Blizzard chat

So what has been been going on with white winged gulls this last few days?

Well an unprecedented influx that’s what. Shetland and the Faroes are loaded, and Stornoway in particular has got in on the act with c.70 birds, while others have dotted all the way across the UK as far as Wales at least.

For a number of years I have been picking up potential Kumlien’s Gulls on Lewis. To me if it has dark pigment markings running along the length of the primaries, no matter how extensive, it falls in the Kumlien’s (kumlieni) camp, rather than Iceland (glaucoides). Thats from a shed load of experience of both plus skin checks, literature etc. Add to that these birds are often heavier chested, in many plumages show dark pigmentation across the tail contrasting with a pale/white rump, and often brighter rose legs. Structurally some are vey close to small Glaucous Gulls.

Posting galleries of images this year seemed the way forward. No excuses, but none of my images are manipulated bar cropping. As the birds are generally white though many are ‘burned out’ and seeing the pigmentation is hard – but it is slightly clearer in the field.

Many gulls in Newfoundland are ‘white winged’ Kumlien’s and Baxter and Gibbins in their Birding World paper (April 2007) flag 62% of birds they saw there as being in a similar pale range to the Stornoway blizzard. There are just three darker ended first years in Stornoway this year, but others have popped up elsewhere.

One mans Iceland is another Kumlien’s, and getting solid views in flat light at very close range is key, but rarely possible.

Many birds are older than first years this time. Of the 63 in Stornoway the other day the breakdown was, in my opinion:
1st year: 9
2nd year: 42
3rd year: 5
Adult: 7

We would normally expect many more first years. Why the number of second years? No idea. What population have they come from? Pass. Whatever, in a British context Kumlien’s Gull has pushed on leaps and bounds since Jimmy Steele nailed that adult at Banff/MacDuff in, was it, 1985? Am I really that old, and can anyone remember how many years it came back for?

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2 Responses to Blizzard chat

  1. Tony Marr says:

    Very good gallery Martin, and useful summary. Thanks – and for confirming mine…

  2. Bob Dawson says:

    Astonishing! Always great to hear what’s happening on the islands. Thanks Martin.

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