Gulls, Gulls, Gulls…

Over the course of this weekend I spend a solid 12 hours or so studying gulls. Why? Because it’s winter and there is not a lot else to do if you want to find some rare birds yourself. Secondly we birders are just general nutcases…


On Friday afternoon I did a short loop through the harbor of IJmuiden with Peter Lings. We saw a lot of gulls but the only notable species was a first winter Caspian Gull (Pontische Meeuw).

On the way back from parking my car (I have to cycle 20 minutes from my house to where I can park my car for free, which is fucking ridicules) I cycled past the Gerbrandypark. Luck was on my side and within 5 minutes I found the stunning first winter Iceland Gull (Kleine Burgemeester) that has been seen here on-and-of over the last couple of weeks.


kleine burg

First winter Iceland Gull (The bird on the right)


On Saturday afternoon I went to my birthplace Scheveningen. Currently they’re enlarging and strengthening the coastline with a huge hose that pumps sand from offshore waters onto the beach. This of course makes for a gull-extravaganza as with the sandy water lots of little sea-critters are taken along for the ride.


Upon arrival I found myself looking at thousands of gulls. Most of them Herring Gulls (Zilvermeeuw), Greater Back-backed Gulls (Grote Mantelmeeuw), Mew Gulls (Stormmeeuw) and Black-headed Gulls (Kokmeeuw).

After about 2,5 hours of meticulous scoping I found about 8 different Caspian Gulls of all 4 age-groups and a probable second winter Yellow-legged Gull (Geelpootmeeuw).



A gull extravaganza! 



First winter Caspian Gull; note the long pale pinkish leggs, long wings, the white head with ‘collar’, the flat forehead and long dark narrow bill. These are the first good clues that you’re looking at a Caspian Gull, by Garry Bakker



A first winter Caspian Gull in more detail; Note the striking pattern on the greater covers with dark centra to the feathers that make for an ‘anchor’-shape, this pattern on the mostly grey feathers contrasts with the plain brownish secondaries and tertials, by Garry Bakker


On Sunday I spend most of the day with gull-expert Vincent van der Spek, Garry Bakker and Daniel Benders studying gulls at the beach of Scheveningen. No real rarities, but I learned a lot about mould-patterns, ringing-projects and identifying and aging large gulls. I thought I already knew quite a lot about gull identification, but Vincent proved me a complete amateur! I will keep on studying and in a couple of weeks we will find that Slaty-backed bastard!


Here are some of the photo’s we took over the weekend:



First winter Yellow-legged Gull on the top-left; a classic bird with a white head and a contrasting dark ‘mask’ (with gives it a bit of a pirate-look) and thick dark bill. More importantly it has long dark primaries and plain brown secondaries and tertials contrasting sharply with the pale grey greater and lesser covers with dark centra, by Garry Bakker



Second winter Yellow-legged Gull ? (The bird in the back with the striking black tip of the bill). This is a puzzeling bird… Comments are welcome! 



Strange first winter Herring Gull with striking pale secondaries and tertials!


adulte pont

Adult Caspian Gull with Black-headed Gulls; note the pale head, dark eye and narrow bill with dark subterminal band



A second winter Caspian Gull (The holding its head up). Note the long pale legs, clean white head flat forehead and long narrow black bill. also note partly moulted secondaries and long dark primaries, by Garry Bakker


Happy Birding!

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis