Monday, January 19, 2009

Franklin's Gull at Barassie, Ayrshire

Bruce Kerr found Ayrshire's second Franklin's Gull (a 1st-winter bird confirmed by Angus Murray just before dusk) late on Friday afternoon (16th) at Barassie. This will be the 11th record for Scotland and, interestingly, Ayrshire also hosted the first record from 2-6 July 1980 at Bogside, Irvine (D L Clugston, R G Caldow).

As I needed to go back home to collect some stuff at some point this month, this was the perfect excuse and I managed to get a seat on the overnight bus from London to Glasgow. By the time I arrived at Barassie on Saturday morning around 0900h, the gull roost had long dissolved and departed and most birders had left to search fields and inland water bodies in the hope of discovering a potential diurnal feeding site.

The weather was pretty foul for most of the day and most people enjoyed the other gulls on show, including up to Six Iceland Gulls in nearby Troon harbour and two adult Mediterranean Gulls at Barassie. By three in the afternoon, numbers of Black-headed Gulls were returning to roost on the rising tide. Later, the large gulls came in and by 1600h it was getting dark with no sign of the Franklin's despite a line of 30 'scopes scanning through the 1200 or so assembling gulls. Then at 1615h it was suddenly picked out, perhaps having sneaked in with some Common Gulls long after the last Black-headed Gull had arrived. Needless to say, no photographs were obtained.

This gull, which breeds mainly in inland North America, should be wintering in the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Peru and Chile. I've previously seen this species around Lima with one memorable flock of 1000+ at Reserva Nacional Pantanos de Villas on 16 December 2004.

All of the Scottish records have fallen between May and August so this is the first winter record. This latest Ayrshire bird is also only the fourth bird recorded on the mainland of Scotland, five of them having occurred on Shetland, one on South Uist and one on Canna.

Ref: Forrester, R.W. et al (eds) 2007. The Birds of Scotland. The Scottish Ornithologists' Club, Aberlady.

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