It must have been about a year ago when Stuart and I were exploring West Mersea that we came across seven Mediterranean Gulls amongst a flock of Black-headed Gulls in the car behind the beach huts near Seaview Caravan Park. We had assumed that they were a permanent feature of West Mersea but, despite several searches along this part of the coastline during the winter, we have been unable to find any.
However, with Spring almost upon us, they have started to appear again and we made another concerted effort on Friday 30th March 2012. We parked by Seaview and walked out onto the beach. The tide was out and on the mudflats we could see a single 1st Winter bird. I went to get my camera and came back to find a group of people walking out on the shingle spit close to where the bird was feeding. Luckily, as they approached, rather than flying, it just walked to a safer distance and I was able to get some shots. Note the ring on the right leg above the knee.
The bird eventually flew off and, as there were no other gulls of interest around, we made our way to East Mersea.
By the time we returned to West Mersea the tide was in and we immediately found a Med Gull on the beach by one of the groynes. At first glance you would think it was an adult but closer inspection reveals a couple of narrow black lines on the wing tips making it a 2nd Winter. Unfortunately I only managed one decent shot before the bird was flushed by dogwalkers.
All was quiet again until, totally unexpectedly, a lady appeared from one of the beach huts and proceeded to walk down the beach where she produced a bag of bread and started throwing it up into the air. Naturally, I was expecting a large flock of gulls to appear from nowhere to snatch up this easy meal, but none came. The lady turned and walked back up the beach. It wasn't until a few minutes later that one gull arrived and circled over the feast, followed by another until within seconds the air was a melee of Med and Black-headed Gulls, providing plenty of opportuniteis for flight shots. The only problem was that the action was so fast that at times it was difficult to pick out a particular bird and focus before it went out of range.
The first two shots are of 1st Winter birds with their dark wing, dark grey mantle and their distict aggressive-looking mask
The next two photos are of 2nd Winter gulls with their residual black tips to the primaries. Unfortunately, today there were no full adults so we will have to save that for another day.