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Probable Mealy Redpoll at Sunnyside

29th December 2020

This probable Mealy Redpoll at Sunnyside showed very well but the light made it hard work for photography

The plan was to meet up with Martin Goodey at Morning Point but he got delayed after finding an adult Glaucous Gull on top of the seal carcass at Porthloo. About 13.30, I teamed up with Richie Aston at the point and out of the 100 odd Herring Gull, the 2 Iceland Gull, including ‘Billy’ who was in the garden eailer on, also came in. It wasn’t long until they were joined by one of the juvenile Glaucous Gull from yesterday. All three white-wingers showed well. More than can be said for the new juvenile Iceland Gull that we just got onto as it passed overhead straight through towards Poerthcressa Beach. That’s two new Iceland Gull in an equal number of days and the eighth so this far this autunm and I’ve managed to see seven of them. We also got the back end of what appeared to be a hybrid adult HerringxLesser Black Backed Gull, as it was flying away. Although the wind had dropped considerably, there were some 500 Kittiwake out at sea with less numbers of Gannet and altogether only 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull compared to the 300 yesterday.

‘Billy’ is starting to visit the garden more regularly since an absense of two weeks after arriving on Scilly nearly two months ago when it first turned up in the garden.

All white-wingers, including the Iceland and the juvenile Glaucous gull, showed off superbly but the new in juvenile Iceland Gull flew straight through and was too fast to get a pic of it.

There were also up to 8 Common Gull, including this 1st winter and 7 Mediterranean Gull

This was the all I could get on what appears to be a hybrid adult HerringxLesser Black Backed Gull, as it was flying away

The Great Northern Diver was still in Porthcrssa Bay

You would think that the last thing we would want to see is another white-winger? As it’s an adult Glaucous Gull, we couldn’t resist a look at Martins bird at Porthloo and after ten minutes of snapping it off at very close range on the beach, we made our ways to Sunnyside, with Rob Lambert in the back, to have a look at the probable Mealy Redpoll that Will found nearly two week ago at nearby Rose Hill and put it out as a Mealy Redpoll. This bird has been feeding in the same weedy field at Sunnyside for over a week. During this time, it kept on being put out as a redpoll, them thinking that they had a Lesser Redpoll. As a result, I and others left it until Scott saw it yesterday and realised that it was Wills probable Mealy Redpoll. When I first saw it, you could clearly see that it wasn’t a Lesser Redpoll but which race it was, then I have no idea. The experts on the mainland and further afield are leaning towards Mealy Redpoll. Like the other two of the latter species that I’ve seen on Scilly, this individual was showing very well but dark clouds overhead for photography was goin to be a probablem. The light was goin pretty fast and it was decided to return tomorrow if it was still present. After seeing a Firecrest in the same field, We nipped back to Porthloo to see if anythin had come in why we were away. There had, and with the Glaucous and 2 long staying Iceland Gulls was the new juveile Iceland Gull that Richie and I had eailer at Morning Point. This time it showed a lot better but it was almost dark and again it made it hard work for photography.

The adult Glaucous Gull at Porthloo showed off at very close range with the 2 Iceland Gull

Very Intersting bird. If this does turn out to be a Mealy Redpoll, then it will be only my third Scilly record of this race. Or is a species? With redpoll taxa change all the time, I just can’t keep up.

This Firecrest also showed well in the same fied as the redpoll


What a handsome brute

Except for the few markings above and behind the eye and down the neck, the new in juvenile Iceland Gull almost looks identical to the long staying pale-headed individual, which in comparison in the image above with the Glaucous Gull, has a clean head and neck

Stonechat in good numbers

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Morning Point was on fire!

28th December 2020

What an afternoon off Morning Point with the highlight being this Great Skua that came in and terrorised the gulls at very close range. Unfortunately, I changed the camera setting by mistake as I fumbled getting it out of my bag that I had put in during a shower. And this was the best I got of the skua out of the 50 or so images that I took.

