11 February 2011

Gulls are great... ... no really!

Small ones are great. Large ones, well I am playing hard to get. But what a difference actually seeing something interesting in your large flocks of larid layabouts can make. Quietly wandering across the football pitches towards the Alex, for another round of count the ducks, a red bill caught my attention. It was bright and big. Hang about, it also showed no black on its wings at all. When it finally came to rest it also had bright red legs, result! My text was soon responded to by Tim and Jono, but I had already had my fill of Med Gull and was off to tote up the tufties. This now meant I would have to stay and refind the bird. JL was first on the scene, a stop off while taking his kids to school. Tick and run, though to be fair he was going to see if the children were enthusiastic about adding MG to their Wanstead lists and before he could get back an elderly gent and his dog had gone straight through the gull flock scattering them to the four corners. Luckily the Med went westward where Tim caught up with it on the brick fields (his first on the patch having missed last Summer's bird). Job done.

Having forgotten the hours I've spent looking at countless BH Gull to make one MG, it always surprises me how bloody obvious they are. No matter, I will be back searching fruitlessly next week at countless BH Gull to make one MG.

Back on track I was filled with a fresh sense of optimism and endeavour with regards larids. I started scanning the reassembled flocks between myself and the lake. A couple of Herring Gull, two or three LBBGs and many Common and Black-heads. The group immediately in front of me, mainly CGs in various states of lethargy, contained something slightly more interesting at the back. In that at first glance through bins (which need constant wiping against the drizzle), the alert bird was significantly larger than its companions. It was also not so cute as the soporific Commons before it, but no way as angry looking as the couple of Herring Gulls paddling for worms. Bill much larger with a prominent dark ring, dark markings on the neck and head, probably not a Common Gull I summised. Which left my knowledge of gulls with only one suggestion. Now I've seen Rossi a couple of times when year listing: take a train to Westcliffe on Sea, walk to the front by the Icecream parlour look on the street lamps, on the groynes - bingo if he's there job done. No more than ten minutes work each time (I did miss him once), and your back on a train. He is to say the least rather obvious. You know he's likely to be there and so looking is easier. Take a similar bird out of context and its harder. Strangely though just as when I saw the Westcliffe bird there was absolutely no elation whatsoever, that built up later. First I wanted Tim to see the bird for confirmation or correction. He was still wandering around after some small winter plumaged black headed gull with a bright blood red beak. The bird flew off to the south. I should have noticed mirrors'n'stuff, I should have taken a picture (but judging from the woeful results of the morning these would probably have been less than helpful), I should be better at taking notes (which for me still amount to 1 or 2 or perhaps a bigger number!). I can say it had fairly extensive black on the wing ends and thus little white. I should have noted where it went, but I got distracted by a text. Bugger! Couldn't find it, though now all flying birds were looking like it. Bugger! But not being one to give up easily I scanned the few patches of white things and gave up. Bugger! Tim says they are loyal to a patch e.g. Rossi. So it will be back tomorrow and so will Wanstead Birders... ... with telescopes. We'll pin the bugger down.

... what the Mediterranean Gull might have looked like it if it had been last year in the summer, still leaves plenty of room for the imagination. I can't fathom why Tim chose Jono's picture for his wonderful The Birds of Wanstead 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing in your description rules in Ring-billed Gull, you say it reminded you of Rossi so presumably it was an adult, although you don't mention age. An adult Ring-billed Gull is a very easy bird to identify; I know this from personal experience having found and seen a returning bird on the Isle of Dogs over 200 times in a ten year period. I won't bother giving you a masterclass in RBG identification, it is obvious from your comments that you are totally clueless when it comes to larids, but I will say that you need to be COMPLETELY comfortable with all the regular species in ALL plumages. Ring-billed Gull is still a major rarity in south-east England, it averages one record every three years in London; I suspect you had a large Common Gull, which if you study the species closely you will note is extremely variable in both plumage and size

    Nick Tanner