Black-headed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls: Birdwatching in the Scottish Hebrides, Part 4
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
The islands of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides are a familiar territory for various seagulls, including two in particular: (1) the largest seagull, the low-sounding “laughing” Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus); and (2) a much smaller yet loud-“laughing” Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus, a/k/a Chroicocephalus ridibundus).
Great Black-backed Gulls are large (more than 2’ long, with wingspan about 5’ wide; often males weigh up to 4 or 5 pounds, while females weigh slightly less), deserving their nickname “King of Gulls”. Thanks to God-given toughness these gulls can survive and thrive in coastlands of the North, breeding in parts of Russia, Scandinavia, along Baltic coasts, the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, plus the Atlantic seacoasts of Canada and America’s New England shorelines. In winter many of these gulls migrate south.
In Nornian, the ancient Old Norse-derived language of the Shetland Islands, the Great Black-backed Gull was once called swaabie, from swartbak, meaning “black back”—whereas in AD1758 Karl (“Linnaeus”) von Linné taxonomically designated theseseagulls as Larus marinus, denoting a marine seagull/seabird (from Greekλάῥος). In a previous study (titled “Birdwatching at Staffa, near Iona: Puffins, Shags, and Herring Gulls”), the Great Black-backed Gull was noted as a prominent predator of Atlantic puffins, yet this gull avoids puffins who nest near humans.
However, it is not just the Atlantic puffins that must beware the apex-predatory pursuits of Black-backed Gulls, because these gulls also prey on terns and many other birds, as well as almost any other organic food smaller than themselves, living or nonliving, if they can swallow it. Accordingly, these scavenging gulls are attracted to garbage dumps filled with human wastes, as well as to egg-filled nests of smaller birds, plus available rodents (e.g., rats) and lagomorphs (e.g., rabbits). Likewise, these bullies practice “klepto-parasitism”, i.e., aerial bullying-based robberies of food from other birds—when accosted by Great Black-backed Gull, the smaller birds drop their food—as the Great Black-backed Gull chases the dropping food, to capture it in the air, the robbery victim flies away to safety.
During the winter months these gulls spend less time over land, because the sea itself then offers better opportunities for food—especially lots of fish! Any fish who are close to the ocean’s surface are at risk when these gulls scout for catchable food. In fact, quantitative studies of their stomachs show that marine fish (such as herring) are the primary diet of Great Black-backed Gulls, although they also eat other birds (like herring gulls, murres, puffins, terns, Manx shearwaters, grebes, ducks, and migrant songbirds), plus small mollusks (like young squid), crustaceans (like crabs), marine worms, coastline insects and rodents, as well as inland berries, and lots of garbage and carrion (found in places as diverse as saltmarshes, landfills, parking lots, airport runways, piers, fishing docks, surface ocean-waters, etc.).
Like the above-described Great Black-backed Gull, the gregarious (i.e., colony-dwelling) Black-headed Gull is notorious for its omnivorous scavenging and often-predatory habits, opportunistically frequenting oceans, intertidal beaches and estuarial coastlands, marshlands and other inland wetlands, lakes, rivers, and even agricultural fields. These gulls, as breeding adults, sport dark-chocolate (almost black) heads.
Black-headed Gulls can soar high in the air, swim in the ocean, and walk along a sandy beach—they are equally comfortable moving to wherever they want to go to. These noisy seagulls sometimes appear to “laugh” when they call. Like other seagulls, they enjoy eating fish—sometimes they dip their heads under the tidewater surface, while swimming. When scouting along a coastal beach, these gulls probe for coastline critters (which they probe for and snatch). Also, they are fast enough to capture flying insects, which they catch “on the wing”.
Gulls come in many varieties, plus some of these varieties are known to hybridize. For example, Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) hybridize with Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus). Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) often hybridize with Mediterranean Gulls (Larus melanocephalus), and also with Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) and Common Gull (Larus canus). Other hybrids exist, too, and many of these gull hybrids have been verified by genetics (i.e., DNA parentage verification).
[ As a boy this author watched seagulls, both inland and at seacoasts, with wonder. God made them all! A half-century later, I still watch seagulls (and many other birds) with wonder. “He (God) does great things beyond searching out … and wonders without number.” (Job 9:10) — God shows how wonderful He is! ]
Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare [lit., “cause to be clarified”] His praise in the islands.
