Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Yellow-legged Gull, Bittell

Caspian Gull

Dave observed that this gull had only one mirror in its wing tips. It was undeniable. My Collins Bird Guide says it has smaller mirrors than the other possible source of confusion, the herring gull, but this bird seemed determined to proclaim its difference. In addition its mantle was a darker shade of grey, but not so dark as to compete with lesser black-backs, and the legs were... well, they weren't pinky. Not obviously yellow either but we were certainly looking at a yellow-legged gull.

I've tried for rarities at Bittell in the past and failed to connect with any. I told Dave this on the drizzly trudge to the upper reservoir and he said, “Thanks. We're not aiming to see a yellow-legged gull, are we?”

“No, we're not. We're going for something else entirely.”

The gull perched obligingly on the buoy where previous birders had reported it and my duck was broken. That was one more to the Worcestershire bird list and another to follow immediately when we got on to the little egrets, also mentioned by those birders. These took me up to 141, just four behind my best English county, Hampshire, but still 37 adrift of Angus. They all pale against my 219 in Santa Clara, California but, hey, everything’s bigger in America.

In a brief respite from the rains, we had earlier dipped on the pom skua reported through Bartley reservoir. It was useful to find out where the place was, though, for future, wintery reference.


  1. You absolutely certain that's a Yellow-legged? Think you might have something a bit more interesting there. Try looking up Caspian Gull? :-)

  2. This whole area is a bit confusing. My Collins has yellow-legged gull as larus cachinanns; which Wildlife Recorder has as the scientific name for Caspian gull while yellow-legged is l. michahellis. I'm sure there's a whole paper waiting to be written about these guys.

  3. Collins is completely out of date regarding big gulls. The papers have been written and the taxonomy ammended (for now). Your bird is a Caspian Gull Larus cachinanns. Yellow-legged Gull is now Larus michahellis. Congratulations on a good find! Remember to notify your county recorder.

  4. Well I was going to send you a link to the Wikipedia page for Caspian Gull, but I see you've already visited it. Tut tut, reversing/cropping photos taken by other people and claiming them as your own find (even if you still incorrectly identified it!) is a rather underhand trick! I think it may also be a breach of copyright.

  5. Just for the record: nowhere do I claim any pictures on this site as my own; and I either credit the source or, as in this case, believe the photo to be freely available. I didn't get it from Wikipedia nor doctor it; I expect it came from a Creative Commons search. And, yes, the picture does seem to be a Caspian gull but the bird at Bittell was yellow-legged (unless more knowledgeable folk than I also got that wrong).

    Apologies for the incorrect picture anyway.

  6. True, you don't claim any pictures as your own, but if you write "Dave observed that this gull had only one mirror in its wing tips" and then put a photo of a bird next to the text, you can see how that could be misleading?

    Someone has at some point doctored the original photo. A pretty strange thing to do.

  7. ...and claimed it as yellow-legged. Of course, I can't find the original now but I'll let the post stand as it is - a testament to the "difficult" gulls.

    As for what may be inferred from what I've written, I think I've posted elsewhere that it's impossible to cover every interpretation. All I can hope is that my dear readers will clarify the situation later. So, thank you.


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