Monday, 1 February 2016

A Gull for Lunch

Whenever I'm working in the Seaton area I do try to wind up next to the Axe Estuary at lunch time. At this time of year there's always the chance of a decent gull. Today there was a good collection of birds down by the tram sheds, so after a quick look upstream I pulled over and checked them out, trying not to get sarnie crumbs all over my optics. Nothing much though, so lunch break over and back to work. Heading through the town I pass Steve going in the opposite direction...

A few minutes later, 'ding', a text: 'Nice ad argentatus cori corner'


Thankfully I wasn't mid-way through a job, and was back by the the river pretty quickly.

Steve has already mentioned the fact on his blog, but it's worth pointing out just how scarce a bird is 'Scandinavian' Herring Gull in Devon. It is an A-list rarity, along with Red-throated Pipit, White-billed Diver and Alpine Swift, and rightly so. Including this one I have seen a grand total of just three in this neck of the woods - both the others (also adults) were on 28 January, 2011. Compare that with five Ring-billed Gulls and something like nine or ten Caspian Gulls (er, yes, I can't recall exactly. I know, shameful) and you get the picture.

Here it is on its own - and yes, I know -  looking exactly like every other Herring Gull, ever.
But here it is with an adult argenteus, significantly darker.
Argentatus Herring Gulls tend to have more white/less black in the primaries than argenteus. This bird seems to fit the bill okay, with a long white tip to p10, no black in p5 and just a bit in p6. Also interesting was how little black is visible from underneath; if this is a useful feature, I wasn't aware of it. Compare with the argenteus underwing pictured below...
[see caption to photo above]

As we know, gulls are variable, hybridise like crazy, and eat radioactive plastic, so I suppose this bird could be anything really. However, it looks alright to me and I am quite happy to call it an argentatus Herring Gull. Very nice it was too.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the estuary the Island Hide on Black Hole Marsh was apparently creaking at the seams. Why? Because there's a Green-winged Teal to be had. It hadn't been seen for at least an hour and a half when I popped over, so I didn't even get out of the van but headed straight off to work. In a way I was glad it wasn't showing. It's funny, I had kind of felt obliged to go and make an effort, yet knew I'd not enjoy it much. The gull had been in a different league. There's never going to be a crowd for that! Just Steve, Ian M and myself, watching it from the side of the river, out in the, SO much better than crammed in a hide...

Maybe that's why I like gulls? Because so few others do...


  1. I was stood in Tower Hide looking at the gulls opposite, blissfully unaware of this beauty further down the estuary! Not that I would have the experience to ID such a beast on my own. More knowledge needed...
    It was fortunate that someone told you the GW Teal wasn't showing and you got the gull instead - the Teal was on BHM from 10:00 til 16:00 at least (only viewable from Tower Hide at times though).

    1. Thanks Tim. I went to BHM after the gull had flown, where I bumped into Sue and Karen as they were leaving. Sue told me the Teal wasn't showing and Karen added that she'd been there an hour and a half with no joy. Going back to work was easily the more attractive option!
      Keep looking at the gulls though - we're getting into the prime time for white-wingers on the Axe now...

    2. Yeah I had the GW Teal from Tower when Sue and Karen lost sight of it. I sent a message to Karen but didn't realise she hasn't got Twitter on her mobile - oops! Will pop to the estuary this afternoon and try my gull (mediocre-at-best) ID skills. At least a white-winger should be fairly obvious ha.