Tuesday, 10 January 2012

It's a ringer: adult Ring-billed Gull in Galway

I bumped into Tom Cuffe while I was birding Nimmo's Pier on Saturday morning. We discussed the various white wingers and then I remarked that I was surprised that I hadn't connected with a Ring-billed Gull the previous afternoon. "Oh there is normally one down there", he said, pointing to some exposed rocks towards the mouth of the harbour. I trained my scope on the area and, sure enough, there it was! Cheers, Tom. We sauntered down and I gawped and threw some bread. For Tom, being local, a Ring-billed Gull barely warrants a second glance.

After looking at my photos I realised that I had also seen this bird before - in December 2010 (it is bird 2 in this post). Not only is the ring on the beak of similar width and shape and the head streaking very similar in density and distribution, but the shorter than normal tail feather (left T2) is identical. I had assumed that the uneven tail growth was some one-off feature in December 2010, but it seems to be consistent from year to year despite the fact that it should have moulted its tail at some point in the last 12 months... (cant find anything on this in Gulls of the Americas or Molt in North American Birds, but I haven't checked Gulls or BWP yet). Perhaps this feather is simply the last one to be replaced by this bird?

So here are some comparison shots of Dec 2010 on the left and Jan 2012 on the right:

So, no sign of any improvement in my photography in 12 months!

Here are a few more shots taken last Saturday. A great bird, in my opinion, and one I am keen to find locally. Might take a wee while in Lothian...

The following shots show details of wing-tip pattern and extent of head streaking.

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