Wednesday, 15 January 2014

In Search of a Med Gull

29th December 2013

It has been a while now since I have seen a Mediterranean Gull so I headed off for Mersea. Out on the Point at East Mersea there were only a few birds around because it was a nice sunny day and people were still enjoying their Christmas break so the area was packed with dog walkers and families. Luckily, Black-headed Gulls feeding close off-shore are not deterred by crowds so it was possible to get a few shots as they worked their way up and down the beach.










As we were making our way off the Point a Rock Pipit rose out of the grass calling and flew a short distance away before disappearing into one of the many creeks. Luckily it was possible to walk alongside the creek and I eventually found the Rock Pipit feeding at the base of the bank. I managed to get a few shots before it flew off.




Now on to West Mersea and first stop was St Peter's Marsh to see if the curlew was still around. No such luck there so we carried on to the house boats. Still quite a few dog walkers around so no Turnstones or Brent Geese this time, but on the mud in front of the house boats were a couple of Ringed Plovers and a single Grey Plover which provided some entertainment.








So how did we do with the Med Gulls? Well we went to both ends of Victoria Esplanade but, due to the crowds, the only gulls were out on the sea and not a single Med amongst them. So, with ideas of heading for home, we started moving back to the car. Just as we were getting to the car I noticed a few gulls on the grass at the far end of the car park, seemingly interested in some food that had been thrown out. Unbelievably, there were at least two Meds amongst them, one of which appeared to be an adult and was the most obliging. It was only when I got home that I noticed something odd about the plumage.

Adult Meds have no black tips to the primaries at all although there is a black margin to the outer web of the 1st primary (counting from the leading edge of the wing) and 2nd Winter birds have distinct black wedges to the outer primaries. This bird, however, was somewhere in between with just small black tips to primaries 2-4. I was confused so I consulted my chum and gull expert Alan Harris who said that this is a little known 3rd Winter plumage, which is not mentioned in most books but does appear in the Gull Bible by Olsen and Larsson. Here it refers to black tips on primaries 1-3 (using my numbering system), although on this individual the marking extended to primary 4. We live and learn.








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