What could be more Scottish than “Scotch Crow” (Corvus cornix)? The Scotch Crow is better known, especially on the Eurasian landmass, as the Hooded Crow (a/k/a “Hoodie Crow” by some Britons, and “Grey Crow” by some Scandinavians and Irish). As the following paragraphs will document, the opportunity-grabbing Scotch Crow (a/k/a Hooded Crow) is as resourceful as a Scotsman (or Scotswoman).
The black-and-grey Hooded Crow, like other corvids (i.e., members of the raven/crow superfamily), is a generalist—like the scavenging Carrion Crow (Corvus corone, its “southern cousin”, with which Hoodies sometimes hybridize), it eats almost anything available, dead or alive—carrion (which includes a huge variety of remains form other predators’ hunting successes, as well as roadkill), seeds, nuts, food scraps discarded by humans (esp. junk food), insects gathered on pieces of meat, grains (including corn), other plant materials (including fruits), small birds, bird eggs (such as eggs of seagulls or cormorants), crustaceans (such as Green Crabs, gooseneck barnacles), gastropod mollusks (such as European limpet, Blue-rayed Limpet, European periwinkle, rough periwinkle, Atlantic dogwinkle rock snail, thick-lipped dogwhelk mudsnail, European mudsnail, top snail), bivalve mollusks (such as Blue Mussel, Warty Venus hard-shell clam, Palourde clam, cockles), purple sea urchins, small mammals (such as Norwegian rat, mice, frogs, Eurasian pygmy shrew, juvenile rabbit), spiders, insects (e.g., fly larvae and adults), fish, snakes, etc.
In sum, Hooded Crows—such as those who make a living on coasts of the British Isles—are resourceful generalists. These coast-living crows are not picky eaters!
In fact, Hooded Crows who habituate coastal territories, such as beaches of the British Isles, have been studied to see what their diet looks like.
In one such research investigation, the diet of Hooded Crows was scrutinized (and quantified) near Lough Hyne Marine Reserve, a saltwater-fed coastal lake of West Cork (County Cork, Ireland). With informative details and quantified data, these corvid diet research results were reported in a Copenhagen-based science journal (“The Diet of Coastal Breeding Hooded Crows Corvus cornix cornix”, ECOGRAPHY, 15:337-346 (Oct.-Dec. 1992), by Simon D. Berrow, Tom C. Kelly, & Alan A. Myers).
The regular collection of prey items from these [coastal food-acquisition] sites … was integrated with pellet and stomach analysis to determine diet. Intertidal organisms [e.g., beach shellfish] occurred in over 80% of pellets and 43% of stomachs and occupied over 77% of the total weight of foods identified in pellets. All prey items recovered from drop sites originated from the intertidal habitat, involved either large-sized species or larger individuals of smaller-sized species, and were only dropped during October to February. Twenty-five intertidal species were identified but only a few of these species contributed to the bulk of the diet. Hooded crows were shown to consume a wide range of intertidal species throughout the year, though the species composition in the diet was seasonally influenced. Depletion and weight loss of intertidal molluscs through the winter was shown to have a minimal effect on selection suggesting that prey switching was driven by the bird’s nutritional requirements.
[Quoting Simon Berrow, Tom Kelly, & Alan Myers, at page 337]
Interestingly, the Hooded Crows somehow know that they need protein rich foods for their nestling young, plus they need calcium-rich food when their bodies are preparing for the breeding season. These reproductive-linked-to-phenological requirements of corvids is alluded to by Dr. Simon Berrow’s research team.
Vertebrate remains and insects were the most frequently occurring prey items in six food boluses fed by crows to their nestling [young] and together accounted for 90% by volume. Dipteran [i.e., fly] larvae and adults occurred in half of the boluses with Lepidopteran [i.e., moth/butterfly] larvae and Araneae [spiders] also present.
[Quoting Berrow, Kelly, & Myers, at page 340]
. . .
