Tuesday 2 February 2021

West Bay YLG

Lockdown restrictions have made me look more closely at my very local birding. I'm glad really. Last Friday afternoon I chanced upon a flock of 50+ Siskins just N of town, in what I would call traditional winter habbo - riverside alders. Also 50+ Redwings, and a group of 9 Ravens mucking about high overhead. Nothing special, but pleasant surprises. Less pleasant, I've learned that most of the nearby farmland is basically dead. Well, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but certainly dead bo-o-o-o-oring. Handy to know for future apportioning of precious birding time...

I've certainly enjoyed poking around West bay, my nearest bit of coast, and that's where I headed late this afternoon. I bumped into Tom Brereton, and we joined forces to check out the local fields. Two Snipe and a Reed Bunting were my first of the year, and then we reached a point where you can check the flooded field over the river. A single Heron and a bunch of gulls. Not loads, maybe twenty-odd big ones and a similar number of small ones. The latter were all Black-headed and Common Gulls, and the former were Herring Gulls. Except one. Sitting in the grass was an adult with a seemingly darker mantle. Subtle, and it took a few moments to be sure this wasn't just an effect of the light, but yes, it looked promising for Yellow-legged Gull. At that moment a shower was passing, discouraging us from trying for a quick, distant snap. Unexpectedly a few of the gulls suddenly jumped up and flew a couple of yards, including the Yellow-legged candidate. Its legs were bright mustard yellow. Yes! Now was the time for a photo, while it was standing among adult Herring Gulls. Camera out, point, focus and...

Pox! Half the flock spooked over nothing and took to the air. This was the only shot I managed. At least the yellow legs are visible, and a hint of slightly darker uppers, lacking the blue tint of Herring Gull.

Unfortunately I latched on to the wrong bird in flight, and got a nice little burst of Herring Gull, as did Tom. Ah well. Still, I'm very chuffed all the same. It's my first Bridport area Yellow-legged Gull, and once again a great reminder to always - always - look at gulls. Quite often I've seen a small gathering in this spot. Never more than maybe 50 or so, but as we all know, it only takes one bird! There are sometimes a few on the river, right next to where it flows into the harbour. If a decent gull ever turns up there, the views will be seriously good. Point blank. I live in hope...

In a tongue-in-cheek illustration of their rarity down here, Steve recently calculated that he has averaged one Caspian Gull for every 19,500 Herring Gulls looked at. So if I diligently endeavour to clock up 100 Herring Gulls every time I visit West Bay I should get a Casp within the next 195 trips. Easy peasy.


  1. Have you ever tried fishing for burbot?

    1. In the UK that would be analogous to checking Curlew flocks for a Slender-billed. 😄

      Still, at least you'd be fishing!

      You've given me an idea for a post. 😊👍