Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Canadian Beauty

Although there are no where near as many gulls feeding off the beach now (and there hasn't been since Saturday) there does still seem to be plenty of large gulls about. I had a couple of looks along the Estuary yesterday but turned up nothing better than this Yellow-legged Gull wannabe.  I presume it's another one of those HerringxLesser Black-backed Gull hybrids...

These are seemingly more regular that pure Yellow-legged Gulls!

A few of the main give aways that this bird wasn't a Yellow-legged Gull were:
  • pinky-yellow legs - short legged too
  • mantle colour a tad darker and more 'sooty' than a YLG should be
  • overall small size, a tad smaller than Herring Gull
  • head streaking
  • bill a tad smaller than Herring Gull and LBBG-like head shape

Today though I struck absolute GOLD with my second check of the river just before midday. There were a few more Lesser Black-backed Gulls about which is always a good sign, and at Coronation Corner through the bins an interesting-looking adult white-winged gull had me scrambling for my telescope.... it was a STUNNING adult Kumlien's Gull! Kumlien's Gull is a race of Iceland Gull that breeds in the Arctic region of Canada, and I believe this is the first record of this sub species for the patch!  And here it is...

What an absolute stunner!! Just look at that subtle grey patterning on the primaries. For me also, it's head shape looked a bit different than the average Iceland Gull, with a slightly meaner look to it. Overall it was probably just a tad smaller than Herring Gull - but not by much.

Annoyingly my mobile is not allowing me to text at the moment, so I asked Bun to spread the news on my behalf, but just as I was speaking to him the bloody thing took flight and started flying south. I quickly made for my Lumix and managed to fire off these shots as it went by...

Really pleased with these shots as they show the primary pattern quite nicely

Sadly it kept flying, and as it got towards the sea it seemed to veer east. With all the gulls around though, and more storms over the horizon, there's got to be a chance it will return? I really hope it does!

An adult Kumlien's Gull was seen off Exmouth sea front yesterday, the chances are this is the same bird. I have been sent a couple of images of it though, and to me it looks to have darker (almost black) primary markings. Terry if you read this what do you think?...


  1. Steve,
    This is definitely the bird I had yesterday lunchtime on Exmouth seafront. I had it close in, feeding along the tideline with the storm-driven gathering of large gulls that's been there the past few days near the new lifeboat station. The only reservation I had was the grey wash on the outer webbing of the primaries on your pics seemed a bit dark, compared with what I had seen, but I saw it in very harsh sunlight and this gave the whole bird a somewhat paler appearance than shown in yours and Karen's photos. It was however a cracking adult and I was amazed by it's dazzling practically all-white head! The iris colour was a nice deep yellow and appeared at the top of the range exhibited in the study of adult Kumlien's in Alula 1/2003 written by Steve Howell (who I used to know many years ago when he lived in South Wales!) and Bruce Mactavish. Glad it performed for all the Axe birders - shame it couldn't do it for the Exe die-hards, only Dave Hopkins and Chris Townend apparently seeing it later in the afternoon for a short while. Regards, Terry

  2. Cheers for this Terry, and the email mate. Love the fact we are sharing good birds, with other white-wingers sharing the two sites recently too. How about a Ross's now?? :-)