Thursday 24 February 2022

Quality Gulls

Despite a fair bit of checking, so far this winter I haven't found many gulls to get excited about. An unexpected intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull, a few Meds, a couple of young Common Gulls with retained juv scapulars, and that's about it. But things seem to be warming up at last.

Yesterday I spent a bit of time at the Axe Estuary, between jobs and after work. A light sprinkling of LBBGs was good to see, mostly graellsii, but at least two or three dark intermedius jobs. And many of the adult Herring Gulls are looking really smart now, with lovely clean, white heads. And then, late in the day, I noticed a slightly darker-mantled bird among them, north of Coronation Corner. Momentarily I thought it had a dark eye, and got a slightly Casp-ish vibe from it, but no, the iris was pale, and the bill a bit too brightly coloured for a typical adult Casp. Also, far too much black on the underside of p10. Not a brute by any means, so I put it down as a presumably female Yellow-legged Gull...

Quite a looker. An elegant female (probably) Yellow-legged Gull

And again, with an adult HG on the right for mantle shade comparison purposes

Unfortunately it was a bit distant for really good pics, and flew off downriver within a few minutes. Still, great to finally get a nice gull. All pleased with myself, I too headed off downriver. I could see a sizeable bunch of large gulls by the tram depot. This is about the best spot on the Axe for close views, and they're really easy to do with bins here. To my surprise, among the closest birds was the Yellow-legged Gull. It hadn't flown out to sea after all...

Lovely light for comparing mantle shades. Adult argenteus HG in the background. The dark markings on the bill suggest the YLG is not quite fully adult.

Again I only had a short time with the bird, because something spooked the whole flock and this time they really did all head out to sea. Reviewing the photos afterwards I suddenly realised this wasn't the bird I saw at Coronation Corner. A number of subtle differences, certainly enough to be conclusive.

So. Two Yellow-legged Gulls. Both showed small signs of immaturity still, but near enough adult as makes no difference. And both very elegant examples of the species, lacking the brutish look of big males.

In other news, a solid hour of lunchtime at Kilmington WTW failed to yield any tristis Chiffs, despite good numbers (20+? 30+?) of standard collybita. And an early seawatch from West Bay on Tuesday simply added another 28 and 7 to the year's Kittiwake and Gannet totals respectively.

Thank goodness for gulls.


  1. Very interesting Gav, with great comparisons images. I'm off to Blashford Lakes on Sunday, so can have a good scan and try to practice on the Gulls there, Weather permitting 🙏

    1. Thanks Tony. I've only been to Blashford Lakes once, a few years ago, but the Ibsley Water Gull roost was excellent. As well as the regular Ring-billed, I recall an adult YLG which I was fortunate enough to pick up as it flew in. There may well have been other YLGs too, but my memory hasn't retained them. Whatever, enjoy! 😊