August 10th   Leave a comment

The wind is still easterly, although fairly light: migrants are appearing along the east coast and with a bit of luck and some rain tomorrow Wednesday is setting up nicely. I spent an hour sea-watching at Fife Ness late afternoon. It’s still a bit early to search places like Kilminning, although I had a quick look for a barred warbler on my way home. The sea was moderately good. I had a juvenile little gull feeding with a flock of juvenile kittiwakes right in front of me for the hour. It was instructive to compare their plumages – superficially similar but quite different. At a distance one of the best features was the white secondaries, making much more of a contrasting patch than on a kittiwake, being bordered by dirty brown in front, a greyish line at the back and the black primaries. On kittiwakes, although they have the same white patch, this extends into the primaries and right to the back of the wing so it is much less of a feature. The head and mantle on a little gull also looks dirtier, with smudged grey on the crown and behind the eye. Overall, it makes them a bit darker and contrasting, and less clean looking. In a kittiwake flock though this is all a bit technical. Little gulls live up to their name and stand out simply because they are about two thirds the size of a kittiwake. The other highlight was my first arctic skua of the year, an immaculately plumaged, adult pale phase bird, cruising past heading north and half-heartedly worrying the kittiwakes for half a minute. I think the kittiwakes, and the little gull, were not feeding on fish – instead on something small picked from the surface and not worth the skua’s time to steal. A few manx shearwater, puffins and a flock of fledged razorbills rounded off my best sea watching session this autumn, and it will only get better.

Little gull and kittiwake juveniles. The little gull is a late winter bird but not far off the plumage of the bird today – just add more brownish feathers at the bottom and top of the back. But compare the secondary panel contrast in both birds – little gulls have a distinct white patch, whereas in kittiwakes it is more the whole wing. (JA)

Posted August 10, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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