Saturday, 24 February 2018

First-winter Argentatus?

Lots of large and small gulls on the Estuary this evening, they all seemed reluctant to fly out to sea to roost presumably due to the east wind blowing into the bay.  Looking at the forecast they are going to have to get used to it!

Considering the numbers about, surprisingly still no Axe white-wingers for me this year (there were brief singles of Glauc and Iceland (IMc) in January but nothing since). The best among the throng of gulls off Coronation Corner was this strikingly dark and large first-winter Herring Gull-type, which showed unusually solidly dark tertials and plain greater coverts...

In the middle at the back

At the back preening

One big Herring Gull!

Quite a snooty beast

A bit more detail on the wing feathers

Annoyingly throughout the whole time I watched it I didn't see it fly or flap once, so can't add much more to what these photos show.  At the time I thought a first-winter argentatus Scandinavian Herring Gull was probably the best option, but I know there's no way I could prove this. Less moult would have helped my case that's for sure, and possibly a frostier appearance.

If there's anyone out there willing to comment on its ID, or probable ID, then please do. Many thanks to Brett Spencer who has already given his thoughts.

Also on the Estuary this evening, I was surprised to see the wintering Ringed Plover (which in itself is very unusual for the Axe) had been joined by a second bird.  And although I saw neither this evening, the Glossy Ibis and Marsh Harrier have been around during the last few days.

The Axe Estuary this evening

With snow forecasted for next week, along with proper cold temperatures, we may well see some cold weather bird movements, especially with so much snow set to dump in the east of the UK. I always find it sad to see birds having to move literally to survive, but there's no argument of just how spectacular this can be. A quick scroll back through my blog reminded me of not just the best cold weather bird movement I've ever seen on patch, but the best bird movement I've ever seen here full stop, back in December 2010;

Wrap up warm folks. But be sure to keep the binoculars around your neck as during cold weather, anything really can turn up anywhere.


  1. Striking gull Steve. A few years ago I researched 1w argentatus, and had some helpful input from Brett and from Mark Golley. At the time I came to the conclusion that I could not satisfactorily ID one in the context of a lone individual down here in the southwest. By 'satisfactorily' I guess I mean safely and unequivocally. But that's me. If anyone else believes they can, fair play to them, but it's not an ID challenge I personally feel like taking on!

    Re the cold weather movement, those 2010 happenings were some of the most spectacular birding I've experienced anywhere, ever. Pity the poor birds though...

  2. Hi Mike, yes I'd agree with that. Although I'd say a large and frosty Herring Gull with very little moult has got to be a very good bet for an Argentatus. More colour-rings would help mind :-)

    Yes it was incredible. Don't think it's going to be happening this week, but there's been a few signs of things moving about this morning.

    Take care, Steve.