Thayers Gull persistence paid off

Gull identification is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some birders, however, have made it their expertise. Leon Edelaar is one of them. I don’t think you can see him happier than on a beach with large numbers of gulls to look through. And if you ask me, that is totally understandable. There is so much joy in picking out scarce or rare species on subtle characters. Besides, gulls are beautiful!

Leon made no secret of what his mission was: to find the first American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus for the Netherlands. In all plumages this taxon looks very much like European Herring Gull, so identification requires close scrutiny. But for a man on a mission, that is no obstacle.

On the evening of Saturday 11 April 2015, Leon was checking gulls that had gathered en masse at Egmond aan Zee, where beach nourishment activities were taking place. Here he made a discovery of a lifetime, when he found a gull showing all features of a first-year Thayer’s Gull L thayeri. This North American taxon had never been recorded in the Netherlands before and is considered a ‘mega’ anywhere in Europe.

The bird stayed in the area until at least 27 April and was seen by many birders. Key features included the still largely juvenile plumage, the rather uniform brownish underparts, the almost unmarked greyish-brown tail and the dark outer webs and tips with narrow pale fringes of the six outer primaries (Edelaar & Ebels 2016). The photos depicted below were taken at Bergen aan Zee on 21 April.

P.S. To this day we still haven’t seen an American Herring Gull in the Netherlands. The closest I got to finding one was perhaps a bird at IJmuiden in January 2014 – close, but not the real deal if you ask me...

Previous          Index          Next

Published 1 March 2019