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The Iceland gull tonight

It has been a while, but tonight the twitch was on with an Iceland gull reported from Pittenweem Harbour. I had just got back from Aberdeen and wasn’t keen to go out again, but we haven’t had an Iceland gull near Crail since 2008, and this would be only my 3rd here in 15 years. When I got to Pittenweem there was beautiful late evening sunlight and the sky was full of gulls in the cold westerly. John Anderson was already there and happily told me that it was still about, somewhere in the gull flock above the harbour entrance. I diligently searched through the gulls looking for one without black wing tips and pale as a ghost, before I noticed John frantically waving at me to look down. The Iceland gull was back in the harbour, sitting on the water right in front of me. A young bird, probably just coming out of its first winter, still with biscuit speckling above but with a second year clear black bill tip. I checked the diagnostic head shape – a gentle expression, a rounded head and a slighter bill than a herring gull – and the long white primary projection. They are much more elegant than bruiser glaucous gulls: like the difference between common and herring gulls, Iceland gulls don’t look like they are about to rob you. All pretence of elegance was then lost as it puked up various bits of lobster leg that must have got stuck in its throat. Then it tried to mug an eider of a small fish before collecting itself and catching the wind like a storm petrel to do elegant again. Gulls always seem to be this conflict of their beauty of clean whites and sharp sailing lines with their beastly, business like thuggery. A good first rarity of the spring and no. 103 for the Crail year list.

The Iceland gull doing a storm petrel in the strong wind blowing into Pittenweem harbour tonight


Posted April 4, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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