Category Archives: Gull ID

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)

DSCN6894

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
dARKER WINGED ARGY2 (1 of 1)

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)

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

Pine-Grosbeak-32222594

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

Pine Grosbeak b 20.3.13

 

Trouble along the Black Sea

It’s all very well to have distinct, artificial categories like Caspian – Steppe – Heuglin’s Gull, but what if you keep seeing gulls that do not fit into any of these “boxes”?

Peter Adriaens

Caution! This is a long and tedious read about Asian gulls!

[Note: You can click on pictures for bigger version.]

 

In January 2014, Chris Gibbins and I visited the Black Sea coast in Georgia, with the idea of studying Russian Common Gulls (Larus canus heinei) in the field. This research trip was sponsored by the Dutch Birding fund. There were thousands of large gulls, especially in the Chorokhi delta south of Batumi, and in Poti, a rather industrial coastal city with a big harbour. The vast majority were Caspian Gulls, but we also saw quite a few Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis), about a hundred Armenian Gulls (Larus armenicus), 15 Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus – a vagrant in Georgia), 4 Baltic Gulls (Larus fuscus fuscus), 2 Pallas’s Gulls (Larus ichthyaetus), and tens of Heuglin’s Gulls (Larus [fuscus] heuglini).

A few Caspian Gulls on the beach at Poti...

A few Caspian Gulls on the beach at Poti…

From day one it became clear that among these thousands of gulls there were some odd adult birds, looking a bit like Heuglin’s Gull but with paler upperparts and somewhat less black in the wingtips. Were we perhaps looking at Steppe Gulls (Larus [cachinnans/fuscus/heuglini] barabensis), a taxon that winters in the Persian Gulf and India and that has not been recorded in Georgia before? These birds were trouble. It is nice to have books and papers that classify gulls into distinct categories like Caspian – Steppe – Heuglin’s Gull, but what to do when it is obvious that the gulls have not read any of this and do not care for such categories?

Allow me a quick recap. What exactly is a Heuglin’s Gull, what is a Steppe Gull, and what do they look like? Adult Heuglin’s Gull has been described by Rauste (1999) and Buzun (2002). Most authors seem to consider it a subspecies of Lesser Black-backed Gull, as it is very similar in plumage and there is evidence of some gene flow between fuscus and heuglini. However, the long calls of Heuglin’s Gull are slightly different from those of Lesser Black-backed, and some authorities advocate full species status. Essentially, adult Heuglin’s Gull looks very similar to adult graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gull, though some birds have slightly paler upperparts. The black wingtips are very extensive, with only a short pale tongue on underside of outermost primary (usually covering about 1/3 of the inner web, but sometimes up to ½). The tongue mainly has a diagonal shape, not concave or rectangular. From above, the black colour on the outermost three primaries (P8-10) reaches the primary coverts, creating a solid black outer hand. Most birds (95%) show black down to P4. The white mirrors are small; the one on outermost primary (P10) nearly always shows a complete distal black band, and the one on P9 never breaks the black outer edge of the feather. Nearly all birds show head streaking in winter (until March) and their leg colour is variably dull yellowish to greyish/pinkish – rarely bright yellow.

 

A typical (though rather dark) adult Heuglin's Gull together with Caspian, Armenian and Black-headed Gulls, Poti. Compare mantle colour to that of the Armenian Gull immediately behind.

A typical (though rather dark) adult Heuglin’s Gull together with Caspian, Armenian and Black-headed Gulls, Poti. Compare mantle colour to that of the Armenian Gull immediately behind.

The same Heuglin's Gull in flight. Black colour on P8-10 reaches the primary coverts. On the underside of P10, there is only a short, diagonal pale tongue (indicated by the black arrow).

The same Heuglin’s Gull in flight. Black colour on P8-10 reaches the primary coverts. On the underside of P10, there is only a short, diagonal pale tongue (indicated by the black arrow).