I had not been out since that incredible experience of kayaking meters away from the 2 Humpback Whale three days ago! One of the the whales has been indentified from last year as the Cornish individual that was also seen off Ireland. Maybe I had not been out but two days ago ‘Billy’ the Iceland Gull kept me entained by landing on the bird table with the Herring Gull with the broken leg that I hand feed. An hour later, a male Sparrowhawk was also on the bird table with a Starling pinned down. Storm Bella was in full force outside but it didn’t stop me from making my ways to Morning Point where I knew it would be more sheltered. A new Iceland Gull had to be on the cards with these NNW winds but when I arrived at the point, just before 13.00, there was just a handful of Herring Gull feeding off the outlet. I tossed a loaf out and sure enough, the gulls came in including 3 Common and 2 Mediterranean Gull. While keeping a close eye on the gulls, I had also been scanning out to sea since arriving ten minutes ago. I was hoping that maybe a Leaches Petrel or Great Skua might pass with the large numbers of Kittiwake and Gannet moving from east to west through the channel straight into Storm Bella. Suddenly, out of the blue from nowhere, a Great Skua dropped in, just off the rocks!! The 100 odd gulls had not switched on yet until it started to get aggressive towards 3 Herring Gulls on the water and forcing one to spit the grub out and pluck it off the water. By now every gull was in air and was goin crazy above me. The Bonxie didn’t hang around. It made a tight circle, flew past me at close range and out west in between Gugh and the Garrison. OK, I really wasn’t expecting that. There was also a movement of Lesser Black-backed Gull moving through and it wasn’t long until I picked a distant Great Skua fly through the channel with 2 Yellow-legged Gull. After that Great Skua performance directly in front of me, things couldn’t get any better? Could it?

I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to catch ‘Billy’ sitting on top of the bird table but it stuck around for while just in front of the window

I had only been at Morning Point for a little over ten minutes and this Great Skua caused havoc amonst the gulls before moving out north.

Shortly after, another Great Skua moved through the channel between Gugh and the Garrison.

With 2 Yellow-legged Gull also distant moving straight through

Including this adult, 2 Mediterranean Gull came in briefly

I lowed my bins down from eyes, after observing the second Great Skua disappearing out of sight, only to see a juvenile Glaucous Gull come in high around the corner from the Porthcressa direction! OK, I was kinda of expecting that one to happen. So maybe I won’t get my Iceland Gull but this will do. It soon settled down with the ever increasing number of Lesser Black-backed Gull and the third Yellow-legged Gull. It was full on and I had only been at the point for a little over twenty minutes! At about 14.25, the Glaucous Gull flew out north over land in the direction of my garden! It was over an hour later, a long ways out at sea, that I picked up a white-winger coming from the east. I kept on it and even though it was distant, with my bins I could see that it was a Glaucous Gull from the size comparrison of the Iceland Gull it was now flying with! OK, I really wasn’t expecting that one to happen. What is goin on? They were both nearly at the east point of Gugh when they changed direction and were now head on, coming towards me. Almost every gull moving through out there has continued west. There is no chance that these white-wingers are goin to come in and join the flock of 150 gulls off the outlet. It didn’t take long for them to arrive and juvenile Glaucous Gull touched down first with the main flock. While the adult Iceland Gull joined the 20 Lesser Black-backed Gull further out immediatly after. I had done it and found a new Iceland Gull. In fact, the juvenile that I had nearly a month ago off Tresco was the last new Iceland Gull recorded on Scilly. All we needed now was ‘Billy’ and the pale-headed Iceland Gull that would normally be here. They had spent all day at Porth Mellon/Loo area just across the road. Rob Lambert joined me late and got both the Glaucous and Iceland Gull that were still present and another 5 yellow-legged Gull moved through. Two of them venturing into Porthcressa Bay. The Iceland Gull flew out north while the Glaucous Gull stuck around.

I had only planned to be at the point for an hour and if anything, just taking pics of gulls in flight. However, with the activity goin on at sea with the large passage of Kittiwakes, Gannets, Lesser Black-backed and smaller numbers of Greater Black-backed Gull goin through, I had a vibe that it was goin to be a gooden and it payed off and Morning Point was on fire!

In the three hours of birding from Morning Point, totals included..

