Mersey Birders

Birding the North West

Interesting or unknown Gulls

 This Adult bird was photographed on the Somerfield Warehouse roof in St Helens in January 2006, the size of the bird was similar to near by Herring Gulls, but the upper-parts grey tone was obviously too dark for Argenteus Herring and even too dark for Argentatus of the extremley dark variants they have also.

The size and structure also ruled out Argentatus as did the small white primary tips, the small head and bill and only one white mirror on p10.

The race Graellsii can also be ruled out on the colour tone being slightly too dark and not dark enough for Intermedius which is an obvious black colour and the fact that this bird also had very pink legs.

The very thin grey streaks on head and only small amounts around the neck with a clean white breast are also very interesting.

This bird was taken the same day and place as the above bird, it was immedietley eye-catching by its huge size, the size of a Great Black-backed Gull and much bigger than any of the Argentatus Herring Gulls near by.

The upper-parts tone was darker than Agentatus Herring, the structure was similar to a very large Argentatus or more like Great Black-backed Gull.

The legs were a bright strawberry pink, very thin head streaking and browish blotching on breast was also noted.

The bill was a very bright yellow with obvious red gonys spot and not typical of a winter plumaged Argentatus Herring gull.





In this photo the large chest, thick pink legs and extent of blotching on breast can be seen.

The white primary tips were small and not as obvious as Argentatus Herring Gull.

This bird had the look of Slaty-backed Gull Laraus Shistisagus, which is being found more and more regular on the East coast of North America, birds have now been recorded in New York state and Newfoundland with the latter recording 5 or more in a winter.

The main identification feature to have comfirmed it would to have seen the primary pattern which shows a double white row of white spots known as the "string of pearls".





This 4thw Herring Gull has some brown still on tertials,  the bill has an obvious black sub-terminal band and washed out yellow and has bright white tips to primaries, all pointing towards the age of the bird.

The most obvious feature was the extent of the heavy grey-brown head and breast streaking, with more brown blotching on the lower breast and side of neck.

Features such as this are more a kin to American Herring Gull Larus Smithsonianus, which will always be a challenge to identify at this age.

This was photographed in early February 2008 at Moore NR Cheshire which is located next to Arpley Landfill site.





 This is another very similar bird that was taken at the same location as above of a 3rdw bird aged by the amount of black in bill, the very small white tips to primaries and a few spots of brown in greater coverts, but note the black in the tertials, this is unusual for this in Argenteus Herring Gull but more of a feature for American Herring Gull Larus Smithsonianus.

The dense brown spotting around the neck and breast is much darker and more densely so than Argenteus or Argentatus.

The tail was still mostly black with white feathers in between, making the band broken.

This photo was taken late Feb 2008.





The next two photo's of a Lesser Black-backed Gull were taken at Moore NR in Cheshire on 05/03/08, and had probably just arrived with the new influx of Lesser's that week, and was picked out amongst 2,500 mixed race Lesser's of which were mostly still Intermedius with Graellsii in summer plumage.

It was very eye-catching amongst the group of birds bathing around it in being very obviously black with no contrast between the primaries and the upper-parts, and could well be a Fuscus.

Due to to the bird being only on view for less than a minute, only two record shots were taken in windy conditions, so the pictures are not pin sharp (my excuse anyway).

No moult details were taken and the bird was quickly lost to view amongst the gulls heading back to the near by tip.



 The bird appeared long winged on the water, with pale not brilliant white primary tips, no hint of any brown wash in wing coverts was noted.

The size of the bird was slightly smaller than near by Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls of both races.

The bill was in full summer with no black sub-terminal band or markings, and an orange-red gonys spot.

In all the years spent actually looking for a Fuscus we have never come across a more likely candidate than this, but unless you see leg rings to trace country of origin, it will always prove very difficult to get through any records committee.

A short note, a wing-tagged Lesser Black-backed Gull was present in the week leading up to the sighting that had been traced as wintering in Portugal, that had arrived with an estimated 3,000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


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Site Last Updated

13th Jan 2014

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Photo Equipment Used

The photos on this site are mainly digi-scoped thru a Leica 77 telescope, using a Nikon Coolpix 995 3.4 MP for the older shots and the more recent shots are with a Fujifilm Finepix Z20 10 MP and a Samsung NV9  hand held to the eye-piece.

Also a Canon DSLR 40D with a 28-90 mm, 80-200mm lenses, 350D, Sigma 500mm f4,5 APO EX DG HSM, 7D.

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