Sunday, 17 January 2016

Jan 17th Great Yarmouth

Black-headed Gulls
Winter is a great time to visit a seaside town for a spot of gull watching. Ok, gulls are not high on everyone's list as they look very similar to each other, but once you get your eye in, identifying gulls can be rewarding. Today, I was at Great Yarmouth with my parents on the hunt for a species I have never seen before. There have been reports of a juvenile glaucous gull hanging around the Waterways park along the seafront. The trouble was, there were several gulls to sort through and it could really be anywhere in that area of Yarmouth! The search was on, leaving no rooftop, street lamp or section of lake unturned. Just where could it be?

Looks like a Mediterranean Gull, but the wingtips should be white not black, which tells me that this is probably a Black-headed Gull instead

Black-headed Gulls
Most of the gulls were black-headed gulls in winter plumage with the odd Mediterranean gull and common gull amongst their ranks. They are too small to pretend to be a glaucous gull, so they were easy to sort through without a hint of confusion. The herring gulls, on the other hand, were much similar in size of the bird I was looking for, but the black and white wingtips ruled them out too. Juvenile herring gulls posed more of a threat in ID confusion, but I was confident enough to make that kind of mistake. I was starting to run out of gulls to make a comparison with as well as nearing the end of the park.
Common Gull
Herring Gull

Feeding Frenzy!
But then, as we reached the end of the park and about to turn back for the car, my prayers were answered in the form of a couple sitting on a bench throwing bread out onto the lake. This created a feeding frenzy as gulls flew over from every rooftop and street lamp in the area to fight over the bread. No glaucous amongst these gulls, but the man throwing the bread with his wife saw me and pointed out my target bird sitting on a chimney across the street. Finally! There it was! I had seen my first ever glaucous gull!

Glaucous Gull
It may only be a juvenile, but it was still a large and exciting bird for me to see. Juvenile glaucous gulls are usually much lighter than juvenile herring gulls, though some can be much darker. The wingtips are white and the bill is pink with a black tip, which will eventually turn yellow with a red spot as the bird develops into an adult. You may think it as just another boring gull, but if I tell you that this bird is like coming across a polar bear strolling along Yarmouth's beaches, you may get as excited as me. Ok, so a glaucous gull in the UK is a more common sight than a polar bear, but they do live up in the Arctic Circle where they sometimes feed alongside polar bears scavenging on carcasses. These gulls are also fierce predators in their own right, raiding seabird colonies, catching adult seabirds as well as their chicks. Every winter, several of these birds visit the UK, so inspect every gull you see next time and you never know, it may be a glaucous, the polar bear of the bird world!

Pink-footed Geese
After thanking the man for pointing the glaucous out for me, we decided to pop over to my brother's house. He lives not too far away from Yarmouth out in the countryside. Along the way, we came across a ploughed field covered in hundreds of pink-footed geese. They were still there when we made our way home a couple of hours later.

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