Irish Ring-billed Gulls
A recent brief trip to Cobh to visit the folks, one of the siblings and her progeny (my adorable nieces and nephew), resulted in an even quicker scoot over to my old local patch, Cuskinny Marsh Nature Reserve. The usual suspects of the duck variety were present, as well as Dabchicks, Moorhens and gulls. The gulls are always worth checking out on the marsh as the turnover of gulls is quite high. The gulls come in for a snooze and a wash, and so there is a constant change of the guard. The Reserve has produced the usual species (Herring, Greater Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed, Common, Glaucous, Iceland, Mediterranean), but has also turned up Thayer's Gull, Kumlien's Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Sabine's Gull, Franklin's Gull and Laughing Gull. One regularly gets Ring-billed Gull, and on this occasion, there was a nice adult Ring-billed Gull on one of the pontoons, beginning to come out of winter plumage and enter breeding plumage. The light was nice for a change. The best time to view the marsh for photography in terms of light is the afternoon/evening, as the light is behind the viewer and shines out on to the lake there.
I saw my first Ring-billed Gull in Cobh in the late-1980s, back when the species was a real rarity. We have seen up to 8(!) Ring-billed Gulls on the Reserve at one time in the past! Always a treat to see.
However, I didn't have to travel too far to see a Ring-billed Gull. Within a 20 minute walk of my apartment in Dublin, a near-adult Ring-billed Gull has been hanging out around the Grand Canal Dock and within striking distance of the Grand Canal Theatre (or the Bord Gais Theatre, or whatever they are calling it these days). With a few hours to spare one Sunday morning in March, I headed down for a gander to see if the beast was about. I brought my Canon 7DII and Canon 100-400mm II lens for ease of transport when heading down to the area on Dublin Bikes. The light was not too shabby, despite the overcast conditions. The cloud was high and light, so enough light was getting through to work with. Shortly after getting there, I was checking some of the gulls on the deck and on the water, but I just could not see it. Thinking I might be in for a bit of a wait, I happened to glance upwards, over where I was standing, and lo-and-behold, there was the target...sitting on one of the red posts on the quay edge.
The bird stayed there for quite a while, making some forays out for a wash and then returning to the posts again to rest. I guessed that maybe the gulls had been fed earlier that morning and were not too interested in foraging for a while. As it was Mother's Day, I gave my Mum a call for a chat (it being after 10am on a Sunday, a dignified hour) and kept an eye on the Ringer. When I got off the phone from Mother, I didn't have to wait long before a few kids started feeding the gulls some popcorn (better than white bread!) and the Ringer came down from its lofty perch and started to feed voraciously. Buoyed by the birds hunger, I made may over to the feeding frenzy and managed to get a few shots. It was so tame!! It came within a foot of where I was standing. It was a fantastic opportunity to see the species up close and it was also calling and was quite vocal when feeding in amongst the pigeons and other gulls.
Having had my fill of the Ringer, or more accurately, after the Ringer flew off out into Dublin Bay, I finished the morning off with a shot I had been planning for ages but never managed to strike lucky with...Brent Geese flying over the rooftops of Dublin with the Poolbeg chimneys in the background...that'll do (for now).
Always be prepared!
Keywords: Birdwatch Ireland, Brent, Canal, Canon, Canon Professional Network, Carmo, CarmoPolice, CarmoPolis, Carmody, Collins Press, Dock, Dublin, Dublin Bay, Geese, Grand Canal Dock, Gull, Gulls, Ireland, Jim Wilson, Larus, Mark Carmody, Photography, Poolbeg, Ring-billed
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