Friday, 6 March 2015

Double top

First-winter Caspian Gull today in east London - this individual is a little darker on the nape than most I see.
I had time for just a few hours on my Thames-side patch this morning, but after low numbers of gulls a week ago my hopes weren't high. Wrong! Within 10 minutes of getting within range of a few dozen loafing birds near the river, I glimpsed a first-winter Caspian Gull and then an all-white - and familiar-looking - individual settling down to sleep. It looked like a third-winter Iceland Gull, and plumage-wise seemed very like Norwegian-ringed JK0P I'd found here back in January. A closer approach only succeeded in flushing the group, and unfortunately the Iceland flew directly away, its legs not visible.

This third-winter Iceland Gull first visited the site back in January, and reappeared today after seven weeks.
After scouring the area I eventually relocated the Caspian at much closer range, and a while afterwards picked up the Iceland in flight closer to the river. Both birds eventually settled, the Iceland more distantly, and I was able to photograph its rings and confirm it as the same bird from seven weeks ago.

Record-shot confirmation that the Iceland Gull was the same Norwegian-ringed bird from January.
At one point both prize larids could be seen distantly keeping company with each other, before the Iceland headed off back to the river. I guess it's not so often that these two species encounter one another, but then again the Thames is one of Britain's top sites for Caspian Gulls, and regularly attracts one or two Icelands during the course of each winter. Having them in the same field of view feels like a privilege, but today it was sadly not for long enough to get anything better than the poor record shot below.

Here's some more pics of the Caspian, showing a nice pale underwing in the first image and also in comparison with a same-aged European Herring Gull.

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