From Pitsea to Stanwick: a Glaucous Gull with a chequered history

… and a story of collaboration

It was still there this evening. When Steve Fisher first found an adult Glaucous Gull at Stanwick Gravel Pits on 24th March, little did he know it would give rise to the unearthing of a movement trail with an ID story attached.

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th March 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th March 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th March 2015 (Dave Warner)

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 27th March 2015 (Dave Warner)

This bird had been seen in flight the previous day by Stuart Page at Wellingborough Recycling Centre. Better views of it on the deck at nearby Stanwick revealed a red (actually orange) ring on its left leg, although any alphanumeric characters were not fully visible at the time. There was no sign of it on 25th, although it reappeared at Stanwick the following day and remained there, on and off, until 28th. It was not until that date that Steve was able to properly read the ring: G1NT.

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 28th March 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Adult Glaucous Gull, Stanwick GP, 28th March 2015 (Steve Fisher)

An internet search initially revealed nothing concrete but, based on ring colour, the bird was thought probably to have originated from Svalbard. However, putting the details out on Twitter prompted a response from Richard Bonser, who recognised it as an individual which had been ringed the previous week at Pitsea Landfill in Essex … where it had been initially identified as an Iceland Gull.

Recovery Map for adult Glaucous Gull GV15782, Ring No. G1NT

Recovery Map for adult Glaucous Gull GV15782, Ring No. G1NT

Paul Roper of the North Thames Gull Group, which ringed the bird on 21st March, has kindly provided some background and given permission for the use of the movement map and in-hand image reproduced here.  More details on this and other ringed gulls are available at the NTGG website http://www.ntgg.org.uk/map/GV15782 which provides an interesting insight into gull study and ringing activities at Essex Landfill sites.

To quote from Paul:

“The initial identification of this bird shows a couple of things. Firstly in the hand they can be quite difficult. This is a small bird and although out of the range of Iceland (which was a mistake made on the day) it is at the lower range end for Glaucous and in fact we measured and selected the ring size for Herring Gull – Glaucous tend to take Great Black-backed Gull size rings. In the hand you cannot get much of an idea of primary projection, jizz, etc and it can be very difficult. This bird had a gentle expression and not the angry look of a Glauc. It also had a comparatively small bill to the head which again suggested Iceland.

I questioned it on ringing it for a couple of reasons – bulk and the streaking on the head (which you can only see close up) which lean more towards Glauc but at the time it was believed to be in the range for a large male Iceland so that is what we decided it was!

The photos in the field from Northants prompted me to recheck all the measurements – and I found they were actually out of the range for Iceland and in the range for Glaucous.”

Adult Glaucous Gull, Pitsea Landfill, 21st March 2015 (Paul Roper)

Adult Glaucous Gull, Pitsea Landfill, 21st March 2015 (Paul Roper)

So, in-hand birds, ‘lifted’ from their normal habitat, can appear quite different to how they look in the field.  Many thanks to Paul for sharing his comments, images and providing an insight into the activities of the NTGG.

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One Response to From Pitsea to Stanwick: a Glaucous Gull with a chequered history

  1. Pingback: The ‘Gull roostin Blues’ 2016 mix. | Rainsbrook Natural History

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