Saturday, 16 March 2019

A Good Gull Day

I am sure being with/married to a birder is not an easy thing at the best of times, but it can get treacherous on particular occasions that's for sure...

There are four birding events that make my wife shudder to the core - and I don't blame her.  If I'm not birding when any of these four things are taking place, then I am not a nice person to be with. And that's not something I have any control over. Shocking but true. The four 'birding events' being; 

A patch first/lifer
A good fall day (spring or autumn)
A good sea watching day
A good gull day

What I don't think the non-birder truly understands is that to create three of the above four events everything has to be exactly right - like a complex jigsaw puzzle that fits together probably only for a single day, and then possibly not again for months/years. The weather needs to be right, the time of year needs to be right, and the birds need to be there - but sometimes even when those three do marry up it still doesn't happen, so when it does happen it is not to be missed.  If it is being missed then I simply don't want to be wherever I am at that time, I want to be birding.

And why have I written all of the above? Well today one of my four 'birding events' happened... Gulls!  Mid March, a strong south west wind with plenty of rain and 100% cloud cover - all absolute classic conditions for big numbers of Gulls on the Axe.  Miraculously once I'd seen the forecast last night, our plans for a 'lovely Saturday out' suddenly changed to us enjoying more of a 'stay at home' day.... funny that :-)

My first look along the Estuary mid-morning showed about 210 Common Gulls, two Med Gulls (second-summers) and best of all this lovely second-summer Yellow-legged Gull...

Don't be put off by the dull yellow legs - completely usual for a YLG of this age. Note the lovely bright bill, red orbital ring, square back of the head and the vast amount of grey in the wing - it's well advanced.

A direct comparison with a similarly aged Herring Gull - note the difference in bill colour!

With two adult graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Note the complete black tail band - a good feature for a second-summer Yellow-legged, other species usually show a weak or broken tail band by this age

A fluky flight shot - all perfect for a second-summer YLG

Last one I promise! With two Herring Gulls

The Yellow-legged Gull remained on the Estuary all day, as I saw it during both the afternoon Estuary scans.  Mid afternoon there wasn't much else to add, but a look along the Estuary from 17:30 showed a massive increase in smaller gull numbers - now six Med Gulls (ad, 4 2s and 1 1w) and an impressive 620 Common Gulls.  The mind boggles at how many of these have probably passed through the patch today!

All but about 11 of these birds are Common Gull!

So many Common Gull - but sadly no Ring-billeds (that I found anyway!)

Adult and second-summer Med Gull

Another second-summer Med Gull

And just to finish this post, so I can reclaim some brownie points by doing the dishes, I saw my first Sand Martins of the year today. Three were feeding over Lower Bruckland Ponds mid afternoon.

Right, must dash...

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