2 Great Skua, 2 Claucous, 1 Iceland, 8 Yellow-legged, 2 Meditanerrean, 3 Common, 300 Lesser and 80 Great Black-backed and 300 Herring Gull, 100 Gannet, 3 Guilimot, 250 Kittiwake and a single Great Northern Diver.

3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull

The Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gull were fighting over the scraps between each other

Lesser Black-backed Gull

The adult Iceland Gull arrived in off the sea together with the Glaucous Gull and spent all it’s time further out with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls before flying out north following the coast line of the Garrison

While the juvenile Glaucous Gull stuck around and was still present when I left

There were a total of 8 Yellow-legged Gull, including this adult, breaking the Scilly record of the five I had on Tresco two years ago.

The Spirt of Agnes arriving from St Mary’s batterling through Stoem Bella.

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Kayaking with a HUMPBACK WHALE off Scilly!!!

25th December 2020

Yesterday was pretty good but today was epic!! I never in my crazest dreams thought that I would be kayaking only meters away from a HUMPBACK WHALE like I did this afternoon!!!

Yesterday I said that I’m getting in my kayak today if the weather allows me. I set off early this morning from Sharks Pit, St Mary’s and found it too choppy to get out to where the whale was last seen just before dark yesterday inbetween St Agnes and Samson. From St Mary’s, I kayaked through the Eastern Isles, where I had yesterdays 1st winter male Eider, past St Martins towards Round Island, where there was a female Eider, past the south end of Tresco, and got off at Samson to relieve myself after being in a kayak for nearly four hours after seeing the family of 4 Brent Geese on Green Island. Anyways, news came on the Scilly Wildlife news WhatsApp group that the HUMPBACK WHALE was between the Garrison and Gugh. This is what I had been waiting for after the whale had spent all morning on the south end of St Mary’s being tracked all the time from other observers. I timed it perfectly, thinking that it will end up back in the same area as where we all were observing it yesterday. I got directions to where the mammal was and it wasn’t long until I reached almost Gugh. No sign of it anywhere. Then I jumped out of my skin as I heard the loud sound of it blowing, while at the same time, the majestic beast was rising out of the water slowly, only meters away from me being rocked around in the lumpy waters sitting in my kayak!!!. My heart was in my mouth and I was shaking. I couldn’t have got any closer if I tried. For the next twenty minutes, I found myself power rowing chasing after it and many times it was just ahead of me and on one occasion, showing off the underside of its whitetail. Everytime it rose out of the water, directly in front of me, I punched the air and shouted out loud. I just couldn’t take in what was happening. I got my camera out but it was no use and after firing a few shots, I gave up with the rough conditions and the camera getting wet. In the end, I kayaked all the way to St Mary’s and back to Samson, towards St Agnes in hot pursuit of the whale. By now it was making its way SW towards Annet and I gave up and made my way back home. I’m still pitching myself after this epic experience and from my kayak!? I’ve seen Humpbacks in the Gibraltar Straits two years ago and there they showed very well from the boat I was in but nothin like what I observed today. What a Christmas present! My highlight presents on Christmas day are normally a pair of socks from the charity shop or a heavy rock lamp which was ideal to fit nicely in my rocky outside! Not great pics of the whale but it gives you an idea of close I was getting to it.

Martin Goodey took this pic from St Mary’s of the HUMPBACK WHALE behind me near to the south end of Samson. It don’t look so rough from this image but believe me it was in a kayak or a rib.

And this was taken by Robin Mawer, pointing me out where I am in the vast open waters between St Agnes and Samson chasing the whale. It is now believed that there are actually 2 Humpback Whale out to where I was. It probably explains why I couldn’t work out why one minute it was off Samson and shortly afterwards sighted off St Mary’s. Then it’s off Samson again. Making me row back and forth between the two areas. I have no idea how many miles I covered today but it felt like 102! What a day!!

I passed 2 Eider including this female between Tean and Tresco

There was total of 16 Great Northern Diver, including these two with Round Island lighthouse, spread out around the islands but getting a photo in the choppy conditions proved hard work. Although, I was almost on top of a few individuals as they allowed me to approach them at very close range.

