Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Laughing Gull, New Brighton, Cheshire - 7th February 2015

Laughing Gull - New Brighton, Cheshire - 7th February 2015

This first-winter Laughing Gull was first reported on 3rd February, but it wasn't until Saturday 7th before I could get over and check it out myself. It was a World lifer for me - the only trip to America where I'd been able to do any birding (in California) wasn't near this species' breeding or winter grounds.

When I arrived around 09:00 the bird was keeping a very low profile by the breakwater on the beach. It hid among the rocks, slowly making its way towards the lighthouse and back, accompanied by Turnstones. Its brief excursions out on to the sand to get food quickly drew the attention of the Herring Gulls, at least one which mugged the Laughing Gull, relieving it of its meal.

It was quite a small gull, about the size of a Black-headed Gull. The bill was long and dark, but with a red base. There was a dark smudgy mask covering the eyes, ear coverts and crown, leaving a white forehead. The neck and neck sides were grey. The back and median coverts were adult grey, whereas the other coverts retained the juvenile feathers. The outer wing was dark, and the tail had a black terminal band.

Half an hour later it had flown over to roost on the pontoon on the marine lake. In flight, the dark of the outer wings was very striking. The wings appeared long and from underneath the under-tail coverts made a white wedge into the black tail band.

On the pontoon, the bird continued to keep a low profile, and after being hassled again by the larger gulls it eventually hopped in amongst the Redshank to sleep. An interesting bird, if a little disconcerting to watch as it looked worse for wear and little uneasy with itself and its surroundings.

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