Monthly Archives: March 2015

Thayer’s Gull in Iceland?

Challenging 2nd winter plumage

Martin Garner and David Walker

First off checkout this amazing photo of the awesome gull swarm at Olafsvik, Iceland last year. From Dungeness Bird Obs warden Dave Walker- man you wanna go there!

Martin Casemore Plodding Birder and David clocked the darker bird looking a candidate 2nd winter’s Thayer’s a few days ago at Grundarfjordur, Iceland. It’s a bit of a scary bird, so a few photos and some comment. Lot more pictures of the bird on the Dungeness Bird Obs website.

gull flock (1 of 1)


 Gull sp , Grundarfjordur, Iceland, March, 2015

t12 (1 of 1)t125 (1 of 1)t123 (1 of 1)t17 (1 of 1)

 From MG:

“From the first photos it is pretty Thayer’s like. Indeed I suppose it may well be the progeny of 2 adult Thayer’s. However for ID purposes of vagrants I would not peg it as identifiable/ acceptable if it was say in the UK. There are a number of features that put it into the uncertain/ what is going on? box. On the broad front I wonder if there is some pioneer zone where there is some gene mixing- say NW Greenland and these scary ones show up from.

Specifically- and your photos show this much better- it is very mealy dark/light patterning in greater coverts- most often thayeri is quiet plain, the outer primaries have less dark than ideal- best if it crosses to the inner web- and the pattern starts going weak from p6, also not so good. There is a pale spot even if not a proper mirror on p10 and the little subterminal string of pale spots on p8 ish and inwards is definitely odd and maybe better for kumlieni I think.

So that combined set of slight oddments are a least at ‘edge’ of acceptable 2nd winter Thayer’s would make me say it’s best left as Thayer’s -like but uncertain ID. It’s not dissimilar to some we showcased here  and those features are hashed out further here. I have seen quite a few 2nd winter Thayer’s and most look more straightforward- which is of course you want when claiming vagrants! Always learning…”

Gullfest 2015. Joy and envy

Gullfest 2015 is happening as I write

I have a tad of Gullfest envy as we can’t be there. So bear with and see why 🙂

Gullfest 2015 poster A2 - Vardø aerial biotope

Lars J. is in de building




Brünnich’s will be flashin’Brunnichs (1 of 1)


Gyrs will be aboot like they was when Darren Woodhead was drawin’ back in ’13gyr drawings (1 of 1) gyr drawings 2 (1 of 1) gyr drawings 3 (1 of 1)


and Lars can draw Gyr’s too


and he did some Steller’s Eider using his big momma scope

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 13.35.19

I think he’s not bad- I’d give him a passScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.07


 and he’s tellin’ them about “drawing what he sees not what he knows”

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.23.50Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.24.04


Then the ol’ Sami tent going up for the cool views and amazing food and atmospheric fire pits

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.21


and that NORRRRFulk lad James McCallum is back in his fave zone doing what he doose bestScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.55Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.53


and Jonnie Fisk – 2 years running? Needs to go find that flippin v- nigrum Eider so he can actually tick it! He also does very cool art:

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.04

and the Biotope hides- including brand spanking new ones are inspiring a generationScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.33B_-hqLhUIAERfZi



and one of my favourites  – there is community transformation a going on…

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.24.53


So you see Mrs G and me should be there. We will be back because the work of Tormod and Elin and the Biotope team is a friendship and a partnership that has been a huge boon to us.

All power to their hands and their plans…

mg arctic (1 of 1)my beautiful wife (1 of 1)


and a bit more art from Lars and couple of photos from me (from auk island viewable from the Sami tent)

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.31.08 shag 2 (1 of 1)

The Shags are always very cool and the hyperborea Guillemots- ‘ave em!

Guillemot hyperborea (1 of 1)


argentatus Herring Gull wing tips and travels

Remarkable Movements

Martin Garner

It’s what they do, where they go, how far they travel,  the ‘gull narrative’ that adds to the wonder. While Gullfest 2015 is cooking in Vardø and folk visit the mighty Hornøya  Island. Here’s one of those stories.


