Saturday, 6 January 2018

Med Gull

A look along the Estuary late this afternoon showed a reasonable number of gulls, although there was nothing better than a single adult Mediterranean Gull among them, my first of the year...

This Med Gull was actually my first Med Gull on the Axe for almost a month, which is quite staggering really.

Roll back ten years (ish) and I was with Gavin scoping the roosting gull flock off Seaton Hole on a dull January evening. At least twelve Med Gulls were in the roost that night. We remarked how the sudden increase in the Fleet population could only mean that numbers on the Axe will forever be on the up, and how that in ten years time maybe half the small gulls on the Estuary will be Meds...

How wrong were we! Quite the opposite has happened in fact, and during the last few winters they have proved quite scarce. It's only the late summer period that's seen an increase in local Med Gull counts as birds from the increasing UK population disperse west.  

This prediction isn't the only one that didn't come off. Once Gavin and I learnt how to identify Caspian Gulls, we were pulling one or two out a year on the Axe. "Oh they're regular, clearly just being overlooked"... No Axe records in either of the past two years. The last Axe record were the two on 14th November 2015, with the first-winter still present the following morning.

Then there's Cattle Egrets. The big influx in 2008/2009 ensured everyone exclaimed "they're the new Little Egret".... And what happened? They all went, and Cattle Egrets became rare again. The next influx was last year, this time many stayed for the summer and bred. But it looks like most of them have gone again though, except maybe the Somerset Levels birds.

The same could be said for all the local birders predictions for the next species to be added to the patch list. Once I fluked it and got it right, with Green-winged Teal and Long-eared Owl. But every year we all say the same; "Black-winged Stilt, Red-rumped Swallow, American Wigeon, Purple Sandpiper...". Yep we are still waiting for all of those...

For me this unpredictability is one of the factors that makes birding so exciting, especially birding a patch. Even what we may think is predictable, is unpredictable.  

I'll sign off tonight with a photo I rather like, which could even be described as being a bit 'arty'. I took this a couple of days ago from the Axmouth straight at 3pm...

Goodnight all...


  1. Hi Steve Prediction is indeed a mugs game, five of our top ten still haven't made the Warren!

    1. Haha nice one. Amazed Night Heron has never been recorded at the Warren - habitat is absolutely perfect! Exminster Marshes presumably a bigger magnet?

  2. Yep, I remember speculating along exactly those lines re Meds, Caspian Gulls and Cattle Egrets. Which just goes to show that if we ever predict something and are correct we have absolutely no right to get all smug about it because it will just have been a lucky guess!