Steppe Gull is a poorly differentiated taxon and is clearly very closely related to Heuglin’s Gull. The two taxa are genetically very similar. However, not all of its long calls are similar to those of Heuglin’s. Steppe Gull is said to have two different types of long call, one being much closer to Caspian Gull.  Nowadays, most authorities seem to consider it a subspecies of Heuglin’s Gull (or a subspecies of Lesser Black-backed Gull, if you consider Heuglin’s to be part of Lesser Black-backed Gull too), but it has also been grouped with Caspian Gull or even been treated as a full species. In any case, it is believed to have a hybrid origin. To make things even more complicated, mixed colonies of Caspian and Steppe Gulls have been reported from southern Siberia, and birds breeding in northern Kazakhstan appear to show characters intermediate between these two taxa.

The characters of adult Steppe Gull have been described by Panov & Monzikov (2000). Photographs from the breeding range can be seen at http://birds-altay.ru/chajka-larus-barabensis/, and from the core wintering range at, e.g., http://chrisgibbins-gullsbirds.blogspot.de/2010/05/steppe-gulls-in-uae.html. Its upperparts are dark bluish-grey, similar to Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus), and the black wingtips are slightly less extensive than in Heuglin’s Gull. The pale tongue on P10 usually covers about half of the inner web, though this can be up to 2/3 in a few. The tongue can be concave or rectangular in shape. Nearly all birds have black down to P4 or P3. Black band at tip of P10 is usually complete and thick. Adults are very white-headed even in mid-winter, and have bright yellow legs and feet, especially from February on.

So far for the theory.

Now, what are these then?

 

An adult gull with dark grey upperparts and Caspian-like structure, thus suggestive of Steppe Gull, but note the pinkish tinge to legs and, especially, feet.

Bird 1. An adult gull with dark grey upperparts and Caspian-like structure, thus suggestive of Steppe Gull, but note the pinkish tinge to legs and, especially, feet, more like Heuglin’s Gull.

The same bird, stretching its wing. Unlike Heuglin's Gull, black on P8 falls clearly short of primary coverts. The pale tongue on underside of P10 covers about 50% of inner web and is concave in shape (diagonal in Heuglin's).

The same bird, stretching its wing. Unlike Heuglin’s Gull, black on P8 falls clearly short of primary coverts. The pale tongue on underside of P10 covers about 50% of inner web and is concave in shape (diagonal in Heuglin’s).

Another very similar mystery gull, Poti. First view is strongly suggestive of Steppe Gull.

Bird 2. Another very similar mystery gull, Poti. First view is strongly suggestive of Steppe Gull.

View of the upperwing of this bird. The primary pattern looks ok for Steppe as well as Heuglin's Gull here.

View of the upperwing of this bird. The primary pattern looks ok for Steppe as well as Heuglin’s Gull here.

From below, however, the pale tongue on P10 has a concave shape, unlike Heuglin's Gull. The pink feet and greenish tinge on legs are not typical of Steppe Gull.

From below, however, the pale tongue on P10 has a concave shape, unlike Heuglin’s Gull. The pink feet and greenish tinge on legs are not typical of Steppe Gull.

Bird 3. This bird has bright yellow legs, but the fairly extensive brown spotting on head is unlike Steppe Gull. The bluish-grey mantle colour seems a bit too pale for Heuglin's Gull.

Bird 3. This bird has bright yellow legs, but the fairly extensive brown spotting on head is unlike Steppe Gull. The bluish-grey mantle colour seems a bit too pale for Heuglin’s Gull.

In flight, the pale tongue on underside of P10 is too long for both Steppe and Heuglin's Gull. In fact, it is as long as in the Caspian Gull to the right of it! Note also the large white mirror on P10, with broken black distal band (at least on left wing). Black only reaches down to P5; the inner four primaries are unmarked.

