Thursday, 12 November 2009

Gulls shenanigans and variations

About 2 weeks ago (it was 10 days when I started this post), as we were arriving in Whitby, North Yorkshire (I shall hopefully post a few photos of that weekend one day soon), someone posted on the Londonbirders wiki that there had been a Caspian Gull just south of my patch. I'll pass on the fact that it was reported in Hammersmith, it's a weird thing that even though we are in Fulham around here our postcode is Hammersmith, and that the pub's name was slightly wrong. As a matter of fact, Hammersmith has a fair few river-side pubs, I think Fulham has only one (though it has a restaurant with the River Café). The problem is that so many Caspian Gulls were reported there at some point that all reports are viewed with much incredulity. Still, I'll give the person the benefit of the doubt, not least because I'd love to have one on my patch, and if it means I work harder at it, all the better for it. In fact it gave me a patch tick on Saturday when I saw a Little Grebe on the Thames, when, feeling slightly under the weather with sinusitis, I may not have gone out that morning. Considering only a few years ago a gull was either 'une mouette' or 'un goéland', and the need to avoid tripping on false friends such as a French Laughing Gull (Mouette Rieuse) is not an English Laughing Gull (I think people might look at me funny if I said I've seen 200 Laughing Gulls on the Thames...), I am on a steep learning curve. One of the things I have learned so far is that they're very variable even within a species, which sure doesn't help.

I went to check on the river on Wednesday afternoon on my way back from running errands, tide was very high and I don't think I saw any big gulls that day, just lots of Black-headed. I went to check again on Friday morning and the situation was fairly different as the tide was going down and had already uncovered part of the foreshore.

Just south of Crabtree Wharf, up to about 30 Cormorants were fishing in a line, until one of those rowing coach motor boats passed a bit too close too quickly. But in the meantime they looked quite comical in a lots of mini-Nessies kind of way:

Light wasn't too good, so the following photos are not the best.

At first comparing the bird on the left to the one on the right, it appeared to have a much paler head:

On closer inspection though, the bird appears paler overall and I don't think its beak could be called parallel...:

Still, from a distance, it does look rather different.

Then there is this other one at the bottom of the photo. Its most striking feature is its very black-looking eye, like it's got make-up (very goth looking), which makes me wonder about Yellow-Legged Gull.

Quite pretty at a distance in a Common Gull kind of way

In the end, probably just a question of variations.

For example: 3 Herring Gulls, 3 different levels of streaking:

Finally, on a lighter note:
Take one pair of Herring Gulls:

Take a fairly standard looking Lesser Black-Backed Gull:

Add one of the Herring Gulls from the above pair::

"Can we make some sweet music?"

"Hey you! I've seen you!"

Not something I remember witnessing on my patch before. By and large these 2 species tend to keep to themselves. But what chance do I have if even they can't make out who's who...?

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