Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gull city

Yesterday I had my 20th sighting of a kingfisher this year in Cork city. Usually I see them along the Lee river fields but this one was passing by my house. Most of the non birdian people I’ve mentioned it to don’t seem aware that we have them in the city and frankly it’s not surprising, anytime I have spotted them they have been flying past like a tiny blue dart. I know where their main perches are but the area is unapproachable. Probably a good thing, they are very private little birds!

Birds, ok, hmm well I’d love to say I had found some to photograph in the past few weeks but almost nothing has revealed itself in the city in between the rain showers, also, my money dried up nicely during electricity bill season so no trips either...

I am however delighted to announce the slow but steady return of the various gull species in the city centre. Hotspots for them are The Lough, Atlantic pond and the 2 canals but in winter time you will see them on nearly every rooftop and in every sky. It’s my favourite time of year for birds.

Black headed gull
By far the most common of the gulls in Cork, they lose their dark brown hood in winter. Large flocks of them can be seen almost anywhere in the city in winter. Throw a piece of bread into the Lee and see what happens ;-)

Common gull
Not that common but a regular in the city for sure. About the same size as the black headed gull but closer in appearance to a very small herring gull (to my eyes that is). The Lough or Atlantic pond in winter is probably your best bet for finding one. They don’t seem to be returning to the city yet at this point.

Ring billed gull
A rarity in Ireland, or well...maybe more of a scarcity since I found 8 last winter in Cork city alone (never minding Clonakilty & Cobh). It’s quite similar to a common gull but the best identifier seems to be its yellow eyes (common has black). As with all gulls it can be hard to say for sure though, its bill ring for instance is not unique as common gulls often have black on their bills as well. Atlantic pond is likely the best spot for them in the city. 

Herring gull
Much larger than the species above. Herring gulls are probably one of the most common gulls around. In the city they seem to like the river and can be found on lamp posts, in the water itself and occasionally on the riverside walls in winter. It’s got a lighter ‘back’ then the lesser black backed gull and all ages and genders of this species have pinkish legs.

Lesser black backed gull
The big gull I seem to run in the most in the city which if compared to scarce populations elsewhere is actually quite cool. They have a similar distribution to the black headed gulls. In summer they have yellow legs but the identifiers start to blur in winter as many forms have pinkish legs at that time. Oh well.

Great black backed gull
A gull that only rarely wanders up the Lee, it seems to prefer being more coastal. It is however worth a mention since it is the largest Irish gull which is easily identified by its heavy bill and very black back (in adults anyway). I have seen 4 or 5 on the Lee so far.

Well k that’s my guide to the gulls done. Other scarcer species sometimes find themselves in the city too; I’ll let you know when I find them! I hope to be back in full birding form soon! Also does spotting a pair of peregrines very high up (10 meters) above UCC mean I can put it on the list or is that cheating?


  1. I was passing through different blogs and thought id just say hello. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa.


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