Gullmas 2013/14: The best run of Larids ever at Tophill

Laridae Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire December 2013

The Christmas period traditionally allows for lots of consecutive days looking at gulls at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. Normally, around regular working hours, Monday-Friday are missed nights, and the best I can make of it is two roosts out of seven. Gullmas means 14 nights out of 16… and lots of birds.

The picture above features only a small area of the D res roost – a small selection of the birds that appear. The first eight evenings of Gullmas, helped by some stormy weather conditions at times, have so far yielded around 128,000-130,000 birds.

The festive period kicked off on Dec 21st with two 1st winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus, bringing the total since August 1st to a minimum of 24 birds and a maximum of 31 (excluding most of October).

Dec 22nd saw a movement of Herring Gull Larus argentatus agenteus, with upwards of 1600 seen during the afternoon, 1400+ birds roosting out of a total of 18-19,000 gulls. An adult Yellow-legged Gull L. michahellis dropped in early evening, while two Mediterranean Gull I. melanocephalus, a 2nd winter and adult came in with the smaller gulls. Late afternoon saw a number of large larids drop in, or move through the site. Many land, but then move out southwest, presumably to the Humber. However, carefully scanning, and a huge amount of luck saw a 2nd winter Kumlien’s Gull Larus glaucoides kumlieni appear on the reservoir, picked up in flight and landing around 50 metres from the hide. Presumably the same bird, given the age, that has been at Barmston, East Yorks. The bird remained until light was lost – had it been further away on arrival, it would have been  just a 2nd winter Iceland Gull.

The winds hit on Dec 23rd. Fortunately, with Christmas looming, an early finish enabled me to get the last 30 minutes of light on a dull day. With viewing time, and birds, limited – only 13,000 roosted – a white-winged delight appeared again – albeit a different bird! A different Iceland Gull  L. glaucoides – this one a first-winter. The third different glaucoides in nine days… only four birds were recorded between 1959 and 2000, and in the years since, it is fair to say it hasn’t been common!!! I know the stats – 14 winters of looking since 2000!

Despite the storm moving through, Christmas Eve saw a few more birds roost. An earlier start yielded nothing other than a Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus graesllii by late-afternoon, while a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull I. melanocephalus appeared as the numbers built. There then followed a mad seven minutes – a juvenile Glaucous Gull L. hyperboreus, picked out by Lee Johnson, came in as light was fading, while another unidentified large white-winged gull dropped in only to be lost when on the water in the dark.

Kumlien’s, Iceland, Glaucous – three nights!!! One is unusual, I’ve seen two white-wingers – both Glaucous and Iceland in the roost together once – Christmas Eve about 10 years ago, but Kumlien’s, Iceland, Glaucous over three consecutive nights on the same area of water… Wow!!! It is safe to say I’d be asking about it had I not seen it with my own eyes! The best run of Larids at Tophill Low NR since it was created in 1959!!!

Tophill’s history also dictates that white-wingers don’t come back. Christmas Day saw no large white-winged gulls in the roost despite over 2000 large Larids being present. Two 2nd winter Mediterranean Gulls I. melanocephalus the highlight, with Boxing Day providing the same two birds and a 1st winter, plus presumably the same Lesser Black-back L. f. graellsii as Christmas Eve.

The opening week of Gullmas ended with Mediterranean Gulls I. melanocephalus, including the third 2nd winter of the week on Dec 28th in a roost which also saw 1st winter appear.

The official Tophill Low NR news can be found by clicking here (hopefully it will mention gulls)… and an odd one out bit of fun as it was light enough to take a photo – around 48-50 birds in the picture out of a total of 18,000 gulls… its actually really easy 😉

Laridae Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire December 2013

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas… Best wishes to everyone for 2014

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