Also, some 150 sanderling, 100+Ringed Plover and 7 Dunlin were on the south shores of Tresco

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24 th December 2020

One day, I always thought that I would see a HUMPBACK WHALE off Scilly. Maybe while seawatching off one of the south points off St Mary’s. I never thought that I would observe one only two seconds from my backdoor out off the Garrison like I did late this afternoon!

What a mega day! Returning from doin a taxi to airport, I had a quick look at the Dump allloments, where a Little Bunting was found three days ago. Staring into the weedy field for a good ten minutes, bordering the main path, the bunting got up from feeding in the long grass only meters away from me to my right. It was ‘ticking’ non stop perched in the nearest Hawthorn only to return to the same area where it had flown from. At Lower Moors, the trees were being pushed around by the frezzing cold strong northlies. However, the Yellow-browed Warbler was still very vocal but nothing else of note. No change at Porthloo with the 2 Iceland Gull, the single Black Redstart and a Merlin dashed through.

This is the only Little Bunting I’ve seen this year and my second December record after finding one with 2 Reed Bunting nearly twenty years ago on the 3rd at Ennor Close, Old Town

Both Iceland Gull were still favouring Porthloo

There were also 2 Common Gull

An Eider has been hanging around off the slip way at Pendrethen for the last few days and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen one. While observing it, I was getting blown all over the shop trying to gets photos. A single Whimbrel was roosting with Curlew and Oystercatchers nearby. It was almost 15.00 and I just finished my dinner when footage of a HUMPBACK WHALE came on the local Bird WhatsApp Group. It was filmed from the Meridian between Tresco and St Mary’s out in The Roads moving north towards the former island. Very shortly afterwards, Richie Aston had picked it up off Green Island and a few minutes later, I had joined Robin, Richie, Scott and family, looking out into Crow Sound at the front of the Star Castle. It wasn’t long that there was a loud shout from Richie. False alarm! He had chipped his finger nail on his door handle of his car while opening it. Then he gave another shout and I thought what’s he done this time? Brushed his leg against a nettle. But no! This time he had got the whale and my first view was distant off the SE end of samson. For the next hour, a few locals made it up the hill and were all succesful in getting a glimpse of the certacean. We had distant but good views of the whale in the choppy waters as it came up to the surface and with your naked eye you could catch the water blow on and off. It don’t matter what it was doin, I couldnt believe that I was so lucky to observe a Humback Whale only a few seconds walk away from my door! Unless you take the longer route like I did in the exciment of seeing the whale. It was still present in the same area just before dark and hopefully I’ll get better close up views of it tomorrow from my kayak.

The Eider off Pendrethen showed well but was always making tracks outside the bay in the choppy conditions

It was nearly two years ago that I saw my first 2 Humpback Whale only meters away from the boat I was on in the Gibralter Straights Hopefully tomorrow I’ll better photos of the whale in my kayak if the weather conditions are right for me to get out there.

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Snow Bunting at Old Town

22nd December 2020

This Snow Bunting has been mobile since Ren discovered it at the airport car park, 7th Dec. Over a week later it was at Buzza and on The Strand, before it finally settled down at Launceston Close where I connected with it two days ago and today.

I managed to get an hour or two off during work in the dull foggy conditions and this morning at Porth Hellick while listening to 2 Cetti’s Warbler, I had a Yellow-browed Warbler on the loop trail. This was followed by another vocal bird at Higher Moors and when I arrived at the Rose Hill end of Lower Moors shortly afterward, the long-staying individual showed better out of all 3 Yellow-browed Warbler. In the same area with some 10 chiffchaff and Goldcrest were the single Firecrest, Siberian Chiffchaff, Great Spotted woodpecker, 3 Woodcock, 2 Sparrowhawk but no sign of the Dusky Warbler. Out in the open of the moor, a single Snipe and 21 Redwing flew north and the Hen Harrier performed very briefly over the reeds before heading off towards Parting Carn.

One of the 2 Yellow-browed Warbler at Porth Hellick

I only just got onto the Hen Harrier before it flew off towards Parting Carn

Like the 2 Porth Hellick Yellow-browed Warbler, the Lower Moors long stayer also wouldn’t show for the camera.