The nutritional requirements of a predator [such as Hooded Crow] have been shown to influence prey selection. Ravens in Scotland tended to feed only on prey items obtained from the seashore during the breeding season which was attributed to their requirement for calcium. …. In the winter, crows tend to have an energy rich diet, but during the breeding season more protein is requiredfor provisioning the nestlings. Insects are considered a good source of protein for crows with dependent young and calcium for bone development may be obtained from crabs. Although small gastropod molluscs are abundant at Lough Hyne they are only consumed by crows during the spring and summer, which may also be a reflection of the birds’ calcium requirement.
[Quoting Berrow, Kelly, & Myers, at page 345]
Now that’s something to crow about!
Like all corvids, the crow is also extremely intelligent. Specimens of Corvus cornix [hooded crow] living on European coasts have developed a simple yet surprising nutrition strategy. To feed on molluscs, they drop the shells from heights … [so] that they shatter on the first attempt, so that they can feed on the animal hidden inside. Furthermore, they deliberately ignore smaller shells and focus on those that guarantee a larger meal.
[Quoting Federico Fiorillo, “The Hooded Crow—Not So Pretty, But Very Smart”, AviBirds.com (accessed AD2021-12-29)]
In other words, Scotch Crows—like the Scotch people—are opportunistic, versatile, adaptable, flexible, resourceful. Whatever is available will be used to achieve whatever is needed. Very Scottish! And the Scotch Crows (a/k/a Hooded Crows) of the Western Isles are no exception—they will find and eat what they need! 😊
So, what could be more Scottish than a “Scotch Crow”? Wonderful birds are there to be seen, in the Outer Hebrides (“Western Isles”). If you get the opportunity, go see them! Meanwhile, appreciate that they are there, living their daily lives—filling their part of the earth—glorifying their Creator. As Isaiah (42:12) said, these birds cause God’s glory, especially in the islands, to be clearly seen (Romans 1:20).
Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.
Watching coastal birds is a favorite pastime in the Outer Hebrides, according to Outer Hebrides Tourism. Having visited some of the Inner Hebrides, with marvelous birdwatching opportunities (including puffins!), I am not surprised.
The Outer Hebrides archipelago is a unique island chain perched on the North Western edge of Europe. Here the landscape ranges from white sand beaches and flower covered machair grasslands to barren hilltops, fjord like sea lochs and vast peatlands. Wildlife is abundant and birds of prey are a particularly visible feature of the open landscapes . . . Spring and autumn are the best times to spot migrating birds in the Outer Hebrides with large numbers of seabirds passing up and down the coasts of our islands on their way to and from northern breeding grounds and wintering grounds to the south. These are both exciting birding seasons in the Outer Hebrides when almost anything can turn-up but the highlights of spring and autumn birding in the Western Isles include the passage of Skuas offshore and the flocks of geese and whooper swans passing overhead. Visit in the spring and summer to see the Outer Hebrides seabird breeding colonies of terns and gulls, which be found scattered along the coastline on headlands, beaches, islands and sand dunes. Although most breeding colonies are found offshore they will travel long distances to feed and birdwatchers can often see seabirds in the Western Isles from the shore. Spot Gannets in the Outer Hebrides as they make their spectacular dives after fish and keep eyes open for Black Guillemot, Guillemot, [Atlantic] Puffin, Razorbill and Fulmars, as all are common island birds.
Quoting from “Bird of Prey Trail Locations” and “Wildlife: Coastal Birds”, VisitOuterHebrides.co.UK — emphasis added by JJSJ
Some of the coastal birds that frequent the Outer Hebrides include shorebirds (such as Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Dotterel, Dunlin, Jack Snipe, Little Stint, Oystercatcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Sanderling, Turnstone, Heron), seagulls (such as Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull), as well as various ducks (such as Eider, Goldeneye, Black-throated Diver, Great-northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Shoveler, Long-tailed Duck), plus Shag and Cormorant, Atlantic puffin, Northern Gannet, geese (Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Greylag Goose), Mute Swan, plus a mix of passerine songbirds (such as Barred Warbler, Blackcap, Bluethroat, Brambling, Chiffchaff, Common Crossbill, Common Whitethroat Warbler, Corn Bunting, Dunnock, Hawfinch, House Martin, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Pechora Pipit, Pied Flycatcher, Redwing, Rose-colored Starling, Stonechat, Yellow-browed Warbler), the Ring Ouzel, the ever-versatile Woodpigeon, and more!
