Saturday, 31 October 2009

False alarm

Having a quick scan of the sea off Cockenzie harbour late morning immediately noticed a distinctive 1st-win gull, on the sea with Common Gulls. Most noticeable feature was the bulky bill, with Glaucous Gull pattern, a fairly bright orange-pink with all dark tip; watching bird on sea over next few minutes was also struck by pale mantle, definitely paler than the 5 adults the bird was with (though this may have been exacerbated by the strong sunlight at that stage), and it *seemed* to be about 10% bigger than them and had a squarer head. Tertials very dark but with quite broad pale fringes, particularly at the rear. Fine streaking on head and more distinct spots on side of breast. It then flew in around the powerstation water outlet, and did some dip feeding; in flight the mantle looked very pale and the typical mantle/wing contrast of 1st-win Common Gull was not apparent. The tail-band was clearcut, as in 1st-win Common Gull (and certainly the bird was never a candidate for a small 2nd-win Herring) and the underwing pretty pale, white down the centre but with some pale brown fringing. Based mainly on structure and bill I felt it looked good for 1st-win Ring-billed and there seemed to be no feature strongly against that so I called out the news, and for assistance. Very hard to photograph bobbing on the sea, but below is one attempt.

Later after going to and fro from childrens' party etc, and missing others who kindly turned up to check it out, what seemed to be the same bird was still in the same area, on the sea more distantly offshore NE (further photos below), then coming in and circling over the water outlet, but never alighting and showing no interest when I chucked bits of bread into the sea. The bill appeared less convincing at this stage, though it was now overcast, but most crucially the tailband was apparently very clear-cut with no sign of dark on the edges of the uppertail (a diagnostic feature for RBG, but not shown by all, particularly later in winter). Other observers joined me at this stage and saw the bird in flight, now joined by another 1st-win Common Gull, and we concluded it had been a false alarm. Apologies to those who made the effort to see it and came away empty handed - must be more cautious next time!


  1. Always worth the shout. You are to be commended for giving others the chance to check it out.

    P.S. Check out

  2. Thanks Stuart, funny blog; I can easily beat you for bad photos and can't match you for good ones; only current excuse I have no camera, today's images on old camcorder...