In flight, the pale tongue on underside of P10 is too long for both Steppe and Heuglin’s Gull. In fact, it is as long as in the Caspian Gull to the right of it! Note also the large white mirror on P10, with broken black distal band (at least on left wing). Black only reaches down to P5; the inner four primaries are unmarked. Black on P8 falls short of the primary coverts.

And it goes from bad to worse. Bird 4 has head streaking that is so extensive that it matches Herring Gull. Yet, its upperparts are as dark grey as in Armenian Gull, and black on P8 reaches the primary coverts (just visible below the tertials here). The big white mirror on P10, with very little distal black, is unlike Heuglin's and Steppe Gull.

And it goes from bad to worse. Bird 4 has head streaking that is so extensive that it matches Herring Gull. Yet, its upperparts are as dark grey as in Armenian Gull, and black on P8 reaches the primary coverts (just visible below the tertials here). The big white mirror on P10, with very little distal black, is unlike Heuglin’s and Steppe Gull.

Bird 5. Another barabensis type with way too big white mirror on P10.

Bird 5. Another barabensis type with way too big white mirror on P10.

There is very little distal black on the P10 mirror, and the feet have a pinkish tinge.

There is very little distal black on the P10 mirror, and the feet have a pinkish tinge.

Still the same bird. Note that the strong contrast between dark grey remiges and white underwing coverts differs from Caspian Gull.

Still the same bird. Note that the strong contrast between dark grey remiges and white underwing coverts differs from Caspian Gull – if anyone was wondering about that species here.

Bird 6. With its bit of head streaking and short, fairly diagonal tongue on P10, this bird suggests Heuglin's Gull at first.

Bird 6. With its bit of head streaking and short, fairly diagonal tongue on P10, this bird suggests Heuglin’s Gull at first.

From above though, the upperwings are rather pale and bluish for that taxon, and the black colour of P8 and P9 falls short of the primary coverts.

From above though, the upperwings are rather pale and bluish for that taxon, and the black colour of P8 and P9 falls short of the primary coverts.

Birds 7 (left) and 8 (right). Two heuglini types, seemingly...

Birds 7 (left) and 8 (right). Two heuglini types, seemingly…

In flight, however, neither of these two birds truly matches Heuglin's Gull. In the left bird, the pale tongue on P10 is way too long (longer even than in Steppe Gull) and has a concave shape, while in the right bird black on P8-9 falls clearly short of the primary coverts.

In flight, however, neither of these two birds truly matches Heuglin’s Gull. In the left bird, the pale tongue on P10 is way too long (longer even than in Steppe Gull) and has a concave shape, while in the right bird black on P8-9 falls clearly short of the primary coverts.

Another look at bird 8 in flight. The pale tongue on P10 has a concave shape, unlike Heuglin's.

Another look at bird 8 in flight. The pale tongue on P10 has a concave shape, unlike Heuglin’s.

Bird 9. Big white mirror on P10, almost without any distal black. The black wingtip is quite restricted: black only reaches down to P5, and on P8-9 it falls clearly short of the primary coverts.

Bird 9. Big white mirror on P10, almost without any distal black. The black wingtip is quite restricted: black only reaches down to P5, and on P8-9 it falls clearly short of the primary coverts.

The underwing of bird 9. The pale tongue on P10 is extremely long and suggests Caspian Gull, but note the dark grey colour of the remiges as well as different head structure.

The underwing of bird 9. The pale tongue on P10 is extremely long and suggests Caspian Gull, but note the dark grey colour of the remiges as well as different head structure.

The following two birds seem to match Steppe Gull in all respects. They were seen above the landfill just south of Batumi on February 2nd. If they truly are Steppe Gulls, they would represent the first records for Georgia, which is over 1,200 km northwest of their normal wintering range.

 

Bird 10. Putative Steppe Gull, Batumi.

Bird 10. Putative Steppe Gull, Batumi.

Bird 10, upperwing. Note bright yellow legs, clean white head and neck, thick black distal band on P10, black wingtip reaching down to P3.

