Tag Archives: Glaucous Gull

A minibus trip to Norfolk

Friday, November 4th, 1988

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(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

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A new venture this time. An official  General Studies Birdwatching trip to Norfolk, taking the Sixth Form with me in a hired minibus. One thing is for certain, though… They’ll all get a lot of lifers… And I hope for one as well, the Indigo Bunting at Wells, which may just have lingered on from the previous weekend. There is every chance that nobody has really looked for it since then. The main priority, though, is to make sure that there is a constant stream of birds for the students, always as obvious and as spectacular as possible. We start at Cley-next-the-Sea, and then we plan to work our way steadily back westwards along the beautiful Norfolk coast. Look for the orange arrow:

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Arnold’s Marsh provides us with two nice birds, a late Curlew Sandpiper and a very spectacular Knot, still in bright brick red summer plumage:

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Further along the East Bank, we find a lovely Stonechat, obviously prospecting for an overwintering site:

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At the far end, there is an exquisite flock of about a hundred or so Snow Buntings, flying with their tinkling calls up and down the shingle bank:

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Unfortunately there is no sign of Boy George the famous Glaucous Gull, whichever plumage he may be in now, white adult or coffee coloured juvenile:

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There are no Waxwings either at the traditional haunt of Winterton. So off we go to Wells, stopping only briefly to look at the goose flocks at the side of the coastal road. The lads are delighted to see a Snow Goose which they all insist has flown in the previous day from Arctic Canada, despite all my vigorous explanations to the contrary:

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We get to Wells where I spend half an hour looking for The Bunting but without any success, either down by the old toilet block, or down in the Dell. It must’ve moved on or perhaps it’s been recaptured by its worried owner:

Indigo-Bunting1 xxxxxxxx

As we walk back to the car park, I see a starling like bird in silhouette. It flies over our heads and I don’t really pay it any attention, until it comes in to land. Instead of landing on the top of a nearby tree, it clings to the trunk like a woodpecker. That’s enough to attract my attention and when I look through binoculars, I soon realise that it is a Waxwing:

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That is when the fun starts because we have only two pairs of binoculars between four of us and one pair is broken. Added to this is the fact that all the lads are very inexperienced, and it takes each one of them a really long time to find the bird on the tree trunk. There’s a lot of shouting, a lot of counting branches to the left and branches to the right, until the bird finally gets bored with it all and flies off. Two of the three without binoculars see it properly but, sadly, the last one does not. Holkham and Lady Ann’s Drive provide a couple of new birds for us, namely Golden Plover, and the almost jet black Brent Geese:

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Amazingly enough, though, there are no Egyptian Geese to brighten the day. Titchwell is a little disappointing, with all the Marsh Harriers departed for sunnier climes and the Spoonbills that were asleep at the back of the pool three years ago also seem to have moved away. All we find are wigeon and teal.:

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Still the lads are pleased. Indeed in a lot of ways, they teach me a thing or two. Any nice bird they see is a source of almost innocent wonder to all of them, particularly if it has more than three colours.

 

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Gulls are the most puzzling of birds….

An extract from my old birdwatching diary, “Crippling Views”

Friday, September 23rd 1988

Another lunchtime visit to the local nature reserve at Attenborough. Look for the orange arrows:

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Paul has given me a stakeout for the Yellow-legged Herring Gull that is supposed to have been down here for the past few weeks, on and off :

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I also would like another look at the funny duck that was down here two days ago.  Unfortunately, the duck is not there when I stroll over to the river, and I have to abandon hope on this one, after a good scout round.

A brief inspection of the birch trees near the car park however does reveal the YLHG, which I feel fairly sure is the same bird that I saw two years previously on the Trent sluices at Colwick, four or five miles or so further up the river. The legs are a cracking bright yellow colour, but I am to a certain extent puzzled by the paleness in the grey of the bird’s back, which, according to Grant’s excellent guidebook “Gulls: a stringer’s guide” should be significantly darker than the normal Herring Gull, but I would say that this individual is definitely quite a bit paler than it should be. This is a normal Herring Gull:

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I am further puzzled by the presence on one of the lakes of an obvious Lesser Black-backed Gull. That bird, of course, has yellow legs, but again, seems paler than one might expect. Is it, therefore, a Darker-than-Normal-Yellow-legged Herring Gull?  Or a Lighter-than-Normal-Lesser Black-backed Gull? Who knows? And I am actually beginning to think:

“Who really cares?”

Here is a Lesser Black-backed Gull:

lesser black zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And if so, then what is the first bird?

I hate gulls. You’re always on your own when you see them. Or else you are with people so expert that they only ever discuss unbelievably rare birds and never ever mention common ones.

“Did you see the Red-Legged Kittiwake at Flamborough last week?”

“No, but I was lucky enough to find another Relict Gull yesterday, up near the lighthouse, second winter, third in the brood, it had a slight cough.”

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Anyway, I tick the Attenborough Two as two more Firsts for Britain, namely California Gull and Slaty-backed Gull. Who knows? They might be.

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I make my way back to the car park. On the way I see a kingfisher:

Common_Kingfisher_

Thank God. At least you know where you are with a kingfisher. You never have to worry whether it’s a Glaucous Kingfisher or a Glaucous-winged Kingfisher.  A Brünnich’s Kingfisher or a Lesser Crested Kingfisher. It is just a kingfisher, a good bird to spot.

Gulls are the most puzzling of birds. Every single group of ten or more seems to contain at least one individual that might be of another very similar species. No wonder that American birdwatchers are reputed to arm themselves with photographic colour charts which allow a damned sight more than fifty shades of grey to be distinguished one from another.

And so many gull species hybridise on a regular basis. This is a frequent hybrid, the so-called “Nelson’s Gull”:

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It has characteristics reminiscent of both Herring Gull and Glaucous Gull, its two parents:

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On the other hand, it is really quite wonderful how Mother Nature can create so many different species across the whole world using black, white and grey as the colours from the genetic paint box, with mainly red, yellow or black for the beak and legs.

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