Monday, 17 January 2011

Slaty backed nightmare

The Safari had a good start to the day this morning. Our early morning safari had the Peregrine on the usual ledge and our Song Thrush was singing away from the Golden Triangle. 66 Magpies were still fast asleep in Magpie Wood and a few Robins twittered here and there around the park. At the top of the park a Collared Dove coo-cooo-coo’d. Back at the Golden Triangle there were now two Song Thrushes singing which was very welcome to the ears – let’s hope they both stick around and more importantly find mates and raise at least a couple of broods each.
At the school the Mistle Thrush was giving it some serious loud as a loud thing from Loudsville, Arizona.
Patch 2 gave us a year tick as soon as we pulled in to the car park, a Blackbird was on the grass in the beam of the headlights, can’t believe we’ve had to wait this long for such a ‘basic’ species to show itself, there were several around during the cold weather. As the light was just useable we got out on to the seawall where we saw the usual fair few Common Scoters and Cormorants but not really notable numbers. A male Eider (90) flew south.
Then we saw a Great Black Backed Gull sat on the water not too far away and with all the excitement in Kent thought we’d best check it out more thoroughly...just in never know your luck in a raffle! A Great Black Back/Slaty Backed Gull it wasn’t but a very dark adult Lesser Black Back with barely any contrast between the mantle and primaries it was; unfortunately there were no other gulls in the vicinity to check how the (good) light conditions were affecting the grey tones but it did look very dark, a possible candidate for a ‘BalticGull (L.f.fuscus)? How much darker, if at all are ‘fuscus’ than ‘intermedius’? Gee these gulls are infuriating, just look at the ‘I saw, you saw, who’s saying I thought I think I saw, who saw what, when d’you see that’ down on the tip. If that one were a bit closer, ie Fleetwood tip we’d deffo be double tempted, triple tempted even!
But is it a pure Slaty Backed Gull or a back cross with some dubious hybrid parentage, what would a Slaty Backed x Slaty BackedxVega look like anyway? Crikey, these gulls are getting worse than Aythya ducks!!!
As for our thought of calling ‘argentatusHerring Gulls Viking Gulls we spotted the name has already been coined for Herring x Glaucous hybrids...someone was quick off the mark.
By lunchtime the tide had dropped and the sun had come out (blue sky; shock horror!!!). There were hundreds of gulls on the beach but there were also several four legged bird flushers complete with inconsiderate owners. Looking south was pointless due to the low bright sun so we concentrated our efforts on the northern (sub/additional)patch. Nothing jumped out as obviously different. Eight Great Black Backs were best of the bunch. A candidate Yellow Legged Gull turned into a Lesser Black Backed Gull when it took flight and the light hit it at a different angle, a classic case of not counting your chickens...or ticking your gulls...Down on the receding water’s edge was a large argumentative Herring Gull with more than the average white in the wing tip, in the bright light it didn’t appear any darker than the other, more typical, Herring Gulls around so perhaps only a ‘possible’ ‘argentatus’. It was being argumentative over a choice piece of Razor Shell until a Great Black Back came and claimed the over!
Two countdowns have begun, the first the countdown to 100 for January as the Eider brought up 90 for the year and second, the countdown for the impending return of our Extreme Photographer unless he’s gone bush and taken himself off into the furthest reaches of the Australian outback. Hopefully on his return he’ll pass on some crackin shots of exciting and unique antipodean fauna and flora for you to enjoy.

Which brings us nicely on the changing climate, what with the Queensland/Sri Lankan/Brazilian floods and all that. What’s been happening in Blackpool over the last thirty years?
Have a look at the chart for 1981 – 2010.
Because the lines for 1961 – 1990 and 1971 – 2000 are so similar the latest one compares the 2000s with the sixties and seventies. Immediately we can see that the top line (yellow), ‘daytime’, temperatures are almost unchanged except for June which has been significantly cooler over the last 10 years than before. The minimum (‘night-time’) temperatures however, tell a very different story. Only in January is the new line (brown) concurrent with the other two, all other months there is a large gap indicating that at night it has become significantly warmer than it was, June showing the greatest difference.
Wonder what is happening in June!
What’s going to happen in the next thirty year data set 1991 – 2020 (by which time a direct comparison with the first data set [1961 – 1990] will be possible as there is no overlap) only time will tell...we’ll let you know 10 years from now.
Where to next? More Patch 2 gulling to excite/bore you with.
In the meantime let us know whose belting out the tunes in your outback – looks like Thin Lizzy did in Fleetwood Birder’s outback at the weekend – wot a cracking set.

1 comment:

Monika said...

Infuriating gulls is right! Your description of the conversation on the bird forum cracked me up, it is so accurate. Immatures are tough enough but with hybrids I'd just about be ready to throw in the towel. Luckily the temptation of adding another year bird will keep me focused, though the scanning of a large flock of gulls this afternoon didn't turn up anything out of the ordinary to my very untrained eye. I look forward to reading about what you turn up with your "gulling".