Bird 10, upperwing. Note bright yellow legs, clean white head and neck, thick black distal band on P10, black wingtip reaching down to P3. Bluish-grey upperwing.

The tongue on P10 is rather short and diagonal.

The tongue on P10 is rather short and diagonal. Remiges paler grey than in Heuglin’s Gull, not contrasting strongly with white underwing coverts.

Bird 11. Putative Steppe Gull, Batumi. The pale tongue is rather long and could also match Caspian Gull, but there is no white mirror on P9 and black reaches down to P3. There is a thick black distal band on P10.

Bird 11. Putative Steppe Gull, Batumi. The pale tongue is rather long and could also match Caspian Gull, but there is no white mirror on P9 and black reaches down to P3. There is a thick black distal band on P10.

Bird 11, upperwing.

Bird 11, upperwing.

What does it all mean?

 In 11 days time, we saw over 30 adult ‘misery gulls’ in Georgia. These seemed to show mixed characters of Heuglin’s and Caspian Gull, thus making them similar but not identical to Steppe Gull. It is difficult and probably unwise to try to pigeonhole such birds. Heuglin’s Gull is a tundra breeder, and its breeding range is well separated from the much more southern range of Caspian Gull, so extensive hybridisation is not likely. Perhaps some Herring Gull genes are involved, but that is just speculation. Whatever these birds are, it is clear that they make the identification of out-of-range barabensis more challenging. Another complication is that the breeding range of barabensis overlaps with that of Caspian Gull to some extent, and it may even come into contact with that of Heuglin’s Gull. Between the known breeding ranges of the latter and Steppe Gull lies an area of approximately 1,200 – 1,500 km wide impenetrable bogs and marshes; nobody really knows what is really going on there… At least, extensive intermingling of barabensis and cachinnans characters is known from northeastern Kazakhstan, and the same may be happening with Heuglin’s Gull.

One more possibility to consider when faced with such gulls as in Georgia is Taimyr Gull (Larus fuscus/heuglini taimyrensis). This is a very unlikely option though, as colour-ringing has shown that the gulls of the Taimyr peninsula move southeast to winter along the Pacific coast of East Asia. In addition, the tongue on P10 in this taxon is not longer than 50%, and there is always a substantial amount of black at the tip of this primary. Since some of the Georgian ‘misery gulls’ have a very long tongue and a big white mirror on P10, they do not match the appearance of Taimyr Gull.

As a final note, such ‘misery gulls’, of course, may also occur in other regions. There have been reports of Steppe Gull from Israel and even Greece; are these truly Steppe Gulls? Even some of the “Heuglin’s Gulls” photographed in Israel seem odd, and do not really match birds from the breeding range. For example, http://gull-research.org/heuglini/heug5cy/admarch06.html shows a huge, concave tongue on P10, and http://gull-research.org/heuglini/heug5cy/adfeb01.html portrays a bird with rather paler grey upperparts, big white mirrors on P9-10, and black of P8-9 clearly falling short of the primary coverts.

If you are still reading this, congratulations and thank you for your attention! Let us keep an open mind about these heuglini and barabensis types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark 1st-cycle Kumlien’s Gulls

Peter Adriaens

 

With a fairly pale, putative 1st-cycle Thayer’s Gull in Scotland at the moment, now is probably a good time to look into some of the variation shown by Kumlien’s Gull.

The following photos were all taken at St John’s, Newfoundland, in late January 2013. They illustrate some of the variation at the darker end of 1st-cycle Kumlien’s Gull. Thayer’s Gull is still a rarity in Newfoundland, and the large numbers of Kumlien’s Gulls, all showing bewildering variation, make looking for one a rather daunting task!  However, given enough scrutiny, a typical Thayer’s Gull should still stand out, even when you have to sift through thousands of Kumlien’s Gulls.