The Hebrides, formerly known as the “Western Isles”, are wildlife-watching venues.
With the islands enjoying one of the last untouched natural landscapes in Europe, wildlife in the Western Isles is some of the finest in the world, with Outer Hebrides animals and plants all at home in their surrounding without fear of poaching, pollution or disturbance. Wildlife watching in the Outer Hebrides offers a glimpse into a time almost forgotten by the rest of the world, where the white -tailed eagle soars over the rugged coastline as red deer roam proudly over the peaty moorlands and [river] otters swim in many sea lochs. Much of the wildlife in the Western Isles is unique and protected, meaning that visitors enjoying Scottish island nature breaks here can enjoy pursuits as diverse as spotting minke whale in the sea around the Outer Hebrides and eagle watching in the sky.
[The Outer Hebrides] are a popular destination for birdwatching in Scotland, as birding in the Western Isles offers opportunities to see everything from birds of prey to seabirds and waders. Look out for the Bird of Prey Trail which spans the Outer Hebrides with location markers for the best places to see birds of prey. As well as this, the Western Isles are the summer home to two thirds of the elusive British corncrake population from April to September.
[Quoting VisitOuterHebrides.co.UK, “Closer to Wildlife” — emphasis added by JJSJ]
In the above quotation the White-tailed Eagle (a/k/a “Sea Eagle”) is mentioned; this raptor is Great Britain’s (and thus also Scotland’s) largest bird of prey. It habituates almost all of Scotland, including the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
The White-tailed eagle is one of the largest living birds of prey. It is sometimes considered the fourth largest eagle in the world and is on average the fourth heaviest eagle in the world. White-tailed eagles usually live most of the year near large bodies of open water and require an abundant food supply and old-growth trees or ample sea cliffs for nesting. They are considered a close cousin of the Bald eagle, which occupies a similar niche in North America. The adult White-tailed eagle is a greyish mid-brown color overall. Contrasting with the rest of the plumage in the adult are a clearly paler looking head, neck and upper breast which is most often a buffy hue. The brownish hue of the adult overall makes the somewhat wedge-shaped white tail stand out in contrast. All the bare parts of their body on adults are yellow in color, including the bill, cere [nose-like part of upper bill], feet, and eyes.
Watching these sea eagles catch fish in their talons, as they wing to, near, and then away from the seawater surface, is much like watching Bald Eagles catch fish in the coastal seawaters of Southeastern Alaska. [See video clip of a Sea Eagle catching fish, at rspb.org.UK – website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.]
White-tailed eagles are powerful predators and hunt mostly from perches, in a “sit-and-wait” style, usually from a prominent tree perch. Fish is usually grabbed in a shallow dive after a short distance flight from a perch, usually with the eagles only getting their feet wet. At times they will also fish by wading into shallows, often from shores or gravel islands. When it comes to non-fish prey, White-tailed eagles often hunt by flying low over sea coast or lake shore and attempt to surprise victims. [emphasis added]
These coastal raptors mostly eat fish. However, they also eat waterfowl and small mammals (such as rodents). During winter they eat lots of carrion.
In previous centuries the White-tailed eagle populated the coasts of Scotland, but it was hunted to extirpation in the A.D.1920s. However, it was conservationally re-established on Rhum in A.D.1975, and (thankfully) it has since re-colonized (beyond 25 breeding pairs, apparently) many of the indented inlets of the coastal strands of Outer Hebrides islands, including Harris, Lewis, and South Uist.
White-tailed Eagles are large birds (2-to-3 feet, from bill-tip to tail-tip; 6-to-8 feet wingspan; 9-to-16 pounds), famous for eating fish (such as salmon, trout), yet they also prey on rabbits and hares, geese, available seabirds (such as fulmars and petrels), and lamb carrion. Like their Golden Eagle cousins—which reside in the Hebrides—these eagles establish and defend territories for their families.
