Glaucous Gulls at Ditchford

Since 10th December last year up to two Glaucous Gulls, a juvenile and a second-winter, have been present at Ditchford Gravel Pits, normally frequenting the fishing lake immediately west of Ditchford Lane. They have also been seen on the adjacent ‘viaduct pit’ and on the nearby water ski pit. Dave Warner’s photo of the second-winter, below, illustrates the key ID features: thick, pink bill with sharply demarcated black tip (almost to the very end), sloping forehead with flat crown plus bulky appearance and relatively short wings. The pale iris indicates it is at least a second year as opposed to a pale variant (eastern) first-winter.

Second-winter Glaucous Gull, Ditchford GP, 2nd January 2012 (Dave Warner)

Up to fourteen have been recorded in the Midlands to date this winter and these two are the only ones to have been found in Northants so far. Ditchford Gravel Pits is the site to find one locally, having produced approximately 50% of all Northamptonshire’s Glaucous Gulls in the last 10 years, principally as a result of the close proximity of the Sidegate Landfill. Located about 2 km to the north of the pits, this site, visible in part from the road, attracts hundreds – sometimes thousands – of large gulls and, since the demise of tips at Welford and Wootton and the inaccessibility of Weldon, is now the only gull-rich landfill in the County. When not visiting Ditchford to roost and bathe, gulls from the tip are often to be found on adjacent fields and locating a large loafing flock provides the best chance of being able to watch a Glaucous Gull in good light (as opposed to grappling with poor views in fading light at a reservoir roost!).

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