Thursday, 9 April 2015

Thayer's Gull and birding in Galicia

I've often thought about a trip to northwest Spain, not just for a quick twitch but as an alternative winter trip destination to let's say Ireland. Anyway, that didn't happen and though a bit late in the season to do any real damage, I thought in April it'd be a nice place and a good trial run to see the lie of the land here.

Galicia is very much like Cornwall and southwest Ireland, with the birding consisting of small estuaries and fish ports. Having trawled through the Rare Birds in Spain website over the years while compiling the WP report for Birdwatch, many of the sites have become pretty familiar before I'd even visited them. Places like Ensada de Insua and A Frouxeira lagoon, and of course San Cibrao where the most bona fide Western Palearctic Thayer's Gull you're ever going to get hangs out each late winter into spring. News wasn't good though on this bird before my visit yesterday, with locals saying that it hadn't been about for a while. However, I put in a good session that paid dividends when I eventually located it among the hordes of Yellow-legged Gulls at Xove fish factory. In bright light, it showed rather well...

adult Thayer's Gull Xove fish farm, Lugo 8th April 2015
A couple of Herring Gulls were around too, an adult and a rather pale, large looking third-winter that I messed up flight shots of by taking my eyes off it at the crucial moment! There were also a couple of ringed Yellow-legged Gulls about, including this black-ringed bird that was ringed last summer in Gijon, Asturias.
1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull San Cibrao, Lugo 8th April 2015 - ringed as a chick in Gijon, Asturias on 14th July 2014.
Being a bit late on in the winter, birds like a long staying Bonaparte's Gull at Carino had moved on and no white-winged gulls were about, though a check of A Frouxeira revealed this rather handsome Merlin in the dunes - a scarce winter visitor apparently, and quite late on in the season for one here.
Merlin A Frouxeira Lagoon, Valdovino, A Coruna 8th April 2015
On the way into La Coruna last night, there was one first-winter Ring-billed Gull at O Burgo. So a re-visit today and in better light produced two 1st-winters together - distinctly different from each other.

1st-winter Ring-billed Gulls O Burgo, A Coruna 9th April 2015 (bird 1 above, bird 2 below)
We'll be heading along the coast tomorrow from La Coruna, hoping to see some more gulls of course, before spending a couple of days in Santiago de Compostela.


  1. Congrats!, we had never seen the Lago's thayer so moulted into breeding plumage.

  2. Yes I've only seen them in California in winter plumage so this looks much different, with such a bright bill! Galicia is an excellent place for birding - can see loads of potential just like SW Ireland.