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.  Okay....holiday 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 number....here 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 fight....so 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.