Yellow-Legged Gull (58 in NZ26)

Knowing I was going to take on NZ26 in 2015 we did a recce along the river from the Metro Centre to The Sage on Boxing Day.  I was more than happy to find bullfinches under the high level bridge, but this was out done on the walk back by finding a 1st Winter Yellow-legged Gull on the mud by Dunston Staith. The gull immediately stood out with its white head and heavy, blunt-ended black bill.  With 8x bins there was enough detail at close range to make this a good find.

I went back on 27th December and it had moved to the other side of the Tyne but with a 32x scope it was not a problem to get details of flight and other feather tracts, and I must send my submission in, but obviously now to two County recorders –the downside of ‘the river runs through it’.

Negative reports from 28th (@gatesheadbirder) and by me on 1st and 3rd Jan made me forget about it.  However, this is one of the easiest spots on the South of the river to quickly park and check the mud for waders and I called in at lunch on 14th Jan at low tide.  This is tetrad G by the way and it also straddles the river.

One shelduck, one redshank and a few teal were close, but most other things were the Elswick side.  Luckily, I always keep a Kowa 501 x20 scope in the care and it gave decent views of the curlew and gulls out there.  It included one with a white head, black beak and black eye.  All of these made it stand out from the similar sized herring gulls there.  The sharp angled forehead and squared off back of the head were the same as the bird I had seen in 2014.   The dark primaries against the browner tertials seemed to change colour again when it stretched its wings above its back.  After 20 minutes it took off and flew down the river showing a black tail preceded by a white rump.

A good ID article by Martin Garner in British Birds will help as a refresher if you plan to go see.

I tell this story not to help it get prejudged and avoid the string connotations of me being the only person so far to have seen this bird.  I tell it more to show in a couple of weeks of this NZ26 challenge, for the chance of a good bird, I can be that birder who gets a scope and monopod out in an urban setting.  Until now even the bins have stayed firmly under the coat in some tetrads –C Benwell; D Blakelaw; and V Leam Lane .

Gale force westerly winds and low sun made looking for the YLGull at lunch on 15th ‘challenging’ to impossible.


More to find . . .

Thanks to Nick Moran at BTO BirdTrack for providing a list of birds for NZ26 before Christmas.  The list shows 182 species and with an additional 4 Cat E birds.  This is going to be a challenge as my current total stands at about half of this.

However there are some good birds out there if you go and look.  A Boxing Day walk along the Tyne from the Metro Centre to the Sage confirmed that while this is going to be a challenge it is worth looking.  On the walk out I was pleased with two bullfinches in the tetrad covering central Newcastle and also how close you can get to the teal and curlew feeding on the river.  However, the prize goes to a 1st winter yellow-legged gull feeding in the mud by Dunston Staith.  In the diminishing light its white head screamed out for attention.  And it was close enough had I taken a camera to get a good picture.  The next day in better light the bird had moved to the Elswick side of the Tyne, but it was good enough with a scope to get the features down to make a submission once it has been written up.  This British Birds paper from 1994 by Martin Garner was helpful.

The day concluded with female peregrine chasing a crow and then after the fly past settling on a perch only a couple of metres from a male.  If only this was 2015.