Winter is come

Iceland Gulls, Shetland
Iceland Gulls, Shetland

Recent days have brought sub-Arctic conditions and strong winds to Shetland. These conditions have been tough for birds, as evidenced by several LWHGs with damaged or broken wings and legs or simply exhausted.

They have, however, provided another opportunity to study Iceland Gulls. My considered opinion after watching and wondering about them for over 30 years is that Iceland (glaucoides) and Kumlien’s (kumlieni) are on a cline: those at the most pigmented and least pigmented ends of the spectrum are relatively easy to name with some confidence, but those towards the middle are difficult or impossible. The darker bird in the foreground here (and another more kumlienesque individual at Spiggie) fall into the latter category. Birders on Faroe have come to similar conclusions – e.g.:

Other notable birds in recent days have included Glaucous Gulls, the long-staying Killdeer at Sandwick, and 5 Tundra Bean Geese.

A return to milder conditions will doubtless be welcomed by most birds.

Sumburgh Head from Toab, Shetland
Sumburgh Head from Toab, Shetland

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