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Old Wednesday 17th August 2005, 23:43   #1
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Gulls on the Thames

I am very much a beginner at bird watching and there are some gulls that hang around near Lambeth Bridge in Central London that I have no idea how to identify.

I think that there are two distinct species (well there are three but I'm fairly confident that one type is Black-headed). Unfortunately I don't own a camera capable of taking pictures of birds 20 - 30 m away so I can only give descriptions. I've tried to be as detailed as possible but I've no doubt missed something vitally important.

Both birds were seen standing on a sand bar. I haven't seen them in flight.

Gull 1: About the same size or slightly bigger than a crow. Body (except back) was completely white. The back was a uniform dark grey colour. The wings were the same colour as the back with apparently a white bar about two-thirds of the way down and then black or very dark grey tips. There appeared to be, about a third of the way down the wings, white spots or flashes on the edge closest to the back. The beak was yellow with a red spot on the lower bill near the tip. The legs were yellow, as were, I think, the eyes (I've only got a pair of toy binoculars). This bird appeared to be on its own.

Gull 2: About the same size as Gull 1. Again the body was white, although there were two small dirty patches in the centre of the chest. The back was a lighter grey than Gull 1 and the wings were the same colour as the back. Like G1 it appeared to have white stripes on its wings with black wing tips. Its beak was yellow with a red spot on the lower bill but its legs were pale rather than yellow. The eyes were definately yellow (it was closer than G1) and there appeared to be at least one other of the same description with it.

All suggestions about what these might be and tips for IDing them in the future gratefully accepted by a complete novice.


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Old Wednesday 17th August 2005, 23:48   #2
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Nope but I'm sure there will be some knowledgeable person along soon!
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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 00:32   #3
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Charles, welcome to Bird Forum and the wonderful world of birds.

I think No1 may be Lesser Black Back and No2 a Herring Gull. But I'm no expert and there will be others along to put us right.

Try a search in the Gallery for these and see if they look anything like.

GULLS - don't go there LOL

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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 06:54   #4
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I'd agree with delia if both gulls were about the same size, if gull 2 was smaller, maybe Common Gull!.

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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 12:40   #5
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Pretty decent descriptions of (1) Lesser Black Backed Gull and (2) Herring Gull.

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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 12:46   #6
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Camillus, you've done quite well and my best tip would be to invest in some decent binoculars. £150 should be enough to start with for a year or so.
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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 13:40   #7
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Hi Camillus,
I agree, Gull 1 was a Lesser Black-backed and Gull 2 was a Herring. The upperparts colouration and leg colour can be very useful in identifying adult large gulls, at least those normally found in an area. The mention of a red spot on the bill would exclude any of the smaller species, even where size can't be determined.
In terms of gull ID, it would help in time to know the names of the different tracts of feathering, so that you can describe younger birds accurately, but for now I'd recommend gaining confidence with adults of the commoner species, both perched and in flight. They really aren't too hard when you get to know them!
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Old Thursday 18th August 2005, 22:49   #8
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these are good descriptions, and for a beginner you obviously have a good eye for what's important. I suggest as the next step (assuming you have binoculars) is to get a good field guide - there are several, but I would recommend Collins Bird Guide, by Zetterstrom etc. - and at least to start with, carry it around with you, and keep reading about the birds you have seen. Then, when you are a bit more confident, leave it a bit farther away, then - when you see an unknown bird, take careful notes (mentally, or preferably in a notebook),and later, check them against the description and pics in the field guide. But remember, every bird is a bit different, and the field guide is just that - a guide. There are also some good books about how to go about ID-ing a bird from basic principles. One of the best is Sibley's Birding Basics - it's N.American, but what he says also applies to birds in the UK.

Also remember that with Gulls, you have sort of jumped in at the deep end - they can be VERY hard to ID in some cases. Good luck with birding!

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Old Friday 19th August 2005, 08:03   #9
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Thanks for all the replies. I've invested in a couple of field guides and matched the gulls to the Lesser Black Backed and Herring.

Thanks to everyone for helping out.

Next step - save up for a decent pair of binoculars.


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