Monday 30 October 2023

Caspian Gull & Yellow-legged Gull type (or is it?)

Some rather enjoyable Sunday gulling!

Not something I necessarily foresaw myself writing when I first got into birds over 20 years ago, but this year I've easily spent more time scouring gulls than any other group of birds. With the dodgy weather I thought I'd chance a visit to Tower Hide between deliveries, and aimed for low tide. However, with all the floodwater the river was pretty full, hardly any mud, and essentially no gulls; they were on nearby fields instead. As the tide was coming in, the water level gradually dropped (floodwater clearing made a much bigger difference than the incoming tide!) and gulls did start to trickle in.

A gorgeous 1st winter Caspian Gull was amongst the first 30 big gulls to drop in. Quite large, between Herring Gull and GBBG in size, and also ringed. This hung around for a while but was reluctant to flap, which became frustrating as more gulls were coming in which I wanted to check, but I also didn't want to miss getting the Casp in flight. Sure enough there was indeed another interesting gull as soon as the Casp had departed, then the cycle continued where I wanted to check more gulls but not take my eye off of this new bird!

Ringed as a chick in Netherlands on 19th May 2023, ta to Steve for chasing up the ring info

The 2nd bird then. The dark mantle and general heft instantly caught my attention, heavy bill too. My general feeling was 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull, but I've not previously seen YLG ages other than adult (only 2), 1st winter (a few) and juv (somewhere between 20-30), so it would be a new age for me. About 45 mins in watching this bird Steve rang to say he was on an interesting gull, and it turned out to be exactly what I'd already been looking at. He mentioned that the leg colour was odd for 3w YLG (this bird was clearly pink) and we both noted the interesting head streaking, which at times looked quite restricted and other times more extensive. It took some waiting but it performed superbly right in front of Tower Hide so there's a heap of pics to come. I'll just add a couple here for the time being, I'm in the middle of work really (yes, at 01:30 am). The bird to me looks (I mean visually not genetically) sorta halfway between YLG and Azorean, and Steve suggests that it may be a YLG from the Atlantic coast, but not Azorean, but not currently sure. I've sent it to another couple of gullers and there's also a shout for argentatus Herring Gull. More digging needed, and certainly an interesting bird. I've got pics of just about every aspect of it. Eye-ball included.