London Calling

As the winter season ends and the breeding season begins, it is very much a changing of the guards here in my home town. While the groups of Black-headed Gulls are diminishing, the numbers of large gulls are increasing by the day.

Since early January, more and more Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) could already be seen entering the city but now the Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) are also starting to return from their wintering grounds in southern Europe and beyond.

One returning individual is London GN64662, a Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) which I last saw on 13 September 2011.

Lesser Black-backed Gull with metal ring London GN64662, striking a dominant pose shortly after driving off a sub-adult Herring Gull. Leiden, The Netherlands, 6 March 2012.

This is my 6th observation of this individual with 2 observations in 2010 and 3 in 2011, all at the same location and often in the presence of an un-ringed partner.

Interestingly, my first observation last year was on March 12, proving that gulls not only have high site fidelity but also return roughly on the same date.

It was ringed as a 1st-calendar year in August 2003 in Somerset, United Kingdom, making it now 9 years old. The ring is actually placed upside down, probably by mistake, but it makes it a handy identification feature.

I saw this gull head-tossing for a moment today in front of the partner which makes me believe that it is a female (although head-tossing is part of the pairing behavior as a way of appeasement and can be performed by both male and female, my feeling is that it is instigated more often by the female).

Lesser Black-backed Gulls are easily one of my favorite species of gull out of the ones that can be observed here in The Netherlands and I’m always happy to see them return after being away during the winter months.

This beautiful individual had a nice fresh looking plumage with striking white head, dark-black primaries with broad with tips, a dark-red orbital ring, a broad mirror on P10 and a smaller mirror on P9. She gave good views while feeding on bread as I hope the next images will show. I’m looking forward to following her over the coming 6 months.

Lesser Black-backed Gull London GN64662. Leiden, The Netherlands, 6 March 2012.

Lesser Black-backed Gull London GN64662. Leiden, The Netherlands, 6 March 2012.

Lesser Black-backed Gull London GN64662. Leiden, The Netherlands, 6 March 2012.

For more images of this individual, see my Flickr page.

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