Monday, 1 February 2016

More pictures of the Donmouth Gull

I found this bird on the Tuesday 19 January. My views of the bird on the ground were enough to lead me to think Thayer's.  We had some brief flight views and when I later was able to look at the three images taken as it flew around, these supported my initial thoughts - the primaries and secondaries looked okay in these shots for Thayer's. I put the news out as a ''Thayer's candidate'' but I have to say that at this stage I thought it showed enough to tick the boxes.

I was then away and out of touch for a few days, so the next chance I had to see it was the Friday.  When I went to Donmouth on Friday, I saw it in different light and immediately had concerns about calling it a Thayer's.

I spent most of the Saturday with the bird and these views further cemented my view that it was not safe as a Thayer's.
Mine is just an opinion, based on where I have set my line between a safe and an unsafe Thayer's.  Some details of the primaries (darkness, pattern at tips), the secondaries (overall darkness) and tail (e.g. extensive marbling along tip) make me uncomfortable calling it a Thayer's here in NE Scotland.

Here are some images.... All are in dull, neutral light, with absolutely no changes to images other than cropping.

All the images above are mine.  Below is a one taken by Mark Sullivan (many thanks to Mark for sharing this great shot) which I will use to illustrate a key problem with trying to assess this bird - how different it looked at different times and in different photographs.  In Mark's image (again with absolutely no manipulation other than cropping) it looks rather dark and contrasting ...

and for comparison, shown below is one of my images... not looking so good for Thayer's in this different light/with this different camera/with this different background.

My sincere thanks to the many top birders who have been willing to share their views on, and insights into, this great bird. 


Friday, 22 January 2016

seen the Donmouth gull again... and mmm.. no longer convinced

Just had my first chance to see the gull again since Tuesday.  Now the light is very good (neutral) and I have concerns. Overall tones look too pale to my eye and, in flight key areas (secondaries, outer primaries) do not quite look sufficiently contrasting to put it beyond doubt.

So I have concerns now -  enough to post up here 

Others may have a different view, and maybe i'm too critical, but today I have a different feeling about this fascinating bird. What a difference sun vs no sun makes to a bird where subtlety of tone is everything.

Thayer's Gulls

Lots of nice discussion of the Donmouth gull now on the internet.  I can't really add too much more as I've not seen it again, but at least there are now lots of good pictures of it to add to what was secured earlier in the week. The light up here in the last few days has been terrible for gull photos -very often far too bright. Inevitably the new pics are thereforemaking it difficult to get a balanced view of what it looks like in the flesh.

By far the best thing is simply to see it yourself.

 I tried to see it today to get my own DSLR images (especially some flight ones) but the weather is now awful!  Driving wind and rain. Sod's law.  Meantime, here are a few from California ..some of these are fractionally darker than the Aberdeen bird to my eye, and some a little paler (i'm thinking here of the primaries especially, but also general tones).  Its a great bird to see, debate and discuss...just what gulling is all about.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Gulls from Mongolia

As a schoolboy birder I regularly went to the Scilly Isles.  One year a very famous man was signing copies of his newly published book.  It was Peter Grant and the book - well - it was of course his Gulls: a guide to identification. I was hooked on gulls from that moment on.  I still have the book with his signature on the title page.  The entry for mongolicus reads simply 'Apparently similar to michahellis (grey of upperparts darker than pink-legged vegae, with which it shares at least part of its winter range).  Bare parts at atlantis'.  So for me mongolicus became a sort of mythical taxon, partly because so little was known about it and partly because of where you had to go to see it - Mongolia! Wow.

In summer 2015 Visa Rauste and myself were fortunate in being able to join Andreas Buchheim for a 6 week trip to look at gulls (and other stuff) in Mongolia.  Here are some gull images from the trip....I can still scarcely believe it was all real....

First a few images of the lakes we visited to look at gulls. Fantastic environments. 

Visa taking pics of mongolicus

Most of the trip was spent taking photos in the field, but we did do quite a bit of ringing (mainly non-gulls). This pic shows Visa and Andreas ringing a young Great Black-headed Gull. pictures over... now to some gulls...

We visited a Relict Gull colony; here are a few images of this species....

Great Black-headed Gulls were frequently encountered, often in mixed colonies with mongolicus.  A few adults are here.

My nickname on the trip became 'delete-man' because of my habit of deleting poor (blurred) images as I went along, to save space on my memory cards. Despite deleting probably the majority of the images I took, I still came back with 7000 photos of mongolicus.  I will spare you this are just a few adults.
Colony with mongolicus and GBHG

 Note the long call posture. Head thrown from near legs to 45 degrees; no wing raising.

The wings are raised here but this is related to the fact that these two are about to jump at each other and not really the long-call posture.

These were paired, despite one being only a 3 cy.
Squabbling over some meat

Chasing off a Black-eared Kite

One of our targets...birds wing-tagged by Andreas

Same bird

Now a selection of flying birds.  In general, note how extensive the black is (typically inwards to P4)  but also the variability in P10 pattern (both mirror and the tongue). Some become rather cachinnans-like, as you will see....

Well, it just remains for me to THANKYOU to Andreas for letting me join you on the trip.  I cannot imagine enjoying a trip more...the place, the birds, the company.  And thanks to Visa... I always learn so much from you.