Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ross's Gull on House List

I checked the estuary from the Imperial ground at 0530 and was pleased to find the first-summer bonaparte's gull with good numbers of black-headed gulls and 14 sandwich terns on the dropping tide. It was always distant but it raised my hopes that the ross's gull might be tempted to explore this end of the estuary. I carefully checked and re-checked the flock but no joy. 
Next I nipped down to my usual spot along the seafront but it was quickly apparent that not much was moving with just the, now expected, great northern divers providing any interest. Three birds headed west in about 20 minutes along with 2 swallows. With a little more time before I had to get ready for work, I decided to have another look at the bonaparte's gull. I set up the scope and sat on one of the picnic benches that are conveniently situated along the edge of the Imperial ground. The first bit of mud was now exposed and the gulls had started to alight on it. I quickly picked up the bonaparte's gull again and was surprised to witness a smart summer-plumaged great northern diver surface in the shallows behind it - an unusual sight this far up the estuary. I scanned and scanned again and was just thinking of heading back home when I spotted a small group of gulls heading down river towards me. One was clearly smaller and I assumed it would turn out to be the little gull that was again present last night and is often found at this end of the river. As is kept coming however, I realised that its crown was white! The little gull always looks dark around the head, even from a great distance. I held my breath as it kept coming and then pitched down on the mud. As it did so its tail was slightly pressed forward and there was the unmistakable diamond - ross's gull!
I've been desperate to get this bird on the house list so I jumped in the car and sped home as quick as I could. I failed to pick it up from my son's bedroom window but was relieved to finally lay eyes on it from the back garden - surprisingly distinctive, even at a distance as it picked around on the mud. 
Another group of black-headed gulls was feeding over the river and as they slowly began to drift back to the mud I was able to pick out the bonaparte's gull again. This is the second bonaparte's gull I've seen from the house and the ross's gull becomes the 14th gull species and 143rd species overall.
This evening, a quick look off the seafront produced 1 roseate tern with 14 sandwich tern.

In the absence of any gull photos here's a juvenile stonechat photographed yesterday evening on Woodbury Common.


  1. Nice one Matt, your perseverance paid off. Not much chance of me getting it on my garden list - can't see any water from here - but it would be nice to see it at the Rec just once.

  2. Well done mate, can just imagine your panic to get it on the house list.