Monday, 6 April 2015

Gulls at Getlini, Riga, Latvia 4th and 5th April

Saturday and Sunday were spent in Latvia. Getlini Eko (landfill site) near Riga to be precise. And with Mick S, we had two really excellent days of getting to know the gulls of the Baltic. It's a really easy trip to do, with the dump being less than half an hour away from the airport and even less from the city centre where there are loads of hotels and pints of beer for just over a euro! One thing is for sure, I'll be returning to Getlini sooner rather than later.

It's the first trip this far east for gulls that I've done in Europe, so the primary targets of the trip were to look at omissus-type Herring Gulls (those ones with yellow legs, and a bit less black in the primaries, often referred to as Marsh Gulls) as well as enjoy some more Caspian Gulls - as they're always a treat - plus whatever else came along. One thing's for sure, it has quickly got me up to speed (as much as you can do) on Lesser Black-backed races - understanding how perhaps you'd struggle identifying an out-of-range graellsii with the prospect of heuglini (and vice versa) and how can you be certain what you're looking at is a heuglini anyway? There you have it, a minefield.

The highlight for me though was finding a ringed Baltic Gull i.e. a nominate fuscus - and doing the detective work of reading the metal ring. Still awaiting the finer detail, but with a look like this and a ring inscribed 'Riksmuseum Stockholm' it's definitely in the zone: -

adult Baltic Gull metal ringed in Sweden 8113504 - just waiting for the exact location...
Added to this, here is a brief summary the gulls noted over the two days: -
Caspian Gull at least ten birds noted; a third-winter and a second-winter, with all the rest first-winters. A couple of suspect individuals noted, including a Lithuanian ringed bird, that presumably had some Herring Gull influence. Just a couple of shots for starters on this post.

first-winter Caspian Gulls, Getlini Eko
Herring Gull extremely common, with the majority of birds being omissus-type, yellow legged birds. There were some very bright legged birds, and some pink-legged birds presumably from further north and west. Birds typically showed a nice white tip to P10, a subterminal band to P9 and either a small band or broken band on P5 with no black at all on P4 - what I was expecting which is always nice. Four ringed birds - two from Lithuania, one from Latvia and one from Finland.

adult omissus-type Herring Gulls, Getlini Eko
Lesser Black-backed Gull a handful seen; three adults of which two looked good candidates for nominate fuscus while another looked very graellsii-like despite the range so perhaps it's either this or heuglini (though the mirrors aren't ideal for a'classic' of the latter).

Great Black-backed Gull two birds seen, an adult and a first-winter.

Common Gull small numbers seen with perhaps fifteen to twenty birds present.

Black-headed Gull the commonest gull, and with a few rings about, very interesting to look through. Rings from Germany, Denmark, Latvia, two from Poland and most interesting of all from Northern Ireland!
Black-headed Gull 2AFD, Getlini Eko - ringed at Ballymena, County Antrim on 12th February 2014 and present there this winter until as recently as 22nd March 2015. Only the second ever bird from this scheme to be recorded outside of the UK; shows that a good proportion of our wintering Black-headed Gulls breed further east
Also, this leucistic gull, or potentially albinistic, was present too. The size of a Herring Gull, its slim and long bill does give a slight cachinnans feel. However, all white birds don't really give you much to go on especially when bare part colouration in these freak birds has no resemblance to what it would be like in normally pigmented birds.

gull sp., Getlini Eko
There'll be a few more photos to come once I get the time to do a bit of polishing off.

Well, we did also try to access the coast for something slightly different, but had little luck in tracking much down - just a Great Grey Shrike on wires over a typically boggy area at Mangalsalas. We could have seen what many would term 'real' birds, including Pygmy and Ural Owls, plus some decent woodpeckers, but we didn't bother. Oh yeah, and on the Sunday, three of these guys were enjoying the dump alongside the gulls...
White Stork, Getlini Eko

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