Monday 17 March 2014

Taimyr Gull killing carp

There's been a good run of rare birds to chase recently (no complaints there) so bread 'n' butter birding has been very much on the back burner. From last week things returned to normal and after a couple of quick trips to Hirakata last week I headed down to my usual gulling spot on the Yamato River in Osaka on Sunday.

Numbers on the river were already good when I arrived at 10am, often it's closer to midday before gulls start arriving. Apart from the usual Vegas there were a few Slaty-backs, a surprisingly large number of Black-tailed which don't always come up the river and a single first winter Mongolian. Hundreds of Common Gulls start coming through in March as do a few Taimyr Gulls. Adult male Taimyr are often getting aggressively territorial and it isn't unusual to see one with upright stance alone on a sandbar chasing off all comers while hundreds of gulls will be occupying the other shoals. So typical is this behaviour that with a quick scan when arriving at the river I can be almost certain of correctly predicting the identity of any such bird as Taimyr, even a kilometre distant.

On this occasion a large carp close to the main gull flock was caught out by the dropping tide and its fate was sealed when a large male Taimyr took an interest. The fish looked quite beautiful as it tried to make its way to one of the deeper channels, the sun catching its exposed golden-green upperside, criss-crossed with black symmetry, striking. It was more because of the fish that I digiscoped the following images and hadn't expected to document its death, let alone spurting blood and the eye being removed! Gruesome but interesting. Taimyr being Taimyr no other gulls had a chance of crashing the party, in fact the only bird that put up any attempt worth the name was a first winter Taimyr, other gulls, and a Grey Heron, kept a respectful distance.

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