Thursday, 5 April 2012

Thayer's Gull and an Elvis egg.

Friday 6th April 2012
Thayer's Gulls breed in the Arctic islands of Canada and winter primarily on America's Pacific coast. So it's not every day that one turns up in Britain. In fact, it may be that Tuesday just gone was the first...or not. It's complicated. Birders reading this blog can read plenty about this subject on other sites. For non-birders, a simple explanation. Thayer's Gull may be a full species in it's own right. Or it may be just a variation of Iceland Gull. That matters a lot if you keep a list of how many species you've seen. Not that simple though. There's a range of lookalike possibilities between Iceland Gull and Thayer's Gull, ranging from mostly white (an Iceland Gull) to mostly brown (a Thayer's Gull). That's a really simplified version of a subject which has birders vehemently 'discussing'.

The long and the short of it is this. The bird found on Tuesday afternoon and photographed well on Wednesday afternoon is a very good candidate, perhaps the best we've ever had, for a pure Thayer's Gull. Not only that, but it's in Lincolnshire, even if it is at the other end of the county.

So this morning I headed that way. The weather had improved markedly, though a change in weather often results in a change in bird behaviour, making them more difficulat to locate. On arrival, it was clear that the vast majority of gulls were feeding well out of view, over the brim of a hill in a field which was having silage pumped onto it. Brief, distant flight views with the sun in the wrong place were not going to be good enough to confidently secure this bird. I drove all the surrounding roads and concluded that the best chances seemed to be viewing from a rather noisy and unattractive layby on the A15 or viewing a field further along which a small number of the gulls seemed to using to rest up in. However, it did not feel good.

I drove to the nearby train station to pick up Mick, who had come by train from Scotland to see the bird. My pessimistic synopsis of the situation was not going to be well received!

To cut a long story short, half an hour later we were scanning through the resting gulls when we received a call to say the gull was heading our way. It took me a frustrating time to pick it up, during which it had flown in, landed for all of about 30 seconds, and was on its way out again! But I still had a good view of the bird as it flew over in good light. For the next couple of hours we did much whizzing around country lanes following up on reports of the bird and trying to pick it out in flocks of gulls spiralling high into the air. Eventually we caught up with it on the ground in a wet meadow in the grounds of Elsham Hall.

A glorious day for chasing a gull. It was eventually pinned down in the group of gulls amongst those sheep behind the trees. Some people with big cameras have got some photos. I haven't. But for the original set of photos which helped confirm its identity, see http://pewit.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/thayers-gull-lincolnshire-first.html

On a different note, Elvis laid an egg today. Having sat for FIFTY days and not managed to hatch a single egg, she must have been a bit peeved.

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