Friday, 14 November 2008

More gully stuff

The picture is the answer to the question - 'which is the UK's most numerous breeding gull?
D'yer know what it is yet?
Answers please......I'm not telling you you'll have to write in.
Surprisingly it is the species that most people see the least due to the fact that it only breeds on northern sea cliffs and spends most of the year out at sea. There are a few pairs nesting on buildings in ports, particularly Newcastle. They are almost never found inland.

Best bird in the book is the Mediterranean Gull. This is an adult showing the full black head, big white eye brows, bright shiny red beak and pure white wings. A real beauty. Most of the world's population actually live in the Black Sea not the 'Med; but if I said to you that 's a Black Sea Gull you'd think I said black seagull and then you'd think I was bonkers! So I think it's OK to call them Med Gulls.

Their young look like very pale versions of Common Gulls. But just to confuse the issue so do young Ring Billed Gulls - a rare but increasing visitor to Britain from America. I've not seen one for a while now. First picture is a young Med, dark bill and legs and a pale brown panel in the wing, the second picture is a young Ring Bill with a stout black tipped pink bill and a paler panel in the wing. You've got to admit they are similar and despite being much paler on the mantle than young Common Gulls are still quite tricky to pick out, being out-numbered several hundreds, if not thousands, to one.

Below is a Little Gull. The only British species to be darker - almost black - on the underwing than above, which you can see is silvery grey. The best place to see these is Seaforth Nature Reserve in spring when often well over a hundred are present. The are a very dainty small gull with an effortless buoyant flight. They nest in eastern Europe but many years ago I was lucky enough to warden a nesting pair in Norfolk in the late 1970's.

Now we come to them more regular species. This is a Black Headed Gull in adult winter plumage. Thin dark red bill, dark flesh legs, little splurge behind the eye.

In flight the white leading edge to the wing is a give away. You can see it on the upper and under wings.

Unlike the Mediterranean Gull there is some black in the wingtip and the underwing is smokey grey not pure white.

The white leading edge can be easily seen even if the bird is coming towards you.

Just a couple more shots of Black Heads to make sure you've got your eye in.

The other species most regularly seen is the Herring Gull. This is the gull of seaside sound effects and stolen ice creams, sandwiches, etc. Large powerful, bold with a silvery grey back, pink legs and a strong yellow beak with a red blob - the gonyal angle. Very easy to identify in flight - look for the clean underwing with the translucent patch. Lesser Black Backs seen from below have a narrow black band along the trailing edge and no translucent patch.

The translucent patch is evident in all age groups as this first winter bird shows.

Even on a grey day like today the wing appears translucent, in sunny conditions it is very easy to pick out if if the gulls are soaring at great height.

Below is the bully boy of the shore line. In our part of the world the biggest bird normally seen on the beach; the Great Back Backed Gull. Very big, very powerful and very belligerent. They will fly over the top of feeding gulls disturbing them to see if there are any easy pickings. I have seen them kill Rabbits and Herring Gulls at Seaforth Nature Reserve.
This magnificent specimen is an adult Lesser Black Backed Gull. same size as the Herrings but significantly smaller than the Great Black Backed Gulls and subtly paler too. A nice tone of dark charcoal grey rather than totally black.

Below are some annotated beach scenes from this afternoon. I really must get some digiscoping equipment. But if your down on the beach with your binocs or even just the dog these are the views you will get so the pictures are quite relevant.

Enjoy your gull watching whervere you are - there's far more to them than just 'seagulls'!

This is the sort of thing they were after on the beach. Lots of shellfish washed up after the recent storms. This one is a very fresh Prickly Cockle.

Where to next? I might have some more gull info about the 'white winged' gulls. but then there'll be a safari to report on over the weekend.

In the meantime don't forget to let us know what you have found in your outback.

And just in case we've upset any Australians with our multitude of gull species - here's a crackin' picture a Silver Gull.

Well worth the wait don't you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems like Gulls are underappreciated by a lot of people. There is a lot of beauty to see in them and their behaviors are fun to watch and the variations between all of the species seem endless. It's fun to appreciate the differences and similarities between all things. Keep on exploring Nature.