1st winter Sabine's Gull west past Lizard Point, 9:05am, 9th April 2009
It is well known fact that most serious birders, whether they admit it or not care about their reputation. It is also a well known fact that a sure-fire way to destroy your reputation is to claim outrageous single-observer records on a sea-watch, particularly if it's the first bird you've found in your newly adopted county. Imagine therefore, the rather curious mixed feelings of trepidation and elation I felt when I watched a 1st winter Sabine's Gull fly past Lizard Point last Thursday. Exceptionally rare in Spring and a bloody good record even if I say so myself. However, not only quite common in Autumn, but also exactly the kind of bird that raises a few eyebrows and causes even the most genial to cast aspersions. Why couldn't it have been something nice and shiny and enjoyed by the masses, like a Great Spotted Cuckoo or a Snowy Owl? Anyway - after watching it for about a minute and a half as it flew past, I was able to take a few fieldnotes. Make of them what you will. The fact it was almost entirely in 1st winter plumage and only just beginning moult into 1st summer struck me as odd. I know Sabs have a reverse moult strategy compared to most gulls, but would have expected the bird to have moulted on wintering grounds. Any thoughts?