16 February 2007

The Draycote Gull Roost

There comes a time in a man's life when he has to face facts - ie. he doesn't know the first thing about gulls and he needs help.

Gulls are hellishly difficult birds to identify (from each other I mean - even I can tell a gull from a goldfinch, thank you). This is partly because many species are very similar, and partly because they change dramatically during their first few years - meaning that a first winter gull may look nothing like its second / third winter brother. Confused? Good, I like to share it around.

So when the opportunity arose via the Warwickbirds email group to join a group of birders watching the gulls coming in to roost at Draycote Reservoir, I eagerly seized the opportunity.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of gulls roost on this massive water, and among the Black-headed, Herring, Great and Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls (all of which I can generally identify), are usually a handful of rarer birds - Mediteranean, Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls for example.

These look very similar to the more common birds, can be highly variable, and are therefore a complete mystery to me. It was as well then that many of the county's more experienced birders were on hand to help out the bewildered and dazed among us. With their help we found several Yellow-legged and Med Gulls, the former a lifer for me. Not only that, but a Stonechat put in an appearance before we had even started - a year tick from the cafe, fantastic.

So thanks to Richard for organising, Steve for the lift, and to all the other birders who attended what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable late afternoon.

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