Tag Archives: Herring Gull

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 :


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:


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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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


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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.



Filed under Nottingham, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

Two local twitches

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

Monday, September 5, 1988

Another walk around my local patch, Netherfield  Sludge Pits, the Cape May of the Nottinghamshire gravel pits complex. (see the orange arrow)


Once again, it turns up the big one, with immediate and excellent views of Sedge Warbler, and a male Reed Bunting in the same fifteen yards of hedge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the side of the path, there is a little flock of fifteen or twenty Yellow Wagtails and over the main lake, a Common Tern.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They used to nest on the little island, until it was submerged by the rising tide of slurry from the local coalmine. Knocking around the fields are a Kestrel, some Jackdaws and a few Stock Doves.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On one of the smaller pools, Mute Swans have bred.


They have produced several cygnets, but don’t worry, the anglers lead shot will soon put a stop to that. It’s amazing to think that Curlew used to breed here fifty years ago, and that, at this very site, Black-winged Stilts nested just after the Second World War.

A flock of finches here once contained an Ortolan Bunting and Little Bunting travelling together, and just after the Second World War, there was an apparent family  group of Gull-billed Terns come through, .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today, there are three Great Black-backed Gulls, and a Herring Gull.

That’s what the destruction of habitat is all about.

Wednesday, September 7, 1988

An evening trip this time. A local birdwatcher has told me about a superb new place that attracts wonderful birds by Nottinghamshire’s normal standards. It’s a couple of flooded meadows down by the River Trent at Stoke Bardolph (now, alas, with houses built on them). Look for the orange arrow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For some reason, the farmer has allowed the fields to flood, and for an even more obscure reason, he has permitted them to remain flooded. Waders in unprecedented numbers have been attracted for a short stopover as they fly south down the Trent Valley to Africa. Previously, I would only have thought of Stoke Bardolph for the incredible stink of the sewage works that are down there, but this is really something else. It’s just like a hide at Cley-next-the-Sea, with Curlew Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks, a dozen or so Dunlin and some Greenshanks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is  a single stint, which causes us a little excitement as Steve and I try very hard to turn it into a Temminck’s Stint.


But it must, unfortunately, stay as a Little Stint. Still, it was a good try.

Little Stint1zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The only negative thing about the whole evening is the failure of the Hobby to appear at the appointed time.

Hobby xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There is at least one, if not two, birds in the area, and it, or they, often hunt over the woodland on the opposite side of the river. It’s even been seen knocking around in the gardens of neighbouring Burton Joyce, a riverside village. Tonight, though, there’s nothing.
Never mind – it’s a really brilliant wader site for somewhere as far from the coast is this. What a pity, therefore, that only a few months later, despite the impassioned pleas of a number of different conservation bodies, the farmer  should plough up the land without compunction, and what could have been a brilliant inland nature reserve is lost forever. So much for a democratic society. We are about as democratic as the Democratic Republic of East Germany is democratic. If you own the land, you can do whatever you like with it, irrespective of how many people subsidise you with their taxes and would like some kind of input as to what is done with the land.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nottingham, Politics, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature