Thursday, 11 February 2016

Slaty-backed Gulls - adults

One of the main reasons I went to Japan in December and January was to get some first hand experience of Slaty-backed Gulls. Thankfully this is the common large gull species in Hokkaido and it was hard to find any harbour area without them. The following images were taken from 25th to 31st December 2015 (just like the 1st-winters and 2nd-winters), and with a variety of weather conditions, I'm hopeful these images give some idea of what adult Slaty-backed Gulls genuinely look like. Light levels and snow do transform how birds look, so with over 30 photos here there should be enough to get the general gist. Here is my summary: -
- mantle colour variable from graellsii mid grey and darker to intermedius dark grey in extreme examples
- white tip to P10, with black subterminal band/area bordering obvious white mirror; P9 varying from lack of mirror to usually a small mirror and white tongue tips to P5 through to P7/P8
- obvious underwing 'shadowing' with primaries and secondaries dark contrasting with pale underwing coverts
- deep pink legs in all cases

extreme wingtip pattern on this individual

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

showy scarce gulls at Dungeness

Sunday was possibly the best day light wise I've had in this dank start to 2016. Or at least the couple of hours I was able to spend at Dungeness were like that. The juvenile Glaucous Gull showed really well, attracted to the bread I flung out but being fairly reluctant to actually get involved in the melee. Interesting too was this bird's plumage - nice and white, typical of those Glaucs I usually seen in Ireland as opposed to the dark, swarthy presumably Scandinavian birds. Still a lot to learn but it showed well: -

juvenile Glaucous Gull Dungeness, Kent 7th February 2016
As did the long-staying 1st-winter Caspian Gull, complete with a bit of displaced feathering in front of the eye: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull Dungeness, Kent 7th February 2016

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Blustery day on the tip

I had another decent day on the tip on Saturday. Very windy up there, but fortunately no rain. There was a decent influx of Great Black-backed Gulls, and among them, I managed a record (for me at least) of nine Norwegian and Danish black rings. Of course, it wouldn't be a visit up there without 'big white', the Norwegian-ringed freak.
leucistic 3rd-winter Great Black-backed Gull, Essex 6th February 2016 - regular bird with no introduction needed!
Great Black-backed Gull JM16, Essex 6th February 2016 - nearly 10 years old having been ringed as a chick at Agneskjær, Lindesnes, Vest-Agder, Norway on 29th June 2006. Since then it has been seen at Minsmere (in 2007), back in Norway and then most recently I saw it on the tip on 25th January 2014.
Caspian Gulls were nicely represented with four in all; two adults (a beefy, thick set bird and a regularly returning pale-eyed bird seen in previous winters), a brief near adult (that I didn't get much in the way of photos) and a smart first-winter (different to last weekend).

adult Caspian Gull, Essex 6th February 2016 - pale-eyed returning individual seen in previous couple of winters on several occasions
adult Caspian Gull, Essex 6th February 2016 - a classic beast
1st-winter Caspian Gull, Essex 6th February 2016
Like most of the Casps, the intriguing white-winged gull was present just briefly. I sought opinion on this bird on the internet after last weekend's sightings and a range of replies came back, notably from Hans Larsson who seems relatively happy with it as an Iceland Gull. Mildly surprised with that, but what do I know. Perhaps its bizarre look last year and retarded appearance this year too has blurred my vision, but there's something unusual about this bird that's still unsettling.

3rd-winter gull sp., Essex 6th February 2016
Anyway, as well as the above, I managed 27 rings in total - Norway, Denmark, Scotland and Aberdeenshire being the origins as well as a load of birds having been ringed on the tip previously by the NTGG. So that's the final tip visit until much later this month, as hopefully this time next week I'll be getting a bit of much needed sun.