Monday, 7 October 2019

October Gulling - Fruitful Yet Frustrating!

I love checking through the flocks of large gulls on the Axe on stormy October days - the month that is the best to see non-juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls here.  And this afternoon proved that once again...

Whilst scanning through a big gang of mostly Great Black-backed Gulls north of Coronation Corner I saw this...

Striking mantle colour

It was distant and tipping down with rain, and at first I thought it was an adult Yellow-legged Gull, but soon I could just make out it's leg's weren't exactly bright yellow and there were some dark marks on the bill, so decided it had to be a near-adult.  Not long after I saw it much closer...

Looking quite young close up!

Very pale legs (just tinged yellow), and that marked bill combined with very adult-like upper parts says it's a third-winter bird to me.  An absolutely massive beast though - it's going to look amazing in a year or two! 

Also in the flock were three Common Gulls, two Med Gulls (ad and first-winter), this cracking intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull...

On the right - really long-winged

And then this appeared...

Between the male Mallard and Great Black-backed Gull
Yup - that one!

My immediate reaction, I think mostly due to the neck shawl combined with fairly mature looking upper parts, was second-winter Casp! But a bit more watching soon put me off, particularly with that feeble looking bill.

Still looked pretty good at some angles

I had to leave it quite abruptly, but thankfully when I returned an hour later it was still there - well a bit closer actually...

Looking really dinky here - sometimes even reminded me of a Common Gull!
Note mantle colour - looking pretty good for a Casp being just a shade darker than the Herring
Still from a video
And again. Wing pattern looking ok actually

So what it is?  Well for me, for now, it's going in the 'cactus' group (CaspianxHerring hybrid) - I just don't like the small bill and head, the pale eye, dusky streaks around the eye, as well as the lack of giraffe-like neck and long wings.  But, as Brett has pointed out in a flurry of messages this evening, there is a chance it could still be a pure small female Casp. If you've any thoughts do let me have them, thanks :-)

Other bits and bobs that I've seen today in the valley include; 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Common Sandpiper, 4 Dunlin, 70 Wigeon and 100 Teal.  

Looking at the weather for the week ahead, expect more gull-posts...


  1. No, it doesn't really do it for me either Steve. Technically I can't see anything wrong with 3rd-winter female Casp, but it just doesn't have the 'look' somehow. Doesn't mean it isn't one though! Gulls are fun, aren't they?!

  2. Hi Gav, many thanks for your thoughts and even better to see they align with mine completely! As you know I do love gulls, but when I see one of these 'almost' beasts I can't help but feel a bit cheated!!