Category Archives: 09) Skuas, Gulls, Terns

A Curious Large Gull

On Ainsdale Beach, Southport


Thanks to John Dempsey for this.

Big Gulls. Some of them are head scratchers. They don’t instantly resolve into an obvious taxon or even a familiar hybrid. This large white-headed gull on Ainsdale Beach, Southport, Merseyside 3 days ago fits that category. I found it intriguing and I admit it has a whiff of some pacific rim taxa about it in the photos. Kind of Vega Gull-ish but lots of reasons why doesn’t  fit that taxon. I’m sure there is a simple explanation, I just don’t have it yet.

Thought you might like a look. A photo of the open wing would reveal more interesting data. At the very least it gets me reviewing how ready I am for the rarer stuff, should the opportunity arise…

Chris Batty is more confident that it is a LBB X Herring hybrid- which seems the most likely explanation, though I admit I have not seen one looking quite like this.

See John’s website for couple more photos etc:






Sandwich Tern with yellow…

on more of the bill than usual

This curious looking tern was photographed on the 5th of November at Faro Saltpans in the south of Portugal. Thijs Valkenburg  is the guy who picked it up and in discussion with Pim Wolf came to a considered ID. I agree- see what you think. It’s interesting too when you recall that yellow-billed tern at Cemlyn, N. Wales a few years back. What have I said! ;)

Hi Martin,

 I got your email from Pim Wolf after discussing the identification of this tern. (see pictures attached)
We got to a fairly good conclusion we think, sandvicensis with a weird bill deformation and colouration.
We would like to see what´s your opinion about it. It´s quite a nice case. Lucky it was not a fly by,
that would be quite a heart breaking bird I think!
Best regards and thanks in advance for an answer,
Thijs Valkenburg



sandwich 1 sandwich 2 sandwich 3


Baltic Gull Chronicles

at Flamborough, September 2014

We keep exploring!

Martin Garner


After a record-breaking year for Caspian Gulls at Flamborough (c15 at least in Aug-Sept this year including 5 ringed birds- c 10 previous records in total) Baltic Gulls entered the stage again. The population is recovering and increasing after a ‘crash’. The chances of finding more individual in identifiable plumages and ringed birds is going back up.


Enter 12th September, Flamborough Golf Course. Top of the list was a juvenile type with white darvic ring and black lettering which I found in the evening of 12th September. Other observers got on to it including Craig Thomas, Andy Malley, Brett Richards and Phil Cunningham. Unfortunately distant and in fading light in evening gull roost we couldn’t read the letters and numbers though Craig had a rough go and thought maybe something … F or P 2nd letter.  4 numbers/ letters. Trouble is the darvic is on the wrong leg! Most Swedish/Finnish ringed fuscus have the darvic place on the left leg- right leg on this bird (thanks to Hannu Koskinen). What does it mean?

I then found another stunning looking juvenile unringed 2 days later (14th September) in the field behind our house. This one looks as cool if not better than the ringed bird. We haven’t finished with these yet. Thanks especially to Chris Gibbins and Hannu Koskinen for all their input.

14th September 2014

candidate fuscus fuscus 14.9.14a juv fuscus 14th September 2014a juv fuscus d 14th September 2014a juv fuscus b 14th September 2014

14th ssept 2014


 2 days earlier…  12th September 2014

The boy with the darvic ring- right leg (and metal ring on left leg)

12th september 2014 juv fuscus white darvic 1410547500068 1410549661971





Kamchatka Gull at St. John’s, Newfoundland


Alvan Buckley found this bird at St. John’s 4 days ago (September 16th 2014) and emailed the next day. Apologies for not getting it up earlier ( of living at Flamborough!). This bird looks right on the money  for the East Asian Kamchatka Gull. Here’s Alvan’s description: IMG_5566

Remarkably, it was standing right next to an adult Yellow-legged Gull (see last photo).
The mantle colour was very similar, if not the same as the YLGU.
Bill was notably thinner without any obvious markings or widening near the end (almost Mew Gull like).
Eye was dark!
Leg colour was definitely more yellow than the YLGU. In fact I would say that the YLGU legs were more orange in colour.
Legs were short and thin, could barely see above the tarsus.
Head streaking was slightly more dense on top of the head, but was present along the neck too and the streaking was generally smudgy in appearance.
Body was noticeably slimmer and smaller than the YLGU and HERGs.
From the in flight shots it appears that p9 and p10 are missing/growing in – so it is advanced in its primary molt for an adult at this time of year. New P8 is part grown.
and my response:
Hi Alvan
sorry for slow response- very busy as just moved house and lots migration going on outside!
This look remarkable and looks pretty much spot on for a Kamchatka Gull (as you hinted)- no problem with size- you get big ones. The dark iris was little disconcerting as they often have paler iris but think its ok.
I checked with top gull man Chris Gibbins and his reaction was exactly the same- look great for Kamchatka Gull.
Cheers Martin
More on Alvan’s Blog: Birding with Buckley

IMG_5572 IMG_5580IMG_5622 IMG_5620 IMG_5619IMG_5569

Six of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

One of the chapters covers Sandwich Tern and Cabot’s tern (the Sandwich Tern of North America). Twice young Cabot’s Terns have reached NW Europe as young birds in their first autumn, one in Britain and one in the Netherlands. Now that they have been recognised as full species- it’s about time another one appeared :)  For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

Do you know which this one is?

One of them terns. Superb photo by a top photographer- if I tell you who took you'll know what it is.

One of them terns. Superb photo by a top photographer- if I tell you who took you’ll know what it is.


Five of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

One of the chapters covers South Polar Skua and Great Skua. South Polars have a fascinating narrative in their ‘super migration’ into the North Atlantic. Special friends on the Lanzarote pelagics have pioneered the path. The features are clearer than ever. South Polars seem to have already reached Britain. There must be more to come. For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

 South Polar Skua presumed to be 2cy, with Great Shearwater. September.  J. Sagardia

South Polar Skua presumed to be 2cy, with Great Shearwater. September. J. Sagardia

Kumlien’s Gulls can appear early

23rd September 2013 on the Isle of Man

Recent correspondence sent from John (dad) and Adam (son ) Peet on the Isle of Man about a tricky gull early in the autumn last year.

Apparently birders were still trying to get a definitive verdict on whether it was a Kumlien’s Gull or not.

2cy Kumlien's Gull, Isle of Man, 23rd September 2013, Adam Peet

2cy Kumlien’s Gull, Isle of Man, 23rd September 2013, Adam Peet


John also sent  a link to very instructive photos taken by Chris W. HERE

2cy Kumlien’s Gull, Isle of Man, 23rd September 2013, Adam Peet


Well I think its one of those (fortunately) straight forward Kumlien’s Gulls and it’s moulting from 1st summer to 2nd winter plumage- or if you prefer it’s a 2cy bird in September in full wing, tail and body moult. I checked with BF team member and gull guru, Chris Gibbins who also thought I was a straightforward Kumlien’s’. WHY? Structurally looks great for Kumlien’s/ Iceland.  7 full-grown new primaries, p8 part grown and still to grow in p9 and p10. The outer 3 visible (p6, 7 and 8) all have dark smudge at feather tips with a kind of pale mirror- a spot-on pattern 2nd winter Kumlien’s’ character. Furthermore p7 and 8 have outer web obviously darker than inner web. Fab broad and very obvious dark, plain tail band completes the ID as Kumlien’s Gull.

Why September?

When I lived in N. Ireland it wasn’t unusual to see the odd Glaucous or Iceland which arrived the previous winter and stayed on over summer. That for me would be the most likely explanation for the birds’ appearance at this time of year, though there could be others of course.