|Bray's pebble beach, Co. Wicklow. Bray head in the background. March 11th 2012.|
|Surf's up - Irish East coast style|
|Since I wasn't going to get any surfing in, I decided I'd join the Wicklow Branch for Niall Keogh's Gull ID talk seeing as I happened to be in the exact area at exactly the right time.|
|Wicklow Branch, Bray Harbour. I just missed getting a photo of the Ring Billed gull, very disappointed about that, but great to get a glimpse at least, only other time I ever saw one was last year at Coney Island, New York.|
'Anyway' Laraphobes, it's time to turn away now.
It's gull time and gulls are tough.
I remember a couple of years ago, I read the gull section in Collins, made notes and drawings of all the different gull stages (there are 4 stages of moult for the larger gulls, 2 for the smaller), then drove down to Bullock Harbour and Howth Harbour a few times to practice my gull id skills.
It was was head wrecking.
Trying to look at the Herring gulls, there were Greater black backs, a few Lesser black backs, Common gulls and Black headed gulls all milling around in their various plumages - all specific to their own age and species.
I found it impossble, I struggled, got very impatient and decided I didn't have any Gull id skills.
But today seemed a little easier.
Laraphiles, apologies for any mistakes.
**No mistakes anywhere now, Niall emailed me with extra i.d pointers and said it was ok to copy and paste into the blog - so for anyone keen on gulls - knock yerself out with these pointers - very kindly emailed by Niall Keogh and pasted under each photo.
|3rd Winter moulting into 3rd Summer, white tips on primaries showing a little more, most streaking has disappeared, red gony's (not guineys!!) spot showing. |
|Adult Herring Gull, could be 4 years old, could be 25 years old. Pure white tail, large white tips to primaries and white edge to secondaries and tertiaries. The iris is now completely pale which makes the pupil a striking black spot in the middle.|
|Chaos at Bray Harbour, Turnstones, Herring Gulls, Mute Swans and feral pigeons.|
'Pointers for identifying juvenile/1st-winter Herring Gulls originating from more northerly latitudes (presumably 'argentatus') from our own 1st-winter 'argenteus' include:
(1) The overall darker, blotchier brown colouration to the underparts (neck, breast, belly & flanks).
(2) The dark brown lesser coverts, median coverts & tertials contrasting with the more evenly brown & white chequered greater coverts.
(3) The limited amount of renewed 1st-winter scapular & mantle feathers compared to 1st-winter 'argenteus' Herring Gulls at this time of year (making them look more like a true 'juvenile').
(4) Generally bulkier & larger size.
(5) Larger bill, more sloping forehead & flatter crown.
NOTE: All of the above features are highly variable & some can even be shown by our own 'argenteus' Herring Gulls resulting in much overlap between the two subspecies. As such, only the most obvious of birds, sporting a suite of the above features can be safely identified' (NTK).
|2nd year Med gull on left, Black headed gull on right. Niall says nothing|
|2nd yr Med gull, Black headed would have black tipped primaries and secondaries and tertiaries.|
After quite a while at the small beach, we walked down the pier towards the sea and started looking through scopes off into the 'outflow', way out in the distance, but I was done. I had left my scope in the car, the sky was grey, the cold sea was grey and I was starting to feel grey inside.
|Wicklow branch, Bray Harbour - looking at Iceland gulls at the outflow|
Thanks to Niall for taking the time to explain gull id's and for pointing out what I certainly wouldn't have had the patience to look for myself amongst the gulls.
Thanks to Mark for a bit of photography advice too.
I've been messing with iso / shutter speed settings and wondered whether shutter speed still mattered when the bird was still (stillish, only a dead bird would be still!) - he said no, unless a bird's in flight or moving quickly, shutter speed can be slow and you can bring your iso right down - remembering to allow for camera shake too.
All in all, an enjoyable afternoon.