Whilst birding at the Draycote Water roost on 13/01/15 John Judge found a Juvenile ‘Iceland Gull’ in the centre of the reservoir which was extremely fresh and unworn in appearance and had brown centres to the primaries with pale fringes. We only saw it fly once for a distance of about five metres and were unable to confirm any details of the spread wing or tail.  I spent most of the next week trying to confirm its identity but only saw it twice in the very last of the light, though I managed to get Martin Elliott on to it the second time and he too was impressed by its appearance which he memorably described as resembling ‘a loaf of Hovis’. At the end of the week I saw it very close in, again in appalling light but close enough to see that two of its inner primaries were held slightly drooped and that they were contrastingly pale. I reported it as a confirmed Kumlien’s Gull that night but was relieved when Dan Watson discovered its daytime haunt at Weston-under-Wetherley Landfill where it remained until 24/01. The photograph below is underexposed and was taken in to the bright sunlight but I have not altered the light levels. It does illustrate the large size and stocky build often exhibited by kumlieni in comparison to nominate glaucoides. Though the dark colouration is lost in this image the fresh appearance is discernible, the neat dark centres to the scapulars and coverts and the lack of contrast between the primaries and the rest of the upperparts are apparent despite the over exposure.

Juv. Kumlien’s Gull, Weston-under-Wetherley Landfill. 

To confirm a Juvenile Kumlien’s Gull it is generally necessary to see the bird in flight and check the pattern of the primaries and tail. The outermost primaries should show dark outer webs which contrast with the uniformly paler inner primaries forming a ‘window’. Worn glaucoides will have uniformly pale primaries and fresher birds will not show the pale ‘window’, indeed they often show an inverse pattern with the inner primaries darker than the outers. Kumlien’s Gull will typically show a darker secondary bar and rather solid tail band compared to nominate glaucoides. Though taken at extreme range the following photos nonetheless illustrate the above mentioned features.

Juv. Kumlien’s Gull, Weston-under-Wetherley Landfill. 

Juv. Kumlien’s Gull, Weston-under-Wetherley Landfill. 

Juv. Kumlien’s Gull, Weston-under-Wetherley Landfill. 

This individual seems to have been a dark one, towards the Thayer’s end of the spectrum. Arctic gulls have low levels of dark pigmentation in their plumage which bleaches in sunlight and abrades quickly so the majority are faded by the time they reach the UK. The Iceland Gull in the photos below is a very pale individual photographed in mid-February.

Juv Iceland Gull, Moseley. 

Juv Iceland Gull, Moseley. 

Fresher, darker individuals do however occur. The bird in the following photos occurred at the same site as the Kumlien’s Gull detailed above on 14/01/17. The dark body plumage and dark centres to the scapulars and coverts were reminiscent of the 2015 Kumlien’s but the brown centres of the primaries were paler and recalled another kumlieni which occurred at Draycote Water in 2008 in having tiny dark subterminal arrowhead markings. Structurally it was more typical of glaucoides and when it flew off, after the briefest of pauses, no contrast was visible in the primaries, secondaries or the tail. The last photo however seems to show the ‘inverse Kumlien’s’ pattern referred to earlier, with the inners very slightly darker.

Juv. Iceland Gull, Bubbenhall Lagoons (photo by Dan Watson). 

Juv. Iceland Gull, Bubbenhall Lagoons.