What was that Gull?

21st-23rd August 2014

Flamborough Head.

2cy Caspian b

In that remarkable summer of 2014 with Caspian Gulls galore (c20) at Flamborough, several Yellow-legged Gulls, three candidate juvenile Baltic Gulls, one excellent looking 2cy Baltic Gull AND this chap (or perhaps more likely lady) caused a little local stir and national response.

Found it in the Old Fall fields on the flashes so popular with many of the large gulls, I struggled with the ID. Aged as a 1st summer (2cy- just over a year old) – I chewed on it for a while and my best assessment was I thought it was a Yellow-legged Gull though I remained uneasy. First summers can be hard! The head pattern (a strong white C shape around the back of the ear coverts) inner primaries and trial pattern lead me to the YLGull conclusion. Rather unusually one of the national bird info agencies ‘re-identifed it, based on I think photos on twitter and Flamborough Bird Obs as a 1st summer Lesser Black-backed Gull. A little odd as I was privy to a lot more info, having actually seen it. No sweat, I never thought it was a LBB but I realised it was also never a straightforward identification. One local friend has been keen for me to resolve the to ID more fully, given the questions raised, so with Chris Gibbins visiting over the weekend we had a fresh look at the images. I think we came to an identification I am more confident in.

His enormous experience especially in recent years of thousands of Caspian Gulls in many locations quickly lead him to the assessment that the most likely ID was a 1st summer female Caspian Gull. Revisiting the images with fresh eyes I have to agree, this seems the bets fit. Indeed it looks blooming’ obvious in some images! It’s a darker bird but as Chris pointed out head the head structure is very good and there are no real minus points for that species.

If you look through the videos and images- check out the plumage of the head and especially the head and bill structure, the paler inner primaries (wrong for LBB) and the tail pattern.


The images below are taken from video hence some reduced quality

2cy Caspian a2cy Caspian e2cy Caspian c 2cy Caspian d

The shot below was taken 2 days after the first series looks… perhaps bit more convincing for those still unsure.

What do you think?

2cy Caspian f

3 thoughts on “What was that Gull?

  1. Lou Bertalan

    hi martin!

    i can only agree with chris. it looks like many 1st summer caspians i have seen in august at the black sea coast. it’s a plumage which looks odd for most western european birders who are used to seeing them in the much easier 1st winter and 2nd winter plumages. actually i was really astouned about these 1st summers when i first saw them consciously, back in ~ 2007.
    some here: http://www.lou.bertalan.de/gulls/m_grp.php?g=cachinnans%202cy%20july-december

    cheers and happy festive season,



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