There’s a received wisdom to always bird the weather. If you are fairly local and I assume most you are you won’t have missed that it has been a stormy weekend in north west England. So with a couple of Little Gulls blown in at Heysham and one at Seaforth Docks, Liverpool yesterday I decided to seawatch over the high tide at Blackpool North Shore.
Little Gulls as the name might suggest are diminutive. They are in fact the smallest species of gull in the world. Given this it is perhaps surprising that they are so at home on the high seas in winter. The Irish Sea used to be a favoured feeding area, and in storms birds would get pushed close inshore. Large numbers would then gather on the freshwater pools at Seaforth in the spring before migrating to Eastern Europe.
I don’t think anybody knows why but the population has crashed or the birds have moved. Where there might have been high double figures or even three figures seen from places like Blackpool and Fleetwood in any storm with sufficient ‘fetch’ in mid winter not too long ago, now any count over single figures would be exceptional.
Ironically given I was ‘birding the weather’ there was a distinct lack of birds for much of my seawatch. The scoter were generally sitting tight on the sea and few gulls were moving, but those that did pass included Great Black-backed Gull at the other end of the spectrum and largest of its kind in the world.
Having got throughly cold and a bit wet from the spume catapulted over the sea defences I plugged away until high tide. Finally a Little Gull floating south through the air, three steps forward one step back with the wind. It wasn’t an occasion for photographs, so I’ve borrowed one from the Fylde Bird Club website taken nearby a few years back to give an impression of the scene.