This rather dark bird differs only subtly from paler examples of Thayer's Gull: it has already moulted many scapulars, the secondaries are greyish rather than dark brown, and the pale fringes to the primaries are slightly longer (reaching the secondaries at rest).

This rather dark bird differs only subtly from paler examples of Thayer’s Gull: it has already moulted many scapulars, the secondaries are greyish rather than dark brown, and the pale fringes to the primaries are slightly longer (reaching the secondaries at rest).

Compared to typical Thayer's Gulls, this bird shows less contrast between the outer and inner webs on outer primaries. Note that secondaries can appear darker than the greater coverts; this depends on the angle of the wing towards the photographer.

Compared to typical Thayer’s Gulls, this bird shows less contrast between the outer and inner webs on outer primaries. Note that secondaries can appear darker than the greater coverts; this depends on the angle of the wing towards the photographer.

This bird has rather pale secondaries, of the same colour as the inner primaries.

This bird has rather pale secondaries, of the same colour as the inner primaries.

This bird has moulted only a few scapulars. Note that the juvenile scapulars have quite extensive brown centers.

This bird has moulted only a few scapulars. Note that the juvenile scapulars have quite extensive brown centers.

The same bird, now with its wings open. Secondaries rather brown. Compared to most Thayer's Gulls, note the rather pale outer web to P6 (dark in Thayer's).

The same bird, now with its wings open. Secondaries rather brown. Compared to most Thayer’s Gulls, note the rather pale outer web to P6 (dark in Thayer’s).

KumliensGull_1c_Newfoundland_20130131_033

The above two pictures show examples of birds with extensive brown juvenile scapulars. However, rather than thin primary fringes as in Thayer's Gull, they show frosty whitish distal area on each primary.

The above two pictures show examples of birds with extensive brown juvenile scapulars. However, rather than thin primary fringes as in Thayer’s Gull, they show frosty whitish distal area on each primary.

This bird has rather dark juvenile scapulars.

This bird has rather dark juvenile scapulars.

This one has paler tertials than most 1st-cycle Thayer's Gulls (and has moulted many scapulars).

This one has paler tertials than most 1st-cycle Thayer’s Gulls (and has moulted many scapulars).

Thayer’s Gull: 2nd winter type in Faroes?

and the ID challenges

There will always by those birds in the Iceland/ Kumlien’s Thayer’s ID challenge that fall between, that defy straightforward identification. This is especially true when vagrant individuals are concerned. This bird in the Faroes is one such. It hopefully helps to educate what the easier ones look like.
  

Rune Sø Neergaard of the Danish rarities committee has been exploring this one. It was seen on one day and these are the only 3 photos of the bird. So what is it? Finder Rodmund á Kelduni writes:

3cy Thayer’s Gull, Sørvágur, the Faroes, 4th of March 2012

“Big and powerful bird compared to most of the Iceland and Kumlien’s Gulls this winter on the Faroes. A few large males of Iceland Gull matched this bird in size but were not as strongly built and did not have as powerful a beak as this bird. Further the bird did also not appear to have be as round-headed as the Iceland Gulls.

The six outermost primaries (p5 – p10) showed distinct and and very clear black markings – also with black on the outer web of p10, which might be a bit a hard to see on the photos.

The tail was entirely black, of the same colour as the primaries. Finally, the mantle seemed darker than on Kumlien’s Gulls.

In the winter of 2011/2012 I saw more than 1500 Iceland Gulls and more than 200 Kumlien’s Gulls of all ages.

Best wishes, Rodmund á Kelduni, the Faroes”

thayer candidate 2012-68-F152012thayersmaagec

Thayerss candidate 2012-68-F152012thayersmaagea

2nd w Thayer's candidate Faeroes 2012-68-F152012thayersmaagebAll photos by Rodmund á Kelduni

Chris Gibbins and MG both gave a response to the bird making the same kind of comments based on these photos.

