Following reports of a possible Azorean Gull just over and hour and a half away, I thought I'd use one of my rare afternoon/evenings off to head over to Hoveringham Sailing Lake to do a spot of gulling.
I initially pulled up to what I thought was the main lake as it was rather large, but turns out this was the Railway Lake and therefore should really have known considering when I turned up at just before 15:30, there were only about 40 gulls on the water. The vast majority were Common Gulls with only 4 large gulls: an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 1st winter Lesser Black-backed Gull and to my great surprise, a 1st winter Caspian Gull! I was almost hesitant to call it as one just because I'd only been here for about 20 seconds before I saw it!
Sophie Barrell turned up and she informed me that the main roost was supposedly on a different lake, which we went to and the gull flock was probably about 3-4000 birds which was a bit more to get stuck into!
Within a couple of minutes we'd picked up the two juvenile Glaucous Gulls, including one very pale bird which is different to the several biscuit ones I've seen this winter. Next up was an adult Yellow-legged Gull which showed classic clean head, dark mantle 1/2 way between HG and LBBG, minimal white tips to the primaries, long primary projection, chisel-tipped bill and general stockiness.
I then picked up the 1st winter gull photographed below. It immediately jumped out at me as being a dead ringer for Caspian Gull. The white head, with grey shawl to the nape and breast sides, the long-thin bill with minimal gonydeal angle and pinkish bill base, the very dark tertials with a very thin neat white edge with no notching, the long black primaries with obvious primary projection and broad white edge to the greater coverts. The photos make it look darker faced than it actually was, but there was some darker marking around the eye in the field. One of the other birders wasn't happy with it because the 'back' looked so dark with general dull grey cast to the mantle and scapulars. This was a bit of a worry, but there was obvious replaced scapulars which made the back look spotty with dark centres to these. I was pretty convinced this was a 1st winter Caspian, albeit a dark one, but I was left with some doubt due to the other observer. It didn't flap unfortunately, but it did briefly preen its tail revealing a very clean belly and undertail coverts with next to no dark markings and what appeared to be a clear cut black trailing edge to the tail.
If it's not a Caspian Gull, I guess it could be a small Yellow-legged Gull, but I think even with the darkness, I can't see a Yellow-legged Gull having that much of a skinny bill.
An impressive gull roost and one I'd like to return to