Friday 22 February 2019

Irish Birding in Feb - A Beautifull Gull (Part 3)

The last of a three blog posts covering the three distinct plumages of Mediterranean Gull in winter. All photos from Forty Foot, Dublin on 7 February 2019. Adult, 1st winter and 2nd winter birds come in three distinct plumages.  Here are the 2nd winters.

Mediterranean Gulls in the second winter season of life looks similar to the adults except for one big difference - sharp black markings in the primary tips. The bill is also duller and less extensively red or yellowish.

Note the slightly smaller adult Black-headed Gull in the background with a thinner bill and much smaller white tips to folded primaries.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Irish Birding in Feb - A Beautiful Gull (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a 3 part installment of Mediterranean Gull photographs from Forty Foot Pt, Dublin, Ireland on 7 Feb 2019.  Here are the 1st winter birds. To a North American birder several species might come to mind when first eyeing a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull. They seem made up of parts of Ring-billed Gull, Franklin's Gull with a touch of Black-headed Gull. In Ireland when scanning through large mixed flocks of Common Gulls and Black-headed Gull the North American mind resists seeing what is in front of you and slots the parts into either Common or Black-headed Gull and without interruption continues scanning through the next hundred birds in the flock. But the dark eye mask, long dark legs and thickish rather dark bill all on one bird give the bird a different look, maybe subtle at first but with a longer look the bird truly is unique in every way.  It should not go unnoticed in Newfoundland.

The 1st winter Mediterranean Gull has a tail and head pattern something like a Franklin's Gull and wings like a Ring-billed Gull could fly under the radar of the unprepared in North America.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Irish Birding in Feb - A Beautiful Gull (Part 1)

I spent a glorious nine days birding in Ireland 6-14 Feb 2019. I was toured around with long time birding acquaintance and friend Anthony McGeehan.  After a grueling 21 hour flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Dublin, Ireland (the price you pay when using Travel Points to cover the flight!) Anthony picked me up the airport and drove me direct to Forty Foot Point in Dublin harbour.  A few slices of bread tossed into the water and the agony of the marathon flight was a distant memory.

A small flock of Mediterranean Gulls hangs out at Forty Foot Point in Dublin harbour in the winter. There were a dozen individuals to start out but up to 35 were present by the time we departed three hours later. It is one of or is possibly the largest wintering concentration in Ireland. In recent years the birds at this location have learned about eating bread.

For the next three hours we, mostly me, took photos of the birds at point blank range.  Often too close for my long lens. A basic 300 mm lens would have been sufficient. The Mediterranean Gull is a special gull among European gullers for its beauty. It is rapidly increasing in numbers as wintering species in Ireland with more and more hanging on in summer to nest.  The following birds are adults.  Most are in winter plumage but some were starting to get their black heads.  Postings with 1st and 2nd winter Mediterranean Gulls to follow.

 There is one Black-headed Gull in this picture. Can you find it? Note its thin bill and smaller size.

Note the adult Black-headed Gull behind the adult Med Gull. The bill on this BHGU is already turning dark for spring plumage. BHGUs are a little smaller and overall light weight compared to Med Gulls but have similar habits and blend in with each other in mixed flocks. The gull in the back is a 2nd winter Med Gull, note the black in primary tips.

This individual was well on the way to moulting into the black head of summer.  Several of the birds were banded (ringed). We saw red, green, blue and yellow bands indicating origins from four different countries I think.