Saturday, 22 February 2020


Like anyone else I am subject to the stresses and strains of everyday life, and it can certainly take a toll at times. I realise that people have a variety of coping mechanisms, but for me hobbies have always been a powerful antidote to life's downers, a means of therapy if you like. And this afternoon's prescription went like this...

I drove to the Axe Estuary, arriving shortly after 3pm. My visits to the Axe these days are usually squeezed around work, so there's always a slightly urgent note to them, a feeling that I ought to be scoffing down my sarnies double-quick and hurrying back to get on with some honest toil. Naturally I fight such unreasonable constraints, but the notion remains, along with little pangs of guilt. Today though, no such issues. I parked up at the bottom end of the river and then did something I haven't done for years. Normally I would be in a vehicle, viewing from a number of stopping points along the road, but this afternoon I climbed down on to the estuary shore and walked slowly upstream...

The view upriver, towards Coronation Corner

Gulls hang out on the opposite bank, and are very rarely troubled by anyone walking the eastern shoreline like this. Dog walkers do it all the time, and the only time I have known gulls to flush is right at the tail-end of the day when they're on the point of leaving anyway. They can get a bit jittery as dusk approaches and it's almost like they're looking for an excuse to take umbrage at any real or perceived disturbance so they can fly out into the bay to bag a prime spot in the roost.

So that's the story today. A quiet amble upriver, stopping at regular intervals to scope up the gull collection. And I did it properly. Not just the big fellas, where Caspian Gull is the prime quarry, but the little ones also. Although I was probably a bit late in the day for the best numbers, there were still many hundreds of BHGs and Common Gulls to sort through. For me it is a soothingly therapeutic undertaking. Scanning methodically through the assembly, you one by one identify and pass on. BHG...BHG...BHG...Common...LBBG...Ooh! Med Gull. Nice...BHG...BHG...etc... I didn't do much in the way of counting, though there were definitely 25+ Lesser Black-backs. I tried with Meds, but never got past 12 before they'd all lift and fly around a bit. Some would leave, the rest resettling. After a couple of times I gave up. At a guess, 30+ Med Gulls. No Ring-billed or Bonaparte's Gulls today, but if there had been I like to think my careful sifting would have nailed them...

Here's a nice little test for any budding gullers. How many Med Gulls in the following pic? In my London days this photo would have been unimaginable, and I guess it would be pretty amazing even now for many inland birders.

A typical scope-full...

Answer: there are three; two adults and a 2nd-winter. If you reckon you're not really into gulls but still spotted all three within 5 seconds, well, stop kidding yourself, just surrender to it. If you spotted four or more, go take a long hard look in the mirror, you stringer.

The next test is slightly trickier, but there is just the one Med Gull in the photo. So, how quickly can you find it? Ready...go!

Okay, if you spotted the Med Gull without clicking on the image first, well done. If you enlarged the pic first, then spotted it, well done. If you simply clicked on the photo to confirm your suspicion, again, well done. Yes, well done for any of the above, because just making the effort to find the Med Gull is a fine thing, and evidence of what a discriminating birder you are, with a commendable appreciation of avian quality. Med Gulls are without question 24-carat birds, but not all of us are blessed with the ability to detect that. You are fortunate indeed!

So, that was it this afternoon really. A very relaxing stroll up the estuary, carefully picking through the gulls. No time constraints... Very soothing. Nothing special in the way of scarce or rare stuff, nothing particularly notable at all in fact.


And back we go...downriver to the car, and home...


  1. If I'm being completely honest, it wasn't the Meds that got my pulse going (found them all, btw - no clicking on images either) but the Slender-bill in the top pic. Surprised you missed that, or was it just a test..? ;)

    1. Was saving the Slender-billed for a full post of its own. Rotten spoiler you've dished up there... :-(

  2. Replies
    1. There were a couple of colour-ringed birds in the flock Derek, but I didn't manage to read them...