Two gulls originating from the east were seen and photographed by local birdwatcher Tom Speller during January.
The first was a Caspian Gull on East India Dock Basin on 18 January. A close relative of the Herring Gull, the Caspian Gull was only recognised as a distinct species a few years ago. It is a scarce visitor to Britain from eastern Europe and central Asia. A few are seen in London most winters, and there have been several reported in Newham and Greenwich this winter, but this might be the first time a Caspian Gull has been recorded in Tower Hamlets (Biodiversity Officer John Archer saw one from the Thames path by East India Dock Basin two days earlier, but it was in mid-river so could well have been in Greenwich).
Tom’s superb photos (above) show all the classic identification features of a fist-winter (i.e. hatched last year) Caspian Gull – clean white head and breast, long thin bill, long thin legs, long wings, small eye, and a grey back with dark centres to the feathers, contrasting with rather plain brown wings.
The second eastern visitor was an adult Black-headed Gull at Poplar Dock Marina on 31 January. This is the commonest gull in Britain, and many breed in the country. However, this individual sported a black ring on its left leg, with white lettering “P562”. A check on the European Colour-ring Birding website indicated that the ring had been fitted in Lithuania.The Lithuanian ringers subsequently confirmed it was ringed at Klaipėdo on 1 April 2010. It was an adult when ringed, so hatched no later than 2008. It has been seen four times in the Greenwich area between November 2015 and September 2016.
All photos by Tom Speller (click photos to enlarge)