I could think of no better way of spending last Friday than being surrounded by gulls for hours on end. With a major influx of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls taking place after last week's Atlantic storms, I was hoping for a white-winger locally, but in the event it was Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls that provided the main interest. At least four of the former comprised a first-winter, a third-winter, a fourth-winter and an adult, with the last two both being ringed. The fourth-winter bird was gold-on-green 355P, ringed as a chick in Poland and found by Jonathan Lethbridge and I at Rainham RSPB 14 months ago but not seen there since - great to have it back for another winter.
|Back for another season, this fourth-winter Caspian Gull was ringed as a chick in Poland in 2008.|
|Note the distinctive primary pattern with largely white-tipped P10, big white mirror on P9, grey tongues on P8 and P9 and solid black band on P5. The primary coverts still have residual black markings.|
Yellow-legged Gulls were almost constantly present, and I decided to photograph every bird for a complete record. I estimated at least 14 individuals across all age classes, but having sifted through more than 900 images and compared fine bill and plumage detail, I was surprised to discover a minimum of 24 birds - four first-winters, nine second-winters, four third-winters and seven fourth-winters/adults. The range of variation within each age class was also surprising, and when time permits I will post a selection of images.
Plenty of other interest included an adult graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gull from a new ringing scheme (details hopefully to follow), and a very streaky-headed third-winter Herring Gull with a strong brown wash to the greater coverts, grey tongues to at least P8 (probably to P9, not sure about P10), a solid black band on P5 and a rather heavily marked blackish tail band for its age. As is so often the case with gulls, plenty of follow-up research to do ...
|Third-winter Herring Gull with heavy head streaking and brown-washed greater coverts ...|
|... note also the primary pattern and blackish tail band at this age.|