|One of the two juvenile Sabine's Gulls at Sturt Pond, Milford-on-Sea, today.|
|Juvenile Sabine's is beautifully marked, with pale edges and dark subterminal borders to its mouse-grey upperpart feathers giving a distinctive scaly appearance. Note also the narrow white primary tips and black tail band.|
There was an adult Sabine's in London just over a week ago, on King George V Reservoir in the Lea Valley, but having not managed to get there before it left, I decided to get my fix today. Two juveniles on the Hampshire coast won the toss over an adult at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire, so I headed down the M3 and arrived just in time to catch them both. Within minutes, one bird had done a bunk and the other became restless, absconding for short periods, but when it did settle temporarily it showed very well indeed.
|The diagnostic black, white and grey 'triangle' pattern changes the bird's appearance completely in flight.|
It's easy to forget how small and dainty these pelagic gulls actually are. Alongside Black-headed Gull they look positively diminutive, at times almost like a marsh tern on steroids with their pale foreheads and dusky cap and nape. The upperparts are also strikingly dark in juveniles, with pale feather edgings giving a smart, scaly appearance. Despite the body mass disadvantage, the one bird that lingered today showed aggression twice towards Black-headed Gulls before eventually flying off inland (though both apparently returned later in the day).
|Juvenile Sabine's Gull with a single adult Mediterranean Gull among numerous Black-headeds.|
On the way back to London rumours strengthened that the so-called Temminck's Stint at Weir Wood Reservoir in East Sussex definitely wasn't one. By the time I walked back indoors the Least Sandpiper theory had also been shelved, the bird now mega-alerting as a Long-toed Stint. There's always tomorrow ...
|Surf's up: whipped up by more strong westerlies, the sea pounds the beach at Milford-on-Sea.|