I came, I twitched, I ticked [the laughing gull]

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: I came, I twitched, I ticked [the laughing gull]
From: Laurie&Leanne Knight <>
Date: Sun, 07 Apr 2002 17:24:13 +1000
On hearing that the laughing gull had developed some 'regular' habits I set off
a little after 5am to be up at Bribie Island around dawn.  

There were no other birders at Buckley's Hole when I arrived a little after six
- there were a few handsome male chestnut teal in the lake to brighten things
up.  The tide was pretty full and just starting to ebb as I made my way behind
the mangroves to the spit.

There was a mixed group of silver gulls, caspian, crested, gull-billed and
little terns as well as sundry waders on the stub of the spit, as well as a
family of magpies  carrying on like only families do.  The flock was spooked a
couple of times by passing raptors, the second time was just after I had sighted
a suspecious looking individual - gull body, tern colours.

Andrew Stafford arrived just after they resettled and I had focussed on the
laughing gull.  Andrew confirmed my ID and after a couple of minutes, the gull
took off [as is its want] and headed north over the bridge [Obviously the gull
did not share Trevor's taste in beachfront food}

Andrew is very good at tracking departing gulls and correctly estimated where
the gull had landed - about  a kay north of the bridge.  We drove up to the area
around the Maritime Rescue HQ - it was not in a flock of gulls close to where we
parked our cars, but perched on the rail of the walkway out to the pontoon. 
Woohoo, a nice close up observation we thought.  Just as we approached the
pontoon, as luck would have it, a pair of patrol officers chose that time to go
out to the boat.  So while we had a good view of its rear, it was soon flushed
and this time headed south.

Andrew then correctly picked that it was in the vicinity of the boat launching
ramp opposite Cotteral Ave.  There we could have a nice close up view of it on
the beach [eating what might have been a sea horse] - though we did have to
persuade a young lad dragging a log along the beach to take a different view.

The bird is certainly tame like a silver gull, and when viewed at a distance of
5-10 metres showed its white eye ring, partial "skull cap", relatively chunky
black bill [the contrast in the shape of its bill relative to that a silver gull
bill is a bit similar to the contrast between a pacific gull and a kelp gull]. 
We could see its black wingtips, the white windows on its outer primaries and
the white tips on its other primaries as it flew off.  In flight, its upperwings
appeared to be mid grey [I thought like a pacific gull, but Andrew felt darker -
maybe the pacific gulls in WA where I was used to them were a bit darker to the
gulls in Victoria where Andrew spent some time].  It also seemed to have a
magenta coloured gape [that's the impression I got while it was eating].  Seen
head on, there was also something about its face that reminded me of a picture I
had seen of a white tern/noddy/grey ternlet ...

Anyhow, the bottom line is that this gull seems to be readily twitchable and
could well be in some interesting plumage in a month or two if it hangs around.

It will be interesting to see whether it heads up the passage to confuse Jill
Denning's tern counting ...

Regards, Laurie.

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