Wednesday 13 February 2019

Canadian Wanderer

Wheldrake Ings was flooding and water was pouring out of a swollen Derwent across the track down the riverside, as I made my way down to Tower Hide last Sunday afternoon.

The gull roost was out on Swantail, distant, and the good light was the only thing in its favour. As luck would have it, I soon picked out a white-winged gull, an Iceland type, and soon realised it showed grey webs to the primaries, clear even at great distance - a Kumlien's Gull.

Kumlien's Gull is a rare subspecies of Iceland Gull that occurs from time to time in the UK and there are a handful in Yorkshire this winter. They breed in the Canadian Arctic, much further west than our standard glaucoides Iceland Gulls, many of which breed in Greenland. Whilst Iceland shows pure white primaries as an adult, Kumlien's typically has grey colouration on the primary webs. However, the variation in Kumlien's is immense, with some birds having virtually white primaries and others dark grey, almost black with white mirrors. The range of plumages in immature Iceland/Kumlien's is baffling, but with good views, many birds can be identified confidently. Thayer's Gull throws in extra complications too! There is a useful scale approach for assessing immature Iceland/Kumlien's/Thayer's Gulls, which can be used. - see here: The Hampton Scale


Despite the sunshine, phonescoping was tricky at the distance, but the bird's identity comes out well in the video. A smart bird. After ten minutes or so, a hunting Peregrine put up the flock and most headed south. I followed the Kumlien's which looked stunning against a dark blue sky, lit by a descending winter sun, as it slowly drifted south over Swantail Hide and apparently on to the refuge. A smart bird. Not much else of note, though the Adult male Peregrine pitched on to the grass in front of the hide.

 Kumlien's Gull- below the red arrow in top photo, above the red dot in the bottom pic.

Gull hunter. Adult Peregrine, looking nonchalant in the winter meadow.

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