This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blast From The Past

On the 20th December 1992 I found a gull at Radipole Lake that, at the time, I identified as a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull. I'd never previously seen a 1st-winter Yellow-legger before. In fact, Yellow-legged Gull was still considered a race of Herring Gull at that time. None of us had even heard of Caspian Gull back then. Subsequently, of course, I've seen many 1st-year Yellow-legged Gulls and none of them looked like that bird. 

Then along comes some papers highlighting the appearance of Caspian Gull and then it gets us thinking. I also start seeing a few Caspos myself. Was that bird back in 1992/93 a Caspo? It wasn't until a recent paper by Chris Gibbins, in British Birds magazine, that highlighted the variation shown by 1st-year Caspians, that we suddenly started to take this bird seriously as a Caspo. Thanks to Martin Cade and his photos, this bird has become history, not a mystery. Thanks also to Chris Gibbins, who confirmed the identification. 

And that was that, we thought. Obviously, being a first for Dorset, I had to send it in. I was also aware that for a very short period of time it was an official rarity, so it had to be sent into the British Birds Rarities Committee. After reading a couple of things, imagine my shock when I found out that it was in fact a potential first for Britain. Shit!!! I didn't have any notes that would be constructive, just a few photos of Martin's and the say so of a genius gull expert.
The only option was to send it in, with an explanation of the circumstances.

Fast forward to 2014 and the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee accept me bird as a FIRST for Britain. It feels kind of insane. I so wish I'd been more clued up at the time, but our knowledge back then, on these things, were very much in their infancy. Like I said, none of us had ever heard of Caspian Gull. Was aware of the existence of cachinnans, but back then, it was Larus argentatus cachinnans. I think we thought that they must look very like Yellow-leggers, because they were considered the eastern counterpart of what was to be split from Herring Gull, as Yellow-legged Gull. How we know different now, thanks to people like Martin Garner.

Caspian Gull at Radipole Lake 20th December 1992. The first record for Britain. Both photos © Martin Cade.

1 comment:

Steve Smith said...

Hi Brett,
good post & just goes to show the importance of having photos (even if you didn't take them yourself).