Iceland gull, Glaucous gull, Kumlien’s gull – white-winged gulls that are normally only occasional winter visitors to Shetland and, without guidance, may be difficult to distinguish from our commoner gulls. So I thought I would get some advice to help me be sure that I had indeed seen Iceland gulls and, perhaps, the other two as well. Now is the best time in recent history to do so – yesterday’s coordinated count in Shetland revealed that there are at least 152 such gulls here; the biggest arrival ever to be recorded. The previous record was at least 120 in 1983. See the Nature in Shetland blog for full details.
On the day before the count I tagged along with a few friends doing a count in Lerwick harbour at lunchtime; we saw Iceland gull, Glaucous gull and a probable Kumlien’s gull. There were first, second, third winter and adult Iceland gulls but I found out how difficult it is to distinguish all these variants that day. Today, even though the light was poor I went back to take some more photos on my own because I thought the gulls might depart anytime and I might not get another chance. I managed to get some nice photos and even got one or two decent flight shots – something that had eluded me on Friday. I also got some nice Kittiwake and Eider images and was amused by the sight of a grey seal basking on its back for quite a while.
I was thinking of leaving when a couple of Iceland gulls decided to have a fight just in front of me so I was lucky to get a set of images that add something new to my collection. I think this sequence shows 1st and 3rd winter Iceland gulls, but I’m happy to be corrected by those with more ID skill! My ID is based on the eye colour and the fact that what I think is the older bird has some pronounced grey on its upper wings, unlike the other bird.