Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Little Gull.

The Little Gull has the distinction of being the smallest gull in the world, and if you'd like to see them in multiples you may like to go to Liverpool late March/early April.

Little Gull Arkive 

Brought about by the recent storms and gale force winds the Little Gull (LG) has turned up at coastal sites in our area and on the Fylde, some of which have reached three figure numbers.

Historically the LG was an extremely scarce bird in Lancashire, the first signs of change came around 1965 with the county's first large flock appearing in 1968 when 137 were seen at Formby Point on Merseyside. Two years later came the creation of freshwater lagoons at Seaforth. Today the LG's alternate between Seaforth and Crosby Marine Lake according to food supply which consists of hatching chirohomid midges which are the magnet that draws the birds to the freshwater lakes. The LG's stop off here on their migration from Ireland where they winter off the east coast, though a northern wintering ground has been proved and significant wind-induced counts have been made at Rossall Point since 1970, but this northern location remained unknown until a survey boat found in excess of 200 LG feeding in an area c.10 miles offshore south of where the Shell Flat merges with the Lune Deeps.

There seems little doubt that the Seaforth birds in late March/early April are heading to their Finnish breeding grounds and ringing recoveries appear to confirm this. The birds move off from Seaforth overland across the Pennines, over the North sea, and on to the Baltic. Few large spring flocks have ever been seen away from Seaforth in Liverpool, but one was of 215 recorded at St Annes in April 1981. 

Although there is no apparent change in the number of midges hatching today, the LG no longer gathers at Seaforth/Crosby in autumn as they did in the past, the reason for this is uncertain, and guesses are that they now move directly to their wintering grounds, or that these wintering grounds have changed.  

There have been few breeding attempts by LG in Britain, though they have been observed attempting to nest-build at Seaforth and at Leighton Moss. A nest on the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire was predated and an adult bird killed, and records of juveniles with down on the head and primaries incompletely grown in NE England appears to represent successful breeding. 

I was pleased to see three wind-blown 1st winter birds at Heysham on Tuesday 11 February, and they are still to be seen there in variable number....a beautiful Little Gull indeed.

Winter goes on....and I'm sure everyone is as fed up as I am with this dreary cold, wet and windy weather, the wettest winter in this country since records began in 1910. 


1 comment:

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Beautiful picture of the master of photography Markus.. Lovely header.. Have a nice day Pete.