Friday, 5 January 2018

5th January 2018 Unst NE3 overcast

Tried another early morning seawatch from Lamba Ness that soon produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull flying south followed by an adult flying north literally a couple of minutes later. At 10.25 I then picked out 3 Auks heading towards me with the trailing bird appearing to show the classic head-pattern of a winter-plumaged Brunnich's Guillemot and a short thick bill. Unfortunately I couldn't see a whitish line along its gape but I still decided to try and quickly obtain some images - then trying to look at the 'back of the camera' they appeared of poor quality. Otherwise, I saw c.300 Fulmars, c.50 Gannets, 3 Kittiwakes and 3 more Guillemots all flying north before feeling hypothermia might be about to set in! Another Beached Bird Survey to complete then sent us heading south where a check of Easter Loch produced a drake Goosander, just 2 Goldeneye and a loafing Iceland Gull. Easting Beach was walked, despite the increasing northeasterly wind, and 4 more white-winged Gulls (2 Glaucous & 2 Iceland) were present.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Adult winter Glaucous Gull passing Lamba Ness

Two Common Guillemots and Brunnich's Guillemot passing Lamba Ness
Images simply cropped. My attention was drawn to the bird by virtue of its apparently ‘classic’ winter-plumaged Brunnich’s head pattern - consisting of wholly dark ear-coverts lacking any white behind eye, simply showing a restricted poorly demarcated ‘dusky’ whitish throat contrasting with a broad dark collar - and a short thick bill – the two accompanying Guillemots bills appeared long and narrow by comparison, particularly the w/p individual. Interestingly, to my mind, the image conveys the trailing bird appearing slightly more contrastingly black-and-white than the two very slightly browner/greyer Common Guillemots.


Brunnich's Guillemot passing Lamba Ness
Enlarged it has an unfamiliar feel for someone used to seeing passing Guillemots and Razorbills in showing a noticeable forehead, short strong bill, curving upper mandible with bill held subtly pointing downwards and a thickset, pot-bellied appearance.

In addition to the structural similarities of its head-shape and bill-shape and the plumage similarities of its head-pattern, the Razorbill-like white rump-sides inflecting upwards where they ‘meet’ the trailing edge of the wing seems a close match to the Brunnich’s Guillemot rather than rather messy rear flank pattern shown by the Common Guillemot in the left image.

Accompanying Common Guillemots passing Lamba Ness

The w/p Guillemot (top left) shows its distinctive dark armpits and the s/p individual (top right) some ‘dirty’ flank markings. By comparison the trailing individual (bottom right) shows a minimal dark bar on its armpits and unmarked white flanks similar to the Brunnich’s (bottom left). It is also interesting to note the similarity in the pot-bellied appearance and even ‘feet carriage’ conveyed by the birds in the lower two images despite the difference in angle.

Images simply cropped – no other adjustments. Dutch (accepted) fly-by Brunnich’s Guillemot (left) and today’s bird passing Lamba Ness (right).

Drake Goosander on Easter Loch

Herring Gull and Iceland Gull at Easter Loch

Two Iceland Gulls and a Glaucous Gull at Easting Beach

An image for my Mum !