Between Porth Hellick and Lower Moors, I had a total of 16 Chiffchaff and 18 Goldcrest including this individual of the latter species at Lower Moors

As it was only a few minutes walk away from Lower Moors, I thought I would go and have another look to see if the Snow Bunting was still groveling on the paths and road of Launceston Close. Sure enough, there it was in the center of the tarmac showing very well in the same spot where I had it two days ago. However, there was so much activity goin on with folks walking past and so many cars driving up and down, and as a result, it flew off low towards Ennor Close. I couldn’t be bothered to go in search of it and no doubt it would return later in the day. I had to return to work and a quick stop off at Porthloo found the 2 Iceland Gull loafing around. Yesterday I had the same 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, from last week also at Porthloo. Near the end of the day at Little Porth, there were 7 Mediterranean with some 80 Black-headed Gull flying out of the bay and 2 Black Redstart were on the beach.

This Snow Bunting, which has been commuting with Old town and Hugh Town for over two weeks, might hang around for a while longer as it appears to have a damaged right leg.

You can always find the 2 Iceland Gull, with Billy on the right, at Porthloo and if not, then they will be at Morning Point or in between the two sights at Porthcressa.

This Great Black-backed Gull is getting stuck into a Grey seal carcass that was washed up onto Porthloo Beach a few days ago

There were also over 100 Herring Gulls

With the odd Lesser Black-backed Gull

At littke Porth, there were up to 4 Pied Wagtail and 2 Black Redstart

Up to 7 Mediterranean Gull flew out of the bay with over 80 Black-heasded Gull

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Siberian Chiffchaffs and Yellow-legged Gulls

15th December 2020

I came across 2 Siberian Chiffchaff today including this cracking individual at Lower Moors and in four days, I’ve had up to 7 Yellow-legged Gull

After work this morning, I made a change of goin somewhere else instead of Morning Point where I’ve been visiing almost daily in the last few weeks. At Little Porth, there were 2 Chiffchaff in the Mallows at the west end of beach with a single Siberian Chiffchaff. However, there were no sign of any Black Redstart that were here a few days ago but while at the Rose Hill end of Lower Moors, chatting to Will, the Dusky Warbler started calling at the back. I went in search of the warbler and immediatly came across the Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff. I also kicked 3 Woodcock and then relocated the vocal Dusky Warbler, that was now only meters away from me in deep cover. It wasn’t until a good ten mintutes that it showed very briefly out in the open but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

The ring on the right leg of this Siberian Chiffchaff ruled out it being the individual that I had here over three weeks ago.

There were also 2 Chiffchaff in the same Mallows

And on the beach, 3 pied Wagtail and the odd Wren

Out of all the birds that I saw while at lower moors, only this Siberian Chiffchaff showed off for the camera

And this is all I could get of the skulky Dusky Warbler

It was getting close to high tide and the sun was still out and I found myself watching gulls again. After an hour of being at Porthloo, the sun went hiding behind the clouds and the only gulls of note were 2 Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gull and the 2 Iceland Gull including ‘Billy’ A singke Black Redstart was at the north end of the beach.

There was only this Black Redstart on Porthloo Beach

The 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull came in first taking the bread right beneath ‘Billy’s’ bill.

Shortly afterwards this 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull arrived and stuck around for a while

The 2 Meditanerrean Gull were always distant from the main group of gulls that I was spening my time with

It’s just too slow as the other Iceland Gull leaves Billy with nothin

And again ‘Billy’ misses out as this Herring Gull sweeps in like the style of a skimmer. Well kind of anyway

Yesterday, I finnished work mid-afternoon and at Morning Point I was being blown all over the shop by the gale force SW. The gulls were moving through with good numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull and further out, large numbers of Kittiwake. As expected, I had a total of 3 Yellow-legged Gull that moved straight through.

The 3 Yellow-legged Gull didn’t hang around as they flew straight through with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls off Morning Point

Two days before, while at the same sight, another 2 Yellow-legged Gull moved through but it was while scanning out to sea that I picked up a female Peregrine flying just above the waves, SW towards Gugh from Peninnis. This was immediatly followed on the same line as the Peregrine, also just above the water, by the ring-tailed Hen Harrier. I continued to go through the gulls and a male Merlin came in off the sea.before all this happened, I got a window tick in the shape of 3 Cattle Egret in the Trewince fields. I would have never had known they were there if it was not for Will relocating them after being elsewhere on the island.