JX347:  Hornøya to South Yorkshire and back again and back again

JX347 having been rung on Hornøya has wintered in South Yorkshire- two years running! As a first winter bird and as a second winter bird- and been well photographed. The variety in young northern argentatus Herring Gull is quiet considerable. This one is not an easy ‘pick-out’ on plumage. And what route did it take to reach the UK? Over the arctic top like this Great Black-backed Gull or through the Baltic? Both are possibilities. Have  look:

First Winter plumage 

(poached from excellent  Barnsley Bird Blog – photo by Steve Denny)


Second Winter plumage

In Sheffield last month- (photo by Andy Deighton)

shefield 2


Thanks to Andy Deighton and Morton Helberg for following:

CR-Code Black ring with white code: JX347 LBM;RBNW(JX347)
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number 4193850
Species Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
Sex Unknown Age Pullus

Date Place Coordinates Observers Days/km/°
29.06 2013 Hornoya, Vardo, Finnmark, Norway 70°23’16″N 031°09’21″E Lyng, Torben
26.02 2014 Anglers Country Park, Wintersett, West Yorks, Great Britain 53°38’19″N 001°25’56″W Leeman, Brian 242/2464/237
02.03 2014 Wintersett Reservoir , West Yorks, Great Britain 53°37’42″N 001°25’57″W Denny, Steven 246/2465/237
02.03 2014 Wintersett Reservoirs, Great Britain, Great Britain 58°38’00″N 001°26’00″W Denny, Steven 246/1994/245
11.02 2015 Warren Street, Sheffield, South Yorks, Great Britain 53°23’21″N 001°26’41″W Deighton, Andy 592/2489/236

 to compare- a similar 1st winter was photographed at Vardø April 2012:

argy first winter  vardo (1 of 1)

Adult wing tips

Since the early 1980’s these have fascinated me (especially when the local county refused to accept the records!). The most interesting have usually been the ones with reduced black and more white in the wing tips. Some sporting the ‘thayer’ pattern on the outermost primary P10 and even on the penultimate long primary p9. What’s the thayeri pattern? As on an adult Thayer’s Gull, the pale/ white wedge on the inner primary runs right through to th white ‘mirrors’ near the tip and NO black cuts across the feather- as on the typical pattern of most dark winged Large Gulls.

Here is the thayeri pattern from  Banks from 1917- “The Status of Larus thayeri. Thayer’s Gull”

The pattern on the right show the uninterrupted white right through to the wing tip.


Thayeri wing tip Banks


So here’s some argentatus  with the thayeri pattern

from Gullfest 2013 at Vardø

ad argy white (1 of 1) argentataus adddb (1 of 1) argentataus adddbm (1 of 1) argentatus 1 (1 of 1) argentatus 45a (1 of 1)argentatus adult wing 13 (1 of 1)argentatus adult wing 4 (1 of 1)THAYERI ARGY3 (1 of 1)THAYERI ARGY4 (1 of 1)

not visible this just has thayeri pattern on p9argy wing not used

This one has nice long tongue but no thayeri

THAYERI ARGY6 (1 of 1)

Darker-winged adults

we also found darker winger birds- some with 6 black marked primaries which were intriguing. one of these had been rung further south in the Baltic.

argentatus adult wing 1 (1 of 1) argentatus adult wing 2 (1 of 1) argentatus adult wing 10 (1 of 1) argentatus adult wing 11 (1 of 1)


Ringed in Poland 

This next bird was trapped at Vardø already sported ring from Poland. Pink-legged and dark backed it was the darkest winged bird we trapped. 6 black marked primaries including dark band across p5.

argentatus adult wing 12 (1 of 1)

Gdansk ring b (1 of 1) Gdansk ring c (1 of 1)


another darker winged bird

back to those beautiful pale wing tip patternsargentatus c (1 of 1) argentatus extreme a (1 of 1) argy 3 (1 of 1)

How cold? Waiting to explore gulls and ducks…blizz (1 of 1)


Colourful ducks

with rubbery looking fish lips and amazing plumage tones- in both males and femalesstelers onee (1 of 1) fem steller's e (1 of 1)

and King DucksKing eiders (1 of 1)

and pretty smaller gulls

whose wing tip patterns we are exploring…

Kittiwake ne (1 of 1)

Scandinavian Rock Pipits

littoralis coming into colour at Flamborough

It’s that time of year. Especially at certain locations on Britain’s east and south coasts, on migration flyways inland- those Rock Pipits from further north and east prepare to head off. But before the do some ‘colour-up’. Specifically they flush beautiful tones of peachiness on the underparts and blues on the head, grey on the uppers and lose some of the streaking below. A stronger whitish supercilium appears. Flamborough probably as some figure well into double figures between a North and South Landing flocks. At least 6+ at South landing are showing colours:

Some of ’em are going to get even more colourful before they go.

litoralis srp10 march s (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march t (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march v (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march b (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march c (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march g (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march i (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march j (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march k (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march m (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march n (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march o (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march p (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  b (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  c (1 of 1)



Glaucous Gull fest

Malted Milk

at the Northernmost Birding Festival… in the WORLD!

Gullfest 2015 poster A2 - Vardø aerial biotope

Here’s few shots of young Glaucous Gulls. Mostly taken in the harbour at Vardø, Varanger where the Gullfest 2015 is happening as I write. I can’t  be with the guys this time so I’ve dug out some old, unused and some intriguing pics from previous Gullfests.

