• Claire Stott

Song and dance

There was a complete absence of birds to be found around the harbour today, aside from a pair of herring gulls wandering around the grass in search of earthworms.

Despite their reputation for a love of chips and leftovers, earthworms are in fact their preferred natural diet, along with fish, molluscs, invertebrates, eggs, and occasionally small birds and mammals.

The gulls use a technique called the ‘rain dance’ where they rhythmically stamp their webbed feet on the ground, to mimic the vibrations of falling rain to encourage the worms to the surface.

Preoccupied with their worm gathering, and fairly unafraid of humans, the gulls were happy for me to get in close and capture some of their finer details in the early morning light.

Whilst not a classically beautiful bird, there’s no denying their bright white plumage, piercing yellow eye and beak with distinctive red spot are striking.

The gulls are looking in particularly good condition at the moment, as they have lost their streaky grey feathers intermingled in the white, replaced with uniform white in preparation for the breeding season.

These two birds appeared to have already paired up, and would regularly utter soft calls to each other whilst tossing their heads in the air. This begging call behaviour is often seen in pair bonded birds, particularly prior to mating, although it is a little early in the year for mating to take place just yet.

To reaffirm their bond the pair would occasionally burst into the typical seagull song, especially when another gull flew overhead. A sound synonymous with the coast, it is an earsplitting call, performed with great enthusiasm with the head thrown beak and a wide open gape.

Their territory secured the pair soon settled down to rest with the sun warming their steely grey back. I’ve never seen a Herring Gull yawn before!

— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#birdwatching #outdoors #aberystwyth #photographer #herringgulls #birder #coast #photography #birds #raindance #ornithology #birdbehaviour #birding #nature

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