Gull-iver’s Travails

Well, I guess it had to happen at some point…  I failed to see any new bird species this week.  My 2014 list remained unmodified and stagnant on EIGHTY-THREE.  Disappointing!

In a fit of semi-desperation I thought I’d wade through some of the photos of gulls I had taken so far this year in a frantic attempt to see if I could positively identify any of them and retrospectively add them to my list.  I have seen a number of gulls so far, but I have massive issues telling one species from the other.

The problem is that they all look the same to me.  Does this make me racist??

As a bird-spotting novice, Lesser Black-Backed, Great Black-Backed and Herring Gulls all look very very similar to my untrained eye.  I could well have seen all of them in 2014, but because I can’t be sure, I have not been able to add them.  Sadly, my ignorance has cost me some much-needed ticks.

I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem.  Or maybe I am just one of a minority of gullerblind individuals?

Take this as an example…

The birds in the pictures below are all Black-Headed Gulls, but look distinctively different.  These birds don’t reach maturity until the age of one and also have a separate winter and summer plumage, so their appearance can vary quite significantly (1st winter, adult winter, 1st summer, adult summer – That’s four potential varying appearances, plus the addition of differences during the transition between each of the developmental phases).  Leg and beak colours also change during development and head colour changes depending on the time of year.  This head colour is either white or chocolate brown and never black (which is confusing, given their name!).  If Black-Headed Gulls have brown head some of the time and white the other, it is no wonder I have trouble!

1st winter Black-Headed Gull

1st winter Black-Headed Gull

Adult winter Black-Headed Gull

Adult winter Black-Headed Gull

Winter-summer transition adult Black-Headed Gull (taken in 2013 in Worthing)

Winter-summer transition adult Black-Headed Gull (taken in 2013 in Worthing)

Summer adult Black-Headed Gull (taken in 2013 in Redhill)

Summer adult Black-Headed Gull (taken in 2013 in Redhill)

1st winter (top) and adult winter (bottom) Black-Headed Gulls - for comparison

1st winter (top) and adult winter (bottom) Black-Headed Gulls – for comparison

I sent a few of my unidentified gull pictures to my crack squad of bird experts (i.e. the in-laws!) and got some great news.  It turns out I had seen a Great Black-Backed Gull (pink legs are apparently a giveaway in an adult bird) at Mercers Lake in Merstham and a 2nd winter Lesser Black-Backed Gull at Earlswood Lake in Redhill, but didn’t have the skills to realise it at the time.  In my desperation, I had also distributed a photo of a 2nd and 3rd winter Herring Gull in my cry-for-help email, but have since realised that I took it at the end of 2013, so it doesn’t count.  Rules are rules!

Great Black-Backed Gull (picture taken with my camera in Hubble Telescope mode)

Great Black-Backed Gull (picture taken with my camera in Hubble Telescope mode)

Lesser Black-Backed Gull

Lesser Black-Backed Gull (2nd winter)

Herring Gulls - One month too early for my 2014 list!

Herring Gulls – One month too early for my 2014 list!

A big thanks to Paul Lyons for his ID skills…  I’m off to trawl the Groupon website for a heavily discounted gull identification course.

Here are some other birds I’ve seen of late – Hopefully, I have labelled them correctly: –

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Starling

Starling

Redwing

Redwing

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About mixaeljones

Hello! I try to undertake a yearly challenge and write about it in a semi-witty manner. I often use twenty words when three will do. I am also a big fan of terrible puns and taking unintentionally blurry photographs of wildlife. In 2013 I tried to eat a food I hadn't eaten before each week (I got to 28!), in 2014 I attempted to seek out as many species of bird as I could in the year (I got to 201!) and in 2015 I delved head first into the world of butterflies and tried to see as many different types as possible (44!)... I've also done some belly dancing, been Father Christmas and nearly played tennis against Bjorn Borg. If any of this seems like it might be of interest, feel free to check out my blogs... Comments encouraged! Have a nice day :)
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2 Responses to Gull-iver’s Travails

  1. selah says:

    the black-headed gull is beautiful, I wish we had that one where I live..

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