Also I will throw in some scary unidentifieds and a little colour for those less gull- inclined 🙂

These are mostly juveniles or if in moulting, technically  first winters in March (2cy)

1st w Ggull (1 of 1) 1st w Glaucous (1 of 1) 1st w Glaucous b (1 of 1) 1st w Glaucous G n (1 of 1) 2cy Glaucous  (1 of 1)2cy pretty glauc (1 of 1) pale billed Glaucous (1 of 1)glaucous 1 (1 of 1)glaucous 2 (1 of 1) 2cy g ullll m (1 of 1)2cy glgg (1 of 1)

a couple of second winters (3cy) …2nd w Glauc (1 of 1) 2nd w Glaucous (1 of 1)


le flocksGlaucous g (1 of 1)


and a mystery gull (whatdoyathink?)

Viking 1 (1 of 1)Viking 2 (1 of 1)Viking n Glauc (1 of 1)

2cy gull interetsingd (1 of 1) 2cy gull interetsingh (1 of 1)

and a red thing from nearby 🙂

When you see Pine Grosbeaks flying around chasing each other through taiga zone trees and canopy,  they make wonderfully fluty calls


and a young red thing who will one day, look like the fella above (photo:Tony Davison)

Pine Grosbeak b 20.3.13


NEW BOOK uncovers Yorkshire First

“Birds of the Spurn Area”

Coming soon…

Just a quick post to champion Andy Roadhousespurn esw1 (1 of 1) and a much awaited Volume.

Spurn Bird Observatory, the migration bright light of Britain’s east coast awaits the publication of a modern comprehensive ‘Birds of the Spurn Area’. Due out this Year! You can be a part of the action. Each species is being sponsored.

The nature of  exhaustive research means new stuff  gets uncovered. How about this little nugget? Good old-fashioned detailed recording means that a Subalpine Warbler, found in May 1968 had every one of its tail feathers illustrated. Which means it’s fully identifiable, not just generically, but specifically as an Eastern Subalpine Warbler.


9th May 1968

The first for Yorkshire and first on mainland Britain

Most appropriate as this is also one of the BEST place in Britain to see Subalpine Warbler! Neck and neck with Fair Isle on the most species for one site in Britain, Spurn is a national birdwatching treasure and this book will be a must have.

spurn esw2 (1 of 1)


Be a part of the Book

Have you been to Spurn? Seen a rare bird or migrant spectacle at Spurn?  Visited the Migration festival?

You are invited to Come and be part of this book. It’s a not-for-profit production. Proceeds going to advance Spurn Bird Observatory. Publishing is being covered in part by sponsorship. More info? Just email Andy Roadhouse:  friendsofspurn ‘at’

What species would you sponsor?

Heres’ the species I might have sponsored but got beaten to it!

Roller Martin Garner Spurn 29 May 2012

So I went all ‘frontiers’ and will be sponsoring:




May 2011

This female Subalpine Warbler in May 2011 was also retrospectively confirmed as an Eastern, by its tail feather.

photo John Law

photo John Law




How Digiscoping has brought back my youthful way of looking at birds

Justin Carr

Recently I was privileged to do my first one-on-one Digiscoping workshop at the Old Moor RSPB reserve.

The facilities there have been designed specifically for photographers with a small hide sunk into the ground so as you look out of the hide your eyes are at ground level. It’s ideal for photographing feeding birds at point-blank range. Birds such as Bullfinches, Greenfinches, and various Buntings. Most of these birds, experienced birder’s (me included) take for granted. Seeing and  photographing these birds at only a few feet in front of me and my client gave us both a real buzz  bringing back that felling I had when I started out birding in my early teens.

My local patch ‘Back in the Day’ was my grandparents back garden which had numerous feeders hung up. Many an exiting hour was spent watching and recording the bird that visited. A chart was kept, with the species and numbers recorded month by month. My rarities were Reed Buntings and Siskin. These two birds really got the juices flowing. The point I am trying to make is the more experience we get the more we forget how exciting our common birds can be.

We all like finding and seeing Rarities but don’t forget to enjoy the common ones too before they become Rarities. Here are a few images to inspire you!!

A stunning male Bullfinch

A stunning male Bullfinch

Male yellowhammer another stunning bird

Male Yellowhammer. Another stunning bird


How often do we really look at Redwings.





and it’s not just male Pheasants that are attractive.

And from the Old Moor to Harpham East Yorks for the long staying Black-bellied Dipper, one of my favorite birds.

Black Bellied Dipper

Black Bellied Dipper

One more thing.

Being a photographer by spending time looking through a lens you see different aspects of a birds behavior. This Wren below was on Kelk beck with the Dipper it worked its way along the river edge gleaning insects from the water and at on point dipped its head into the water to pick food from below the surface. How many of you have seen this behavior before?



all images Digiscoped on a Swarovski 80.