1975. In my early teens, living in West Yorkshire, and just learning about birds that weren’t in the Observer’s Book of Birds. Mediterranean Gulls were a bird I’d never heard of, and that few birders had seen. An “unprecedented” number had occurred on the coast round Scarborough during the year, at least eleven. Most birders were not familiar with the plumages, and a report several pages long appears in that year’s report. The occasional one is seen inland, Needless to say, I hadn’t seen one. One pair had bred in the UK in 1968 but none since.
12 November 1989. Radipole. From my notes, a bright day with not much there. The visit saved from total disaster by a Black-Tailed Godwit and a single Mediterranean Gull, which flew off when the Remembrance Day canon went off. I’d seen a few by this time, here and there, but I don’t think I’d seen more than one at a time. The 1987 Dorset report has a maximum of 25 birds during the year in the Weymouth area, so double figures are regular in the area.
23 October 2011. Radipole. A late afternoon walk around the reserve. A count of 28 birds by the reserve centre, then more flying through as I walked to the bandstand, more on the lake by the bandstand, and still more flying through as darkness fell.
The following evening I gained a vantage point overlooking the boating lake and north towards the white horse at Preston. The weather was windy and dull. The gulls wash themselves in the fresh water of the reserve, and then fly in a continuous stream over the Boating Lake or Grand Hotel, and into the bay. Odd single Med Gulls come through, then small flocks in with the other gulls. Adults with their bright white primaries, like ghostly spirits. First winters, all contrasty black and off-white. Finally I get my eye in on the second winters, generic gulls with pale grey backs and an extensive black primary wedge, and of course the eye smudge. It takes a while to gain the confidence to call the second winters as they hurtle over the distant rooftops. As darkness falls, my list has got to 109 birds during the evening, but I’m sure this was less than the previous day.
I talk to Luke at the reserve the next day, and comment how the Med Gulls like to sit on the fence posts, dominating the adjacent Black-Headed Gulls. Luke states that in the Dorset breeding colonies the Med Gulls dominate the neighbouring Black-Headed Gulls, and may end up driving them out.
Who knows where this will stop?. Birds are being seen all over now, breeding is taking place just about all over the south coast and East Anglian coast. How far will they spread? Will they completely take over wherever they breed. It’s an awesome sight to see flocks of these birds, particularly adults, but will we get bored with them? will there be a cost to the Black-Headed Gull population?