The ring-tailed Hen Harrier out at sea off Morning Point

Shortly afterwards, I observed this male Merlin come in off the sea

The odd Kittiwake came in close from the hundreds out at sea

There were up to 4 Common Gull off Morning Point

Some 50-60 Lesser Black-backed Gull moved through

With over 250 Herring Gull

And guess who else came to jion the party?

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Pallas’s Warbler at Porth Hellck

After missing out on a Pallas’s Warbler, due to a puncher on my bike, trapped and ringed in Salop in the mid-80s, at last, I finally got to see one close up in the hand.

What a cracking day with both birds and the weather and it all started off with a gem! Well, after I had flushed the Jackdaw out of the garden from opening the window to feed a Herring Gull that arrived at my window yesterday with a broken leg. On Porthcressa there was a single Black Redstart and ‘Billy’ the Iceland Gull flew over towards town. While I was making my way through Lower Moors, by the Shooters Pool the Dusky Warbler and Firecrest were both vocal. I was goin to do Rose Hill but instead, I found myself cycling to Porth Hellick as Jim had informed us on the local bird WhatsApp Group that he had trapped a Pallas’s Warbler. There were only Myself, Dick Filby and Higgo present on the bank when Jim pulled the warbler from out the bag. We all observed it fly back towards the ringing station when Jim released it and shortly afterwards it was relocated in the latter area.

This Herring Gull came knocking on my window yesterday afternoon. I saw it had a broken leg and it let me feed it by hand. It hung around until dark and this morning it was back again sharing the table with ‘Kirk’ the Song Thrush.

Not many December records of Pallas’s Warbler on the Scilly. This being only my third after singles at Lower Moors and Porth Hellick

With hardly a breath of wind, there was only one thing on my mind and that was to get in my kayak. Like last time, I had no idea where I was goin but ended up looking at the 3 Spoonbill and 4 pale-bellied Brent Geese on Green Island. Samson was alive with waders and a quick scan through the 240+Ringed Plover, 130+Sanderling, 60 Turnstone, 4 Grey Plover, 5 Redshank and 8 Dunlin feeding together at the north end of the island, directly in front of me were 6 Purple Sandpiper. My first on Scilly in maybe over ten years! 20 Shelduck, 3 Common Gull, 120+Black-headed and some 30 Lesser Black-backed Gull were also present but only 23 Great Black-backed Gull compared to the 350-400 I had here last week. I moved onto Bryher and after a quick scout around the island, the only birds of note were 2 Water Rail and a single Kingfisher. Returning home and a male Red-breasted Merganser flew overhead and out of the Tresco Channel towards St Agnes. In The Roads, there were a female Common Scoter and 6 Great Northern Diver at close range as I passed them in the kayak before arriving back home at Sharks Pit on St Mary’s.

The 4 pale-bellied Brent Geese and 3 Spoonbill were hanging around Green Island

4 of the 6 Purple Sandpiper that showed well on Samson

There wre also up to 8 Dunlin

And 240+Ringed Plover, 130+Sanderling and 60 Turnstone

On the same beach, there was a flock of 45-50 Rock Pipit

And only this single Meadow Pipit with them

There were 8 Stonechat on the Island

This Little Egret was also on Samson but on the west beach

Returning home and I came across this female Common Scoter in The Roads

Almost at St Mary’s looking towards Annet from my kayak in The Roads

Three days ago at Morning Point in the late afternoon, This interesting 2nd winter Herring Gull caught my attention as it flew in. I put it out as a possible American Herring Gull, so folks could get down to have a look at it before it disappeared. Although it looked good from above, Mashuq Ahmad and Tom Lowe both thought that the undertail feathers were not convincing enough for it to pass as a Smiths. Although, it could be one. Gulls can be a pain in the butt!

Including ‘Billy’ above, the 2 Iceland Gull also came in to Morning Point that afternoon with an adult Common Gull.

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