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Monday, 16 December 2013

The Unprecedented influx of IVORY GULLS continues

On par with a mammoth influx of juvenile Snowy Owls in North America (involving at least 750 so far), the UK has experienced its largest-ever influx of first-year IVORY GULLS from the Arctic ice-shelf.

Following the first off Seaburn (County Durham) on 30th November, an unprecedented five more have been discovered since......

A first-winter showed well by the coastal car park on Baleshare, North Uist (Outer Hebrides) on 4th December, whilst Dave Pullan watched a first-winter fly southeast past Tarbat Ness (Highland) the following day. The first of two birds was then located at Seahouses Golf Course (Northumberland) on 7th December, the two birds commuting between there and the beach throughout the rest of the day. That very same day, one visited Boddam Fish Factory (Aberdeenshire), before the first long-staying bird pitched up on a dead male Sperm Whale on Orkney at Evie on 12th December. This individual lingered for three days before disappearing.

And then, the inevitable happened, a first-winter was seen by a fishermen on the north Humber on 12th, being relocated by birders on 15th - and visiting two well rotting fish next to the Winestead Outstrays Pumping Station at Patrington Haven (East Yorkshire) and showing at just feet range. This was the litmus for an all-out twitch, with some 25 local birders connecting by dusk and some 150 more by dusk today. I was one of this lucky contingent........

The story goes like this.......

Adam Hutt, Martin Garner and a number of other Yorkshire birders got down to the end of Outstrays Lane by dawn and very sensibly (and helpfully), placed just over half a dozen fresh fish with the two badly rotting fish already there by the pumping station. Within a very short time of first light, the first-winter IVORY GULL arrived and spent some 45 minutes feasting at close range. Once full, it then flew out on to the Humber, and joined a large flock of wild Mallard and wintering Wigeon on the receding shoreline as the tide ebbed. It remained out here for most of the day before getting increasingly active as the Humber tide started to rise again from 1300 hours. With waves lapping over its feet, it flew closer a couple of times, following one of the borrow dykes, until it eventually flew strongly towards the gathering crowd and landed just over 200 yards away on some rocks at the end of the point. Then, as predicted, and after a good brush up and preen, it flew over everybody's heads and investigated the fish remains by the pumping station. Initially nervous because of the noise and excitement from birders, it took a few fly-arounds before it plucked up the courage to land and feed. It then delighted the 100-strong crowd by feasting on the Mackerel for the next half-hour........

The story in images......


The original fish remains on the left and the 8 fresh fish on the right


The Winestead Outstrays Pumping Station



The crowd growing in number as the afternoon progressed and waiting for the tide to come in


....and once it did, the Ivory Gull flew and landed on the rocks 220 yards in front of us



...and after a good preen and brush-up, took flight and came towards us...


Came in overhead..


...and landed by the fish



















A close up of those primary tips


...and a close-up of the head



















...and it was brilliant meeting these guys - the NEXT GENERATION BIRDERS, as they have become affectionately known - with the youngest - at just 17 - Chris Bromley on the far left


David Carr did the business when it came to action shots - a selection of his here





And then Morris Rendall's fabulous shots from ORKNEY of the Evie bird....





The influx was presumably as a result of an excellent breeding season coupled with the terrible Winter Storm that travelled from Greenland and produced an enormous tidal surge, the largest in 60 years.