My blog has been rather neglected in recent weeks, with lots of half written adventures and a pile of unedited photos still waiting to be looked at. Today I resisted the urge to head out under yet another brilliant blue sky and instead finally sort through several weeks of accumulated images…
It was back at the very start of spring, when a winter chill was still very much in the air that I photographed this beautiful young black headed gull in the harbour here in Aberystwyth.
A regular sight during the winter months these gulls are quite different from the all too familiar herring gulls. These birds are a much smaller, more delicate species with a distinctive shrill call, often found in large, noisy flocks.
Their name is somewhat misleading as the adult gulls only display their distinctive black head cap (actually more of a chocolate brown) during the summer breeding season, with this fading during the winter to just a small black dot behind the eye.
The immature gulls also share this telltale black smudge, but they are otherwise quite different from the predominantly bright white, red legged adults and won’t look like their parents until they reach two years old.
This individual was in it’s first winter plumage with an orange bill and legs, distinctive black edges to the tail and a mix of mottled brown and grey feathers on the wings. (The brown patch on the underside here is just from the muddy water it had been resting in).
I have always found these particular gulls to be very photogenic, and they are often rather bold and easy to approach allowing for some lovely closeups with little disturbance.
The black headed gull is found throughout the UK and is actually more of an inland than coastal specialist often gathering in large groups on lakes and rivers in the heart of towns and cities. Like the herring gull, it is also an opportunist and not above scavenging from our leftovers.
Just last week I caught up with another of these charming gulls, this time an adult. With spring now well underway this individual was just beginning to transition to breeding plumage.
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2021
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