Winter Chapter: Gulls; My Local gulling hot spot

Hi again folks,

I hope you enjoyed are last post on the first winter Yellow-legged gull. And we thought you might like some more work on gulls! Just to get the brain working. All in all this piece is just to show how gulls can be useful for identification and other birding purposes. It's nice to look at your work and findings in time and see how your birding skills develop and which areas need some work! I hope you enjoy.

(Adult Ring-billed Gull and 3cy type Common Gull By Cian Cardiff)

Just a few brief comment to tell you folks about the place were I became fascinated by gulls and gulling. It all began in a tiny harbour located on the East Coast of Ireland, called Bray Harbour. This area has the river Dargle flowing into it, which seems to be a attraction for most gull species. What I like most about this site, is when the tide drops there is an exposed area of sand and silt that has been build up by the river. This in turn leaves a fantastic area for gulls to wash, feed and rest! A gullers dream!! Gulls that show down to a few feet, so what better place to learn how to name the species, age, sex and race. The first rare gull I managed to see here was a superb returning adult Ring-billed gull which is a North American species! And has returned to the harbour and seafront for at least 11 or more years now. First found as a first-winter bird! It is a bird that many people mange to miss each time they are out trying to see and photograph it. At this stage I now know it's habits, each morning at first light it leaves it's roost with the Black-headed gulls around the southern area of Bray seafront/Headland. Then seems to feed along the promenade all afternoon, working from the chippers to some worms on the water logged grass areas! And then it would be rude not to wash all this down with some bread and cake that the gulls often get in bray harbour! And then have a wash and a squabble with some Common gulls that evening! And then let you nice and close for some nice shots. See some attached below.

                        Adult Ring-billed Gull in the evening sun of December By Cian Cardiff

                                         Adult Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) in Flight By Cian Cardiff

This was the first time I began to appreciate gulls as such an elegant and fascinating type of bird to watch and study. From then on, I have been obsessed with them! And enjoy checking the harbour and walking the seafront looking for interesting gulls each week. This bird has now made me more aware of each different gull and it's plumage. So, ill move onto some other gulls I've encountered here over the past year or so.

Of course it's not all just about the rarities, though it's hard to beat finding one! But something I find critically important to learning about gull identification is looking at the common species. Such as herring gulls.
And, here you go. No better example of variation within herring gulls than this image. From 1st winters to Adults. And the views are just half the battle here, as you can view and photograph. For me taking photographs of each individual gull is key, as no two are the same! Which is mainly why people don't have much interest in them. Well at least the tricky ones to identify. And even though I look at these herring gulls each week I still struggle to age and race some birds! Then I turn to my good friend Dante Shepard from London who is a top guller and birder. And needs to send me over one of his Caspian gulls!!!

So, variation is a huge factor in terms of Identifying gulls, I have written a few pieces of gulls for the Identification and Ageing Series so I wont get into that in this post. On gulls such as 1st winter Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), Scandinavian Herring gull (Larus argentatus argentatus) and a 1st winter Iceland gull that showed features of the race of 'Kumlieni' (Larus g. kumlieni) which are some of the best gulls I've had here so far. I will attach a series of images of some more gulls I have had there and I have learned so much from. By both working with others in Ireland and abroad which is key, not just working with local knowledge but working with people who have seen/see these birds everyday or have great field experience of the birds.

                              First-winter Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) By Cian Cardiff
                                          1CY Lesser Black-backed gull (Larus fuscus graellsii)  By Cian Cardiff

This 1CY Lesser black-backed gull was such a super looking individual, just such a clean and elegant bird. The long wings are often a feature thought to only be shown on the Baltic raced birds, however this is no were near the case or fact. Even the most common Lesser black-backed that breeds and passes through Ireland can be long winged. Though, this bird showed a some what delayed moult. It as seen in the above image is begging to drop some of it's juvenile scapulars and replace them with new 2nd generation ones. Which is a feature of the race of 'graellsii' as they moult before 'Intermedius' and 'Baltic' birds. Though this of course may not always be the case in gulls. As some 'graellsii' birds may be bred further north than others, leading to a slightly delayed moult. Or maybe it is a bird with a retarded moult which is not uncommon among gulls. Or then again it could be a bird from the 'Intermedius' race. There was talk of it being a possible Baltic type, though after it began to moult and we read deeper into the moult and plumage of 1st year 'Fuscus' we discovered this may not be the best fit for this individual. I did try for at least a month to collect a poo sample to get a DNA test to find out it's exact race! Though that was unsuccessful. So there we are again, not all gulls can be broken down into race that easily.

                                           The same 1CY (Larus fuscus) By Cian Cardiff

A more classic example of a 1st winter Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) By Cian Cardiff
                              The same 1CY as it became more advanced in moult By Cian Cardiff
                             A strong candidate for a 1st year Scandinavian Herring By Cian Cardiff
                           1st winter Kumlin's type being harassed by a 1st year herring By Cian Cardiff

                                          The same 1st winter Kumlien's type By Cian Cardiff

                                    Adult Mediterranean (Larus melanocephalus) By Cian Cardiff

                           1st winter Herring X Glaucous hybrid, know as 'Viking' gull in Scandinava
                                                                       By Cian Cardiff

                                          I hope you enjoy and will continue to support and contribute to
                                           the series. A book on gulls would be good wouldn't it?! in
                                            years to come, always working on pieces to help us improve are
                                            knowledge to help you. We hope to begin doing some guiding
                                             also, so please contact us if you are interested.
                                                                 Best regards, Cian and the team.

#IDandAgeing #Vikingoptics #Teamwork #Gulls


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