My first observations of Baltic Gulls

I was in Westkapelle, The Netherlands all of last week to do some serious gull watching and ring reading.

Westkapelle lies in the south-western most tip of the Netherlands along the North Sea, right on the migration route of many bird species including gulls. Needless to say that it is therefore very popular among bird watchers during the migration seasons.

It turned out to be a very successful week with many interesting observations (more about that in a future post), but the absolute highlight came on Thursday evening when I observed my first Baltic Gull, complete with color ring! (Because of their rarity, only ringed individuals with a proven background are accepted by the Dutch rarities committee (CDNA). This makes them very much the Holy Grail of gulls for Dutch gull watchers.)

Adult Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus), with red color ring C.21S. Westkapelle, The Netherlands, 4 October 2012.

This individual was ringed as a pullus on 11 June 2007 in UUsiKaarlepyy, Finland.

Unfortunately, I was only able to observe it from a great distance and from the front and was therefore not able to appreciate the typical characteristics which sets it apart from the regular Lesser Black-backed Gull sub-species graellsii and intermedius for this time of year: much darker mantle and wing feathers, a white head, a smaller and more graceful appearance, and most importantly, no wing moult.

Unringed individuals

I was able to make up for this the next day, Friday, when as much as 10 Baltic Gull-type individuals were observed in the same area. Unfortunately, none of these were ringed so they cannot officially be confirmed as Baltic Gulls, but they all stood out from the other Lesser-black Backed Gulls because of the above mentioned characteristics, which are the same characteristics that can be seen in ringed Baltic Gulls.

Lesser Black-backed Gull showing characteristics of a Baltic Gull: very dark mantle and wing feathers and no moult in the wing or tail. Westkapelle, 5 October 2012.

Prior to these observations I had no experience with these types of gulls, but I was fortunate to be with 2 experienced local gull watchers who pointed out these individuals to me and explained to me the characteristics to look out for at this time of year.

It has been a very interesting and educational experience for me and I can’t wait to return to Westkapelle next year to hopefully see more of these beautiful gulls!

More Red C.21S

Because I had only observed my ringed Baltic Gull from the front, I was curious to see it in profile and started looking for images of it on the internet. A good place to start is gull-research.org, but I was not able to find a photo of it there mainly because it shows photos of individuals who migrate to Africa by using the eastern route through Israel.

After some Goolging, I then found it on the site of Antonio Gutierrez, who observed it in northern Spain in April 2010:

Red C.21S as observed by Antonio Gutierrez in Spain.

He was also able to provide me with some additional information about this gull. Thanks Antonio!

For more of his images of Red C.21S, see his blog posts here, here, and here.

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