Monday, 27 January 2020

Untickable Views

This post is a brief appendix to yesterday's, in order to cover something I left out of that account because it would have got in the way of the narrative. I mentioned yesterday that I've managed a photographic record (however bad) of every Caspian Gull I've seen. Well, that may not be true...

Within just a few minutes of the 2nd-winter bird departing I was joined by Marcus and Phil, and eventually our number grew to seven. It was the first time in ages that I've stood with a bunch of other birders, and obviously it is very different to birding solo. Although there is of course the chatting and the not looking properly at times, the added fire-power of seven pairs of eyes means very little escapes notice. For example, it wasn't me who spotted the Yellow-legged Gull on the mere but, like everyone else, I benefitted from those extra eyes.

By this time the weather had cleared. The wind was still quite strong, but the rain had stopped. Away west along the beach a gang of gulls had been gathering. I'd run a scope across them once or twice, but at 4-500m range, with a haze of fine spray in the air and not the best lighting, I had struggled. While I was photographing the YLG a shout went up: a Caspian Gull candidate in the beach flock! I'll be candid. Although I got on the bird I didn't see anything like enough to count it. It had a long bill with a prominently hooked upper mandible - slightly deformed even - so was easy to pick out. But it was preening constantly while I watched it, and most of the bird was masked by other gulls too. Very unsatisfying. At that range, with those views, I couldn't do anything with it...

Collectively we decided to approach closer, and began to do so. But before we'd gone more than a few yards, someone further along the beach unfortunately spooked the flock and they all went up. I don't know if anyone managed to pick it up in flight, but I certainly didn't.

So anyway, that was that.

Caspian Gull is still a local rarity in Devon and Dorset, requiring a description. Even my lamentably low standards demand a full(ish) suite of characters. Unfortunately, based on my views there wasn't enough even to start a description, so I definitely couldn't count it.

As an habitually solo birder it is very rare that I need to worry about what someone else thinks a bird's identity is, but when in company it can happen. And when it does there is a handy catch-all expression for such situations...

Untickable views.

And those are the kind I had. Which means I'm not worried that there is no photo, and my unbroken record of happy pixels is therefore maintained. Obviously this is importance. Even so, I'm a bit disappointed I couldn't clinch it. A two-Casp day would have been rather special.


  1. An enjoyable couple of posts Gav.
    As a non-twitcher who wouldn't go to see an AHG if it was in next door's garden, I still found your posts enjoyable and comical reads, hope you have more luck next time.

    1. Ha ha! Yep, not everyone's cup of tea. Thanks for your kind words Derek.

  2. Was frustrating that didn't see that bird in flight, but happy it was a 1st-winter Casp, on what I saw. But the record will never see the light of day, as won't be sending it in. Will be interesting if a 1st-winter with a slightly deformed upper mandible tip turns up elsewhere locally, to arguably confirm the record. Let's hope the Yank Herring is relocated too. All the best bud.

    1. Cheers Brett, good to meet you on Sunday. Coincidentally there was a 1w Casp on the Axe Estuary today. It had a slightly hooked upper mandible, and its bill looked very long at certain angles, but I don't think it was quite hooky enough to have been the Bex bird.