This is clearly in the zone of inviting closer attention. It looks Thayer’s Gull-ish. Chris articulated it the best around the themes of

  • iris colour
  • build/ structure
  • paleness of coverts and tertials and
  • overall plumage tones hard to assess when photos appear rather dark and contrasty.

We are not saying it definitely isn’t a Thayer’s Gull, but rather it appears to us to be one that falls outside of  a high confidence level for a vagrant 2nd winter Thayer’s and into the uncertain Thayer’s/ Kumlien’s zone. Hopefully it continues to press home the kind of features to look for as there are going to be more 2nd w Thayer’s to be found.

Thanks a lot for these images – it is a very interesting bird.

I think it would be very difficult to reach a confident conclusion about this individual from this small number of images – given its real rarity status, I imagine acceptance requires very sound evidence.

Obviously this is a real problem pair of ‘species’ (Kums v Thayer’s) and the more I look at them the more tricky individuals I seem to encounter. This bird has a number of interesting pro Thayer’s features (especially the depth and extent of brown primary pigmentation, and the secondary bar) but also a number that are much more typically associated with Kumlien’s: the very pale eye would be unusual on Thayer’s at this age, and the structure is much more in keeping with Kumlien’s.   A P10 mirror is more typical of Kumlien’s but this bird has a very small mirror and so is rather like that seen in a small number of Thayer’s.

There is of course much variation and it is possible to encounter birds like this in the range of Thayer’s, but in my opinion we should perhaps be considering only the most water-tight examples as acceptable out of range. With Thayer’s this perhaps means the darkest types that are well away from the overlap zone. The recent Irish  (and Spanish) adult is a nice example of this, as is the Lincolnshire juvenile from last winter –  these are at the darker end of the Thayer’s spectrum and hence rather safe.  Perhaps a similar  approach should be applied to 2w birds.

Interpreting photos is obviously problematic: I’m nervous of assuming that these 3 images in these light conditions (which appear very harsh) reflect the full reality of the birds’ appearance – perhaps the contrasts evident for example between the secondaries and the rest of the wing are a little exaggerated in the one image that we have looking down on the bird.

So, in my opinion (but I stress it is just an opinion) perhaps there is not enough in these three images to reach a firm conclusion for such a rare and difficult bird. You may get different opinions on this bird; such differences help emphasise the core problem –  we are all still learning how to identify Thayer’s at this age

Hope this helps.

Chris Gibbins

 

 

 

Heuglin’s Gull in Germany

Martin Garner with photos by Martin Gottschling.

Heuglin’s Gull. It is the ‘Lesser Black-backed Gull’ of Western Siberia/Northern Russia. There are zero British records. How do you identify them? Here’s an adult showing the main features for this time of year.

Old ‘cachinanns‘ sparring partner Detlef Gruber (wrote one of the first paper in German on Caspian Gulls) got in touch to discuss this potential heuglini.  I had seen a couple of images the bird online but the images were too distant to make out details. However Martin Gottschling’s photos here show quite a bit. I haven’t seen the bird, so if you have and can fill in details, or correct my interpretation, please do so (scroll down).

Thee superb Gull research website introduces heuglini as follows:

In mid-winter, heuglini normally can be found along shores & on beaches, fish-markets and rubbish dumps in E Africa, the Middle East and further east to the coastline of Bombay. They often flock together with other species in winter. Heuglini, being a north Russian tundra breeder, can normally identified by the late moult process in winter.

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Apparent adult Heuglin’s Gull, Braunschweig, Germany, 30th January 2014. all photos by Martin Gottschling.

 

3 Features are pro heuglini and together seem to make a strong case for the ID as that taxon

  • Moult is not yet complete in flight feathers. It appears that p10 is old, p9 has been dropped (not visible) and rest of the 8 primaries are new and some secondaries are still growing 
  • There are 8 black marked primaries which would be unusual/remarkable in graellsii.
  • The heavier streaking concentrated around the nape with ‘spotty’ appearance is typical of winter heuglini; streaking more evenly spread over the head on graellsii etc.
  • Additional features of some (not this bird) include duller bare parts (even flesh coloured legs in adults) and dark speckling in iris

I have been looking for and trying to figure out heuglini for at least 25 years. Never seen a full-on candidate in the UK. This is just what I would want to find – please!

