Friday, November 11, 2011

Horrendous rain and strong South-easterlies would put most people off heading out. To be honest it stopped us for a while and Rich seawatched out of the window. With only a couple of Mediterranean Gulls and a few hundred Black-headed Gulls and Kittiwakes in the first hour, we didn't expect much from the day. Fully waterproofed up we headed out. A Short-eared Owl flushed from the South End Gorse was as wet as we were. The weather eased as we crossed the Narrows and our attention turned to the larger gulls which were roosting above Solfach. Nine Lesser Black-backed Gulls was an increase on recent numbers but the wished for white-winged gull was nowhere to be seen. Until Rich turned and found that it was flying past us at close range. A brute of a first-year Glaucous Gull swept along the coast and off out to the South.This was the 20th record for the Island.

 The Glaucous Gull is a scarce winter visitor to the UK with up to 500 records annually. More than 80% of these records are of first-years, as was this bird. Three separate subspecies are spread in a near circumpolar distribution, but the majority of British records probably come from the migratory East Greenland population and to a lesser extent Iceland and Russia. (c) Richard Brown

First-year Glaucous and Iceland Gulls have very similar plumage and are best separated on size, structure and bill pattern. This first-year Iceland Gull was in Scarborough Harbour on the 18th of January this year and will serve as a comparison. In the Iceland Gull the broader black tip of the bill fades into the paler base, the pink of which is much more 'bubblegum' in Glaucous. The Glauc looks like its bill has been dipped in black paint. In the Glauc the black covers a smaller percentage of the bill and the bill is long in Glauc, more than half the length of the head, whereas Icelands look much more dainty, weaker and less hooked, almost Common Gull-like. The Iceland Gull has a smaller, more dome-shaped head and shorter neck. When viewed alongside Herring Gulls the Glauc looked brutish whereas the Iceland was a smaller bird. However a big size difference between the largest of males and slimmest of females of each species means caution is necessary. (c) Richard Brown

Of the five bernicla Brent Geese that have been frequenting the Narrows, only two youngsters remain. This messy eater has already journeyed from Russia or West Siberia to spend the winter in North-west Europe. (c) Richard Brown

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