Sunday 15 November 2015

Irresistible. Why?

On Wednesday I started coming down with some virus thing. The havoc it's been wreaking upon my poor little bod has left me rather feeble and I've been cooped up indoors, feeling sorry for myself. Mind you, I have used the downtime constructively and written two entirely serious posts about the decline in Scilly's birding fortunes. That said, I've also been bored stupid; I hate enforced idleness. So, when a text from Steve Waite arrived yesterday, announcing the presence of a 1W Caspian Gull on my old patch, well, I wished I was there...and sulked a bit. When the second text arrived, announcing the arrival of another Caspian Gull, I got really fidgety. Two together on the Axe is unprecedented. Plague or not, I suddenly wanted to go. Needed to go!

What is the mechanism that makes this happen? I am completely at a loss to explain it. For almost two years my birding urges have been basically moribund. This year I didn't bother twitching the Black Hole Marsh Penduline Tits or Baird's Sandpiper, nor a pinned down Black Stork at West Bexington (lifer for me) and yet here I am ready to jump in the car and drive almost 20 miles to my old patch in the very slim hope that two Caspian Gulls might stick around...which they almost never do!

Anyway, I stopped stroking my chin and just got going. Sure enough two Casps staying put was asking a bit much, and the 1W had flown. But the second bird was still there, if somewhat distant...

Dreadful though this photo is, it occurred to me that it might serve a useful purpose. Because while NQS MkII was extant one or two readers did express how challenging they found gull ID, especially Caspian Gull. So, if you wanted to you could actually use this pic to give yourself a little test. Here's how:

Simply imagine someone showing it to you and saying "Is there any gull in this photo that makes you go 'Hmmm, I wonder if that could be a Caspian Gull...'?"

Alright. Have you done that? Go on, give it a go. No trick - the Casp is in there.

So, you've now had a good look. An unhurried, careful look.  Right then, which of the following would be your answer?

(a) Yes, the one in the middle, partially hidden, but standing tall with its gleaming white head, little shawl of dark spotting, and two-toned bill.
(b) No
(c) Yes, all of them
(d) Yes [insert any bird except the one highlighted in (a)]

Ok, well done. Your answer will tell you one of two things...
1. You are tuned in to what a possible Casp looks like.
2. You are not.

If you answered (a), well, great. You have no excuse! Get stuck in...Happy gulling!
If you answered (b), (c) or (d), well, yes, you're dead right - large gulls are stupid boring things that all look exactly alike! But if you ever change your mind, there are books...and ID articles and stuff...

Now, these little beauts are, for me, the first step on the road to Loving the Gull...

Amusingly poor photo of an adult Med Gull yesterday. Picking one of these out from a flock of BHGs is always a pleasure, whether you're a novice gullwatcher or you've seen thousands of them.

That was weird. This post began life as a navel-gazing look at the temperamental nature of my birding engine, and ended up somewhere very else indeed! I had no control over it at all...


  1. Glad to see you back! Good luck with Cogden.

  2. Many thanks Andrew. It seems a very long time since we last met, so I hope our paths cross in the not-too-distant future...

  3. Sub adult Caspian Gull at a glance from head to tail. Four distinct delineations.
    White, darker, even darker, even darker than that.
    I think that was one of your modes of descriptions Gav.
    Seems to work ok.

    1. Ha ha! Something like that Ric! It's a 2W bird, and thankfully someone did get close enough to photograph it properly - pics on Steve's blog.

  4. Glad that we've got some proper gull posts again. More please!

    1. Your wish is my command! The very next post...well, part of the next post...