So on broad brush stroke view of heuglini ID this appears to have late moult, good streaking pattern and discriminating amount of black in primaries- so yes I like it!

Let us know what you think…

 

2nd Winter Thayer’s Gull in Ireland

1st January 1999 and subsequently…

Thayer’s Gull had not been recorded in Western Europe in 2nd winter plumage, or so we thought. Even the bird which returned to NW Spain over several winters, from juvenile to adult plumage skipped one year- it’s 2nd winter plumage. However this bird from Cork in Ireland suggests one has occurred. Now’s the right tome of year to look for the next one…

narrated by Martin Garner

Paul Moore wrote a while ago following the publication on Birding Frontiers of this paper on identifying 2nd winter Thayer’s Gulls.  He had found an intriguing 2nd winter gull on Cork City Lough. Suggestions at the time included Thayer’s Gull but it eventually went down as a 3cy (2nd winter) Kumlien’s Gull. His video grabs already looked very promising for Thayer’s to both myself and Chris Gibbins but it was easier to make comments on his bird based on seeing the full video. A bit of wizardry by  Jim Wilson and  the video was copied and mailed off. Having only viewed it  more recently I have made some comments and tried to get some fresh grabs from the screen.

“Hi Martin and Chris,

I had nearly forgotten about the bird until Harry Hussey reminded me of it after seeing your original article. Just to give some background on the bird I found it on 1st Jan 1999 at Cork City Lough and saw it briefly about a week later again. Subsequently I found out Harry Hussey saw the bird about a month later and noted a dark secondary bar on it.

 Not sure if I mentioned the only reason I was at Cork lough on the day was I volunteered to take our baby daughter for a spin in the car to try to get her to sleep before dinner with the in laws.

Brownie points and a Thayers Gull that’s a win win situation! 

 many thanks and all the best,  Paul”

thayeri candidate all

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thayeri candidare tail

thayeri candidate wing

2nd winter Thayer’s Gull, (all photos above) Cork City Lough, January 1999. Grabs from video by Paul Moore. Chris Gibbins hasn’t seen the video yet so here on my comments based on that video, hopefully with feel of the key details in the photos above:
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Hi Paul

I have had good look at your video. In a nutshell this looks spot on for  2nd winter Thayer’s Gull.

Specifically the overall structure and plumage looks like a middle of the range Thayer’s not one of these lighter/ trickier birds. The structure also pushed away any thoughts of a similarly plumaged American Herring Gull.

Key Features:

  • The iris is dark looking
  • The tertials are lovely mostly plain, medium/dark brown, the primaries are dark with thin pale fringe- fine in my view and part of normal variation
  • The tail is extensively and obviously dark and plain.
  • The trickier area is the flight feathers. I am happy enough that they show a pattern that while still blurry is nevertheless of at least 5 outer primaries with dark running right up to the primary coverts and there is no strong evidence of a pale mirror on p10. It is not possible to be 100% on this but it’s certainly not an obvious pale mirror or multiple line of mirrors strung over several outer primaries- as in many 2nd w Kumlien’s gulls. So I suspect there is no mirror. I also like the obvious contrast between darker outer and paler inner primaries.  The exact pattern of dark in those outer most primaries is essentially impossible to read the details on, but the darkness of outer webs, their breadth and extent and broadness of dark at tip are all better for thayeri I think. 

I tried hard to find something wrong with it and cannot

In overall appearance and in all visible details its a nice 2nd w Thayer’s.

I am sure someone with video expertise could better freeze the best shots of the wing and maybe draw out a little more info- which might be worth pursuing.

Hope that’s helpful

Cheers Martin