Today Sally and I made a short birdwatching trip to Gravesend Promenade. The first birds to grab our attention were a pair of common gulls parading in unison, with dropped wings, across the mud – all the while giving a very loud raucous call (the birds, not us). This must be some kind of display but I have no idea of the meaning of it all.
Our next sighting was of about 12 black-tailed godwits feeding on the mud. While it’s true that if you go to Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve you can, at times, see 1000 or more of these birds flocking or at roost – you will not see them any better than here on the prom!
However the bird that we were hoping to find was “our” black-headed gull with a yellow ring 2L RR. And there he or she was – half dozing on the mud with about 200 others. We couldn’t read the letters using our binoculars but Sally’s photograph confirmed the identification. I wrote a post about this bird last December. It travels between Gravesend and the coast of France and this is the third winter that we have seen it. There is at least one other yellow ringed black-headed gull that frequents the promenade. It was spotted last year by Jeff but we couldn’t find it today. I find it really interesting to think about how these birds move and live within their landscape.
Many years ago I decided it was about time that I added Mediterranean gull to my British list. So Sally and I had an “away day” on the train to Folkestone. At that time ‘Med. gulls’ were frequently seen around the harbour and shore – it was the best place in Britain to see them. Unfortunately, I did not do my homework before going, and I really had little idea of what I was looking for. We tried hard but didn’t see one. Eventually we gave up and went to have a look at the Martello Tower. Sitting on the ground nearby, surrounded by gulls, was a birdwatcher. He noticed that I was looking at him so he waved me over to join him. I rather reluctantly walked towards him wondering what I was letting myself in for. I sat down and he then started to throw large handfuls of “Mother’s Pride” white sliced loaf towards the gulls. They walked over towards us and the birdwatcher, while viewing the birds through his binoculars, started to note down the ring numbers of the birds in front. They were Mediterranean gulls! He knew them all – individually. His notebook contained the detailed movements of these birds between Folkestone, the coast of France and eastern Europe. He was documenting the early arrival and expansion of this species in Britain. It was a real master class experience for me and when I got back to Sally I could point out the adult birds, the juveniles and their moulting patterns. I was the instant expert on Med. gulls. I have liked them ever since and, just occasionally, we have seen them at Gravesend Promenade.
Thanks to Sally for the photographs.