Saturday, 22 February 2014

Double vision

Second-calendar-year Iceland Gull yesterday - a work of subtle beauty.
Reports of a 'juvenile' Iceland Gull at the stone barges on the Thames in east London in recent days led to queries as to whether it was a different bird to one seen previously in nearby Crayford. On 21st February I was able to spend the morning on my gull study site in the area, a private industrial facility, and I hoped there would be a chance it put in an appearance. Sure enough, at 08:20 I picked up a distant small white-winger, and a quick glance confirmed it was a second-calendar-year Iceland. I got record shots and footage of the bird, which didn't hang around for more than five minutes or so before moving on.

The Iceland Gull plays gooseberry while a pair of European Herring Gulls get in the mood.
Almost half an hour later I picked up the bird again - or so I thought. This time it showed better, and I was able to get decent images, three of which are reproduced here. Once again the bird was only on show for a few minutes and then it took off in the direction of the river.

On the move again. Note the smooth-toned underparts and beautifully marbled uppertail coverts and vent.
Little more than an hour later and it was back again in the same spot - just after it was reported by BirdGuides as sitting on the gantry at the stone barges at Rainham. This immediately prompted me to check my images, and interestingly the bird in the first of the three appearances, although distant, appears to have a mainly blackish bill, a small tinge of pink being largely confined to the base of the lower mandible. The bird which turned up thereafter, as these images show, has more extensive pink on the basal half of the bill, albeit rather dusky hued in tone; it also appears to be paler around the eye. An Iceland Gull has also been seen at Beddington in south London recently, and could easily be a commuter to or from the Thames. Two or three at the same London site on the same day is a rare event, but not unprecedented.

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