Just a note regarding Kym Ford's Laughing Gull photos, published on Bill
Jolly's website. Having seen both the bird (very luckily!) and Kym's photos
today, I can confirm that indeed the scan of the photos does justice neither
to the images, which are much sharper and truer in colour than is displayed,
nor to the bird itself.
For those who have access to HANZAB Vol. 3, this gull is very like fig. 6,
plate 33, page 545 (second immature, non-breeding) and in flight, fig. 10
plate 34, p. 546; albeit with rather darker ear coverts extending onto the
rear crown. Mantle and upperwings are a clean slate grey, far from almost
black as it appears in the scanned photos. Sides of neck and flanks are also
In flight, the slate grey upperwings grade into the blackish outer primaries
with no obvious white "mirrors" or tips as in adult Franklin's Gull. The
white trailing edge to the wing is extremely distinctive. Out of Franklin's
Gull, fig. 16/34/546 (first immature, non-breeding) is by far the closest
but this bird's tail is all white and the upperparts lack any hint of brown
or pale fringes to flight feathers.
In terms of jizz this gull was very distinctive. I spotted it first flying
towards me and watched as it kept going... and going... out into Moreton Bay
(damn). But I saw the bird quite well and for long enough to additionally
note the following: long, pointed wings, making the bird appear larger than
Silver Gull in flight. Flight was graceful and seemingly highly manoeuvreble
compared to SG; Trevor Ford pointed out to me later that it was skua or
jaeger-like and while it's easy to fall into line with such observations in
retrospect, I can only agree. The size and long pointed wings should also
eliminate Franklin's Gull.
Finally, I looked specifically at the bird's bill shape which certainly
appeared long and rather droopy.
With luck, further observations will make it easier to predict this bird's
movements for as long as it chooses to stay. In Australia of course Laughing
Gull is a vagrant (six records to my knowledge) but they have been known to
remain in an area for a long time.
Good luck for those going for it
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