Friday, 18 March 2011

New to science? – The Asymmetrical Gull

The Safari opened the door this morning and was greeted by the suffuse rose pink hues of a luscious dawn. Stunning!
It was chilly but not too cold and there was birdsong in the air from Wren, Dunnock and Robin as we walked up the hill. A Heron flew low over the roof tops bringing out a cacophony of pursuing gulls, hope it wasn’t aiming for Base Camp’s pond.
In the park all we could muster ‘out of the ordinary’ were two singing Chaffinches and the first singing Greenfinch we’ve heard in there.
Out on Patch 2 well my oh my!!! It wasn’t misty; we had a clear view all the way to the horizon over a flat calm sea. But despite that all we managed to find amongst the multitude of scattered scoters were two Great Crested Grebes and our friend the now regular male Eider was still present.
A somewhat strange visit to Patch 2 at lunchtime with weirdness lurking in abundance, starting with the almost summer-like sunshine and t-shirt sleeves temperature (actually it was only 9ºC but it felt at least double that). The tide was not far out leaving a short length of beach which held a few gulls and...a female Common Scoter! We never see them on the beach, rarely even in the water over the beach at high tide. Musta been a little oiled as she was preening incessantly, although we couldn’t see any obvious signs of oil on her. A male (paired up already?) floated about anxiously only five yards off shore. Even when a dog walker came past throwing a ball the female didn’t leave the beach nor did the male drift further out, fortunately the mutt passed quite quickly without hassling them. The pics are fractionally better than other Common Scoter pics we posted recently.

If we thought that was unusual more was to come.
We had a look at the largish number of gulls away to the north. One came in to land and we thought at first we’d got a white winger. As it slewed round in the left wing was a very, very pale patch, but on landing we saw that this pale panel was restricted to the great and median coverts (lessers too?), the primaries were only fractionally paler than you would expect and the rest of the body was a fairly typical 1st winter Herring Gull, so was it a 'Viking Gull' (Herring x Glaucous)? Well probably not cos when it started walking round only its left hand side showed the pale wing, the right side was as normal as normal gets – and that’s wot’s weird, you’d expect leucism to be much more symmetrical rather than so definitely one sided. It was certainly a distinctive bird, but only if seen in flight or from the left! Sadly it was far too far away for a pic.
Where to next? Tomorrow could be interesting but not as interesting as Sunday.
In the meantime let us know how much weirdness was about in your outback today.
Here are the pics from yesterday – some quite decent ones by the Safari’s usually iffy standards (see above)


Warren Baker said...

You do see some odd gulls Dave, gives me a headache just to think about them! Glad you enjoyed the tee shirt weather, we had boat weather here :-)

Stephen Dunstan said...

c7 porpoises off North Shore. Also an 'asymmetrical' Herring Gull which only had no black in the wingtip on one wing.

I don't think I mentioned the intersex Mallard at Bispham Marsh to you but its plumage has advanced towards full male at a great rate this week.

Monika said...

If the gulls are going to get asymmetrical on me now, I give up!

Your photos are great though; I particularly like the gull ones.

The common/black scoter is a species that I would love to add to the list! I haven't even picked up the more expected white-winged scoter though. Usually there's a flock of them in nearby Griffin Bay, but I haven't seen them since the new year.