it is worth checking out 

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Cotesbach LF, August 2014

All Caspian Gull Sightings for 2014:
  1. Second-winter, January 11th
  2. Adult, January 18th
  3. Second-winter, January 18th
  4. Fourth-winter, February 1st
  5. First-winter, March 5th
  6. Second-winter, March 5th (also March 15th, 26th and 29th)
  7. Fourth-winter, March 8th
  8. Second-winter, March 22nd
  9. Second-winter, March 29th
  10. First-winter/summer, April 5th
  11. Juvenile, August 2nd
  12. Juvenile, August 5th, colour-ringed XDFV
  13. Juvenile, August 9th (also August 13th and 20th)
  14. Adult, August 9th, colour-ringed PADZ (also October 22nd)
  15. First-summer/second-winter, August 19th
  16. Adult, August 20th
  17. Adult, August 23rd
  18. First-winter, September 17th (also September 24th)
  19. Second-winter, October 11th, colour-ringed XNDJ (also October 18th)
  20. Adult, October 12th (also October 18th)
  21. Adult, October 18th (also October 22nd, 28th & 29th)
  22. Third-winter, October 19th
  23. Fourth-winter, October 22nd (also October 29th)
  24. Third-winter, October 28th
  25. Adult, November 1st, (female)
  26. Adult, November 1st (also November 10th)
  27. Fourth-winter, November 8th (also November 19th & 22nd)
  28. Fourth-winter, November 10th
  29. Third-winter, November 19th (also December 6th)
  30. Third-winter, November 20th (also December 6th, 11th and 13th)
  31. Adult or fourth-winter, November 26th
  32. Third-winter, November 29th
  33. Adult or fourth-winter, November 29th (also December 3rd)
  34. Adult, December 6th (short legged)
  35. Adult or fourth-winter, December 6th
  36. Fourth-winter, December 20th
  37. Third-winter, December 22nd
  38. First-winter, December 29th
  39. Adult, December 29th
Note: these are all considered to be different individuals - bill colour and unique marks plus eye colour was compared especially on adults to work out whether they were the same or not.


All presumed to be Caspian x Herring
  1. Adult, February 7th
  2. Adult, March 5th
  3. Adult, April 9th
  4. Adult, July 5th (metal ring on right leg)
  5. Second-summer/winter, August 20th (also August 23rd)
  6. Adult, November 1st, (also November 5th and 8th)
  7. Second-winter, November 10th (also November 12th & 22nd)
  8. Adult, November 20th
  9. Adult, November 22nd
  10. Fourth-winter or adult December 11th
  11. Adult, December 20th
Possible Caspian x Yellow-legged 
  1. Adult, November 29th
Adult Caspian Gull in Active Primary Moult, Shawell A5 lagoons, October 2014

Iceland Gull     Larus glaucoides

This species appears to be an annual visitor, as I have now recorded it three years in a row.
  1. Second-winter on 18th January (at both Cotesbach LF and Shawell A5 Lagoons)
  2. Adult on March 15th (Shawell A5 Lagoons)
  3. Third-winter on December 17th and 20th (at both Cotesbach LF and Shawell A5 Lagoons)

Second-winter Iceland Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, January 2014

Glaucous Gull     Larus hyperboreus

Just one record:
  1. Second-winter on January 18th (at both Cotesbach LF and Shawell A5 Lagoons)
Second-winter Glaucous Gull, Cotesbach LF, January 2014

Great Black-backed Gull    Larus marinus

Seen during every month, although a single first-summer accounted for all the sightings during June and July. Numbers peaked in January, February and December with just over 500 being recorded.

Nine colour-rings were read, mostly from England, but also from Norway. One of the Norwegian ones was ringed at Hornøya, Vardø, Finnmark. It was back there during July of this year - see map below.

GBB Gull JA929 was at Shawell on March 8th 2014

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