Tuesday 26 November 2019

Birding in Monochrome

I had some work in Seaton today. However, the frequent showers (and ponderously-consumed packed lunch) meant I spent ages by the estuary, looking at...

Yes, the post title says it all. Though 'monochrome' is a poetic licence of course, because you also get little bits of pink, red, yellow and other dazzling colours on gulls. And every shade of brown.

A strong SSW was blowing up the river, and there seemed to be a steady turnover, birds not hanging about for long. A couple of Med Gulls from lunchtime...

Apart from a bit of cropping and sharpening, the photo is unaltered. This 2nd-winter Med Gull was approx 100m away, straight across the river (ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f6.5). I reckon this camera is going to do justice to any Caspian Gull generous enough to present itself in similar fashion.
And an adult Med Gull, a teeny bit further away.
The adult again, having flown to Coronation corner and joined some drossy mates

While playing with the Meds I noticed a large gull with a super-sharp, black tail-band fly past. It landed well down-river and made me get the scope out. I thought it was probably a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull, and hurried along the road with my scope and camera. When I arrived, it wasn't there. Annoyingly I hadn't noticed it fly off. However, a bit later, while scoping the gulls above Coronation Corner, I spotted what was surely the same bird. A bit distant for decent photos, and far too face-on for my liking, but here's the best of what I got...

It's the bird at the back. Notice the darker shade of grey on the upperparts compared with argenteus Herring Gulls to the right. So, is it a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull, or just a mucky hybrid creation? I would like to have seen it much better, but I'm pretty happy it's the real thing.
As I said, far too face-on, but nothing I can see in this open-wing shot puts me off YLG. I'm pretty sure a finely-streaked crown is okay, and you get a hint of that black tail-band as well. Not the butchest YLG I've ever seen though.

After this entertaining bit of gulling I was fired up sufficiently to want to go and look for Water Pipits in the big field opposite Colyton Water Treatment Works. Due to flooding I parked up well short, donned wellies and walked. Arriving at said field, the heavens opened and I nearly drowned. I shall look for Water Pipits another time.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again: gulls are wonderful. Seriously, if you're not keen, consider this...

A few weeks ago I posted a little video on Twitter. Literally thousands of gulls feasting on whitebait along Chesil Beach. Hundreds of Med Gulls among them. I was in the same place on Saturday. Empty. Hardly any gulls at all. So, where are they all? I don't know. And that's the point. I cannot think of more mobile birds than gulls. They are opportunistic wanderers. Sure, some individuals seem very site-faithful, but basically almost any gull can turn up anywhere. Weather systems move them. Food supplies move them. A zillion other random urges move them. Which means...

A rare gull can turn up just about anywhere that other gulls do. And there are a lot of rare gulls.

And all you've got to do to find that rare one is carefully sift through acres of dross first. Day after day. Week in, week out. That's all.



  1. Replies
    1. Yep, most probably that's true. And is it morally right to try and coax poor innocents down this dark path...?