Gulls from High Arctic visit town

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White-winged gulls, which include Iceland, Glaucous and Kumlien’s Gulls, have been seen in unusually high numbers in Buchan this winter, reports RSPB Scotland.

The birds, which breed in the High Arctic and move south for the winter, have arrived in unprecedented numbers following recent north-westerly winds.

Last weekend, local bird watchers counted up to twenty three white-winged gulls at Peterhead Harbour, including 15 Iceland (pictured), three Kumlien’s and five Glaucous Gulls. This is likely to be the highest mainland Scotland count of Iceland gulls and the rare Kumlien’s Gull since records began. The highest number of Iceland Gulls previously recorded at any one location on mainland Scotland stands at thirteen, recorded in Mallaig in 2000.

Local bird watchers had great views of the gulls as they fed on fish scraps at the out-flow from one of the fish processing plants in Peterhead.

Jenny Lennon of RSPB Scotland said: “In a typical winter you usually get fleeting glimpses of these ghostly birds, but this year we have been spoilt with fantastic views of several birds together in our fishing ports. We couldn’t believe our eyes!”

The winter visitors usually arrive in small numbers and sightings are typically of single birds. Normally, approximately 40 -70 Iceland gulls are recorded in Scotland during winter. The Kumlien’s Gull is seen infrequently in Britain, with only six birds recorded in North-east Scotland up until 2009. The numbers recorded so far in 2012 are therefore quite remarkable.

Local birdwatchers Paul Baxter and Chris Gibbins have been monitoring the influx, and commented: ‘’We actually went to Newfoundland a few years ago to study these gulls, so watching them now in Peterhead is like being back there.

“It is great to see these beautiful birds in Scotland in such numbers; they are birds of the Arctic, so coping with winter in Peterhead is no problem.”