Sunday 13 January 2019


There's a lot of excitement at Shawell at the moment with all the lovely 'white-winged gulls' offering up some easy year ticks.

It's good to see people enjoying gulls and hopefully at least a few of the visitors will have taken away an interest in learning more about them. Gull identification takes dedication -  just an interest in getting a year tick won't help.

Before I talk about the gulls I must remind all visitors that parking is limited. There is only room for about four cars if everyone parks sensibly. A couple more cars may possibly be parked at Redlands near the entrance point. Park on the left in the entrance just before the gates. DO NOT block the gates. Use common sense and if you're told to move do so. Please remember this is a working quarry and landfill site; the road has a great deal of heavy traffic. Do NOT try to enter the landfill site or the quarry for any reason. Thank-you.

Back to the gulls - at present there is approximately 20,000 gulls at peak times around Shawell, but not always in locations that can be viewed. When they all come into view it is breath taking. A falconer is employed to scare the gulls and when one of his falcons is in the air it is wonderful to hear the sound made by all those wings as they wheel one way and then the other to evade the falcons talons.

It isn't just the 'white-wingers' that interest me, but there are fascinating birds even amongst the most common species. With practice you can separate many of Herring Gulls into the argentatus and argenteus subspecies. It is great to see very fresh juvenile Herring gulls from far to the north and the adults too.

A Large argentatus Herring Gull

Fresh First-Winter Herring Gull
Caspian Gulls are popular, but most birders really struggle with these. An apprenticeship with the commoner species is really useful, as it enables the observer to spot subtly different species like Caspian Gull. At Shawell adult Caspian Gulls are the least common with first-winters being the most regular. With so many gulls coming to the sandpit off Gibbet Lane it can be difficult to see the Casps from the Herrings, but with practice it becomes easier.

Third-Winter Caspian Gull
Today the weather was very poor and there was no tipping, however, a couple of Glaucous Gulls were around including a new juvenile and I showed four Caspian Gulls to some of the visiting birders.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, January 12th 2019
Second-Winter Glaucous Gull January 12th 2019

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