Friday, 20 January 2012

(S?)AHG at Nimmo's Pier

I've got one of those stinking head colds, feel dog rough and my head is banging. So what do I go and do - decide to have a punt at the Nimmo's Pier adult smithsonianus - a bird I've seen almost annually in recent years.

This bird hasn't come back yet this winter (though it wasn't seen until 5th February last year), but it's interesting to look at this bird in the light of what I saw in Ontario, the Corvo bird in October 2011, the Adriaens & Mactavish article and then some correspondence I've been having with a Canadian guller Kevin McLaughlin. Here are some shots (the first two are mine, and I'd like to thank Tom Cuffe for the four excellent flight shots): -
Photo 1. adult American Herring Gull, Nimmo's Pier, Galway, Ireland March 2008; note the heavy rather blotchy head and neck shawl

Photo 2. It was a big, bulky bird in the field; this shot shows a nice P10 mirror, with an extensive black tip and no obvious signs of a pale tongue on the inner web of this feather either (which you'd be looking for on a 'classic' Newfoundland bird) 
Photo 3. A small mirror to P10 on this photo, as well as a subterminal black 'U' to P5

Photo 4. There's an obvious lack of any pale tongue to the outer primary, P10.

Photo 5. Another photo that illustrates the lack of a pale tongue to the underside of P10, and shows nicely the subterminal 'U' on P5.

Photo 6. Note the solid black to the webs of P8-P10. You'd be expecting much more extensive grey inner webs to P8 and P9 on classic Newfoundland birds.
So what do all these features mean? Well, you're never going to be able to know for sure but there are a couple of things that go against this bird being a classic Newfoundland bird: -
- the lack of a pale tongue to P10
- one mirror on P10 only
- the inner webs to the outer primaries (P8-P10) are wholly dark with no obvious grey bleeding through, which is an obvious feature of Newfoundland birds.

Compare Photo 6 with this bird I took in Ontario in December 2011: -
Photo 7. Pretty similar in extent of black on P8 to P10 compared to the Nimmo's bird, with no grey bleeding through on the inner webs to the outer primaries
And then Photo 5 with this bird from Ontario too: -
Photo 8. Note the similar mirror to P10 and also the similarity of the darkness extending down on P10.
So what is the Nimmo's Pier bird. Is it a 'southern' American Herring Gull i.e. a bird from the Great Lakes? You can only speculate of course, but the feedback from Canadians on the Nimmo's bird is that it shows an outer wing pattern very much like the prototype AHG that breeds in Hamilton [Ontario]... and shows an average sized mirror confined to P10. It most certainly does not resemble a typical NAHG (Newfoundland type)'.

Though I'm sure some stuff about this bird has been written somewhere else on the web, perhaps this is of interest. In conclusion, this bird doesn't fit a classic Newfoundland bird (NAHG) - it doesn't exhibit that pale inner web (tongue) to P10 a la Caspian Gull - and if it hadn't been tracked throughout its life (having first turned up as a juvenile in 2004), then I imagine it would have slipped through the net.

Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin, Derek Charles and Tom Cuffe.

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