White-winged nonsense

As promised to myself, spent a happy lunch hour checking out the choicest of Lerwick’s gull hotspots – the roof opposite Co-op, Holmsgarth lairage, the wire store, the sloping field opposite the garage at Gremista, Shetland Catch, and of course Rita’s kipper bay. I had so much fun it hurt.

 I just knew it was going to be good, as all morning a 1st winter Iceland Gull had been cruising up and down the harbour outside my office window, looking for fish offal. (That’s me, not the gull. It’d probably have settled for a ripe nappy bag). So I went to the trouble of digging out my untrustworthy 500mm antique manual focus mirror lense, and set out to take some seriously blurred photos of white-winged gulls. It took me until Shetland Catch to hit paydirt – another Iceland Gull floating over the carpark. Flushed with success, a quick look along the shore yielded a nice grotty Glaucous Gull. If scarce and rare gulls were birds (yeah, I know…), Ross’s Gulls would be the fit bird you thought was out of your league; Ivorys would be the tasty lass on reception you never realised fancied you all along; Iceland Gulls would be the girl you pulled in a club and don’t regret for a moment… and Glaucous Gulls are the fat huffer that you met in the chippy when you were shit-faced at the end of an epic night on the piss and (oh the horror) woke up next to a few hours later. They’re the mingers of the gull world.

A face only a mother could love

Took a long series of shite photos, of which the above is the least embarrassing, not saying much I know. It was big, ugly, and a Glauc. Nuff said. Onwards and upwards to Rita’s Kipper Bay – a small bay that surely has a proper name, but is alongside the industrial unit housing Rita’s Kippers, and with such a fishy connection is irresistible to white-winged gulls, and Icelands in particular. There’s always an Iceland Gull there. Even when there isn’t one. You’re just not looking hard enough. And sure enough, a particularly plump specimen was waddling around with the Great Black-backed Gulls. It had clearly gorged recently on Rita’s finest as it was too stuffed to care about me faffing around getting close and steady enough to manage a clearish photo. I really must get an auto-focus lense.

 Kipper-begging Iceland Gull

 Finally, a quick spin along the Tingwall valley looking for ducks, and whoa! what the fuck have we here? Snowy Sheathbill! Proof if any were needed that Shetland truly lies at the migration crossroads for Siberia, Southern Europe, North America and, er, Antarctica. I know it was cold over the weekend, but really?


The half mile range, incompetent photographer and prehistoric camera/lense all conspired to make this domestic duck look just like a Snowy Sheathbill. If you squint a bit, and ignore the green grass and Loch of Tingwall in the foreground… No no no, not a farmyard duck, but lo! another Glaucous Gull gave pornstar views (that is, early 1980’s, grainy multiple-copied Betamax, East German pornstar views). Still, it was another Glauc, and in an unexpected place. Which made it alright in my book. Not quite up to dimly-lit club standards, and nowhere near receptionist, but… all the better for being unexpected.


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