Yellow-legged Gull (juvenile) Stuart Piner.
If your anything like me - and I reckon there are more of you out there that are than aren't - you will for the most part ignore gulls and just enjoy all the other species of birds we can find and see in this country. I myself find mature gulls an attraction and play as big a part in my passion for the birds as any other species, but the gull problem starts at the juvenile stage and continues right through the age of immaturity up until the birds become adults.
The juvenile Yellow-legged Gull in the photograph above which has recently been found on Preesall Sands is the perfect example of confusable and difficult plumage's the juvenile/immature gull wears, and it is here that I should make the comment that I have every admiration and respect for birders in the class that can readily identify such birds as these and I can tell you there aren't many of them around but I do know most, if not all of them.
In the ageing of gulls, the smaller species like the Black-headed Gull reach maturity within two/three years and exhibit less individual variation than the larger species and can usually be aged reliably. The Common Gull for example has three age groups, the Herring Gull has four. But there is more variability in immature plumage's of the larger species and some are difficult to age with certainty. As far as I'm concerned life becomes intolerable when you realise an 'advanced' 2nd year gull could look very much like a 'retarded' 3rd year one and in some cases you will read in reference books that the advice is to refer to 'tricky' birds as '2nd year types' or '3rd year types'....Oh dear, is birding really this difficult and complicated!
The 'nightmare' for me is - for example - when you consider the four years it takes a Herring Gull to become a mature adult and changing its plumage detail something like seven times in the process of being a juvenile to becoming an adult. I give up....well I would because I'm a defeatist born and bred. Still....I do know as much about birds as most birders, but can never hope to know as much as others.
I'm off to study the plumage details of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull now!!