Monday, 16 January 2012

Iceland Gulls galore

Today has to be the best birding day of the year so far (and it has been a long year!). No ticks and not even a year tick and only a single Great Grey Shrike but fantastic views of 3 Iceland Gulls were more than enough. There has been a 1st winter Iceland Gull on the fjord near Drøbak since 26th December with 2 1st winters (1 light and 1 dark) seen on 28th December and then yesterday the light 1st winter was reported alongside a 3rd winter and possibly another light 1st winter (although all three birds were not seen together). I saw the original bird on 3rd January but had also dipped twice.
I made my way down there this morning knowing that with light winds the viewing conditions would be good. When I arrived there were a few gulls loafing around close to shore but most gulls were in the middle of the fjord behind a fishing boat at around 800m range. Scanning through them I saw one white winged gull and then another and was that another? It took a few minutes to ascertain that there were 3 birds and based on size and structure they all seemed to be Iceland Gulls (a Glaucous Gull was also reported yesterday) but the range was too far to age them. I threw some bread out but the gulls didn't seem interested. Then a local fisherman turned up. I could swear the birds recognised him because before he even threw anything into the sea the gulls started flying towards him. He said they thought he was throwing fish but instead he threw out 3 whole loaves of bread. This lead to a feeding frenzy with all the large gulls within sight flocking in. Over 100 Herring Gulls, 4 Great Black-backs and all 3 of the Iceland Gulls were feeding just 20metres or so offshore. The Iceland Gulls were 2 1st winters (one light and one dark) and a very neat 3rd winter that looked very near adult except for cream colouring on the neck and some faint cream marking on the wing and tail (I wonder if it could even have been 4th winter). The darker of the 1st winters had me wondering whether it could be of the race Kumlieni but I believe it just to be an extreme nominate race bird.

The 2 1st winters

Dark 1st winter

The light 1st winter

3rd winter Iceland Gull

The 3rd winter really standing out

1st winters taking off

The dark 1st winter

The 2 1st winters

3rd winter in flight

The light 1st winter in flight

3rd winter Iceland Gull

After sating myself on the Gulls I went to Kurefjord where I hoped to catch up with the Great Northern Diver. No luck on that count but I did see the 3 overwintering Rough-legged Buzzards again and 2 Red-throated Divers alongside the usual suspects. Driving home there was a Great Grey Shrike by the E18 at a new site for me.

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