The light is starting to creep out earlier and hang around a bit longer each day but it still feels very much the middle of winter with this cold spell we have been having. I have however been noticing some promising signs that spring will be along soon. The bluebell bulbs in the garden are just poking their heads above ground and even the buddleia bush has green shoots appearing. The Shelducks have made their return to Boddam Voe and the Ravens have been showing their mating flight dances where they twist and tumble together.
In Focus- winter visiting gulls
There are two species of gull that visit Shetland during the winter months: Iceland Gulls and Glaucous Gulls. They can be hard to spot at first but once you know what to look for you will be able to pick them out among the crowds. The best places to spot them is around Lerwick harbour, especially around the piers at the Shetland Catch and on Loch of Spiggie where large aggregations of gulls come to bathe.
The RSPB have some great illustrations to assist with ID on their website here.
The adults of this species look similar to Herring Gulls but there are a few differences, they are slightly smaller, with a smaller ‘neater’ head and smaller beak. They most obvious difference however is on the wings, Iceland Gulls have white tips to their wings whereas Herring Gulls have an obvious black tip to the wings.
Young Iceland Gulls, in comparison to Herring Gulls are much lighter in colour showing more cream and buff colours in the plumage and still lack the dark wing tips.
Adult Glaucous Gulls are bigger that Herring Gulls and much bigger and bulkier than Iceland Gulls. They have a large head often speckled with brown and a big thick beak. They are often described as having a fierce expression. As with the Iceland Gull they also have white wing tips instead of the black tips as in Herring Gulls.
Young Glaucous Gulls have similar plumage to Iceland Gulls but are bigger and have the bulkier features of the adults. They have very large pink beaks with a black tip.
Herring gulls, for comparison are shown below.
In other news…
Snowy weather can be a great time to go out and look for animal and bird tracks. Head out into the garden and discover who has been paying you a visit!
Below are a few of the mammal tracks that you may spot in Shetland (dog and cat tracks have been inclued for comparisons).