Other birds of prey, habituating the Outer Hebrides, include two types of owls, the Short-eared Owl and the Long-eared Owl. Other birds of prey include hawks (such as harriers, sparrow hawks, and ospreys) and falcons (such as kestrels, peregrines, and hobbies), which routinely find and consume rodents (such as voles). Other birds of prey, sometimes observed, include Buzzards, Snowy Owl, and Gyrfalcon.
However, in contrast to such carnivorous raptors, consider the common Corncrake.
The chicken-like Corncrake is a migratory rail that frequents grassy parts of Hebridean islands, as well as Scotland’s semi-marshy floodplain grasslands (dominated by grasses or sedges) and coastal wetlands (such as nettle beds, iris beds, and reed beds), yet the Corncrake prefers the tall plant-cover of farmed crop-fields (such as hayfields, fields of wheat and other cereals, and clover meadows). This rail arrives from mid-April and stays for breeding and beyond, till August or September. After that the Corncrake migrates to North Africa, for over-wintering.
The Corncrake’s appearance somewhat resembles a young Grey Partridge (or somewhat like a moorhen or coot), yet it is almost as small as a blackbird.
Plumage softly but richly coloured, with pale grey face, fore-neck and breast, yellowish-buff upper parts, lined with cream and spotted or streaked blackish-brown, chestnut wings ‘catch fire’ in flight, barred white flanks. Bill and legs dull pink. Flight typical of [rail] family, loose-winged and clumsy; usually escapes by running into dense cover.
[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, Guy Mountfort, et al., A Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe (Houghton Mifflin, 1993), page 93.]
Because Corncrakes (a/k/a Land Rails) routinely reside in grassy fields, where photosynthetic biomass productivity is high, they have a smörgåsbord of seeds – as well as other foods, available just for the taking.
Besides seeds these rails eat bugs (especially cockroaches and beetles, including dung beetles), fly larvae, termites, ticks, spiders, dragonflies, earthworms, grasshoppers, slugs, snails, weevils, and even small frogs. [Regarding the diet of Corncrakes, see further Suzanne Arbeiter, Heiner Flinks, et al., “Diet of Corncrakes Crex crex and Prey Availability in Relation to Meadow Management”, ARDEA, 108(1):55-64 (April 24, 2020), posted at https://doi.org/10.5253/arde.v108i1,a7 . ]
Corncrakes themselves must be careful—they serve as prey to other animals, including mustelids (mink, ferrets, and river otters), foxes, larger birds (such as white stork, harrier hawks, seagulls, and corvids, especially hooded crows).
Wonderful birds are there to be seen, in the Outer Hebrides (Scotland’s “Western Isles”). If you get the opportunity, go see them!
Meanwhile, appreciate that they are there, living their daily lives—filling their part of the earth—glorifying their Creator (Isaiah 42:12).
Birdwatching at Staffa, near Iona: Puffins, Shags, and Herring Gulls
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands. (Isaiah 42:12)
The three birds that I recall most, from visiting the island of Staffa (Inner Hebrides, just north of Iona) were Herring Gulls (a very common seagull), Shags (a yellow-mouthed but otherwise all-black cormorant), and those cute and colorful (and comically clown-like) Atlantic Puffins, a couple of which settled (after some aerial arcing) not much more than a yard (i.e., meter) form where I was standing, upon the grassy cliff-side of the pasture-topped island.
SHAG at STAFFA (Public Insta photo credit)
Below is a limerick I wrote to recall my observations at the Isle of Staffa (same island that has Fingal’s Cave, made famous by Felix Mendelssohn’s overture written in AD1829), a small uninhabited island north of Iona (where I ate some of the best sea scallops, after soaking my feet in the cold Sound of Iona tidewaters!), in the Inner Hebrides archipelago on the western side of Scotland (July 19th AD2019). Norse Vikings were reminded of staves (plural of “staff”) when they saw the upright timber/log-like columns (contiguous pillars) of basalt there — hence the name “Staffa“.
BIRDWATCHING FROM CLIFF-EDGE ATOP STAFFA ISLAND, NORTH OF IONA (INNER HEBRIDES)
Herring gulls, puffins, and shags,
Launch from cliff-edge grass and crags;
Flying low — then a splish!
Success! Caught a fish!
Herring gulls, puffins, and shags.
Herring gulls, of course, I first observed during my boyhood days (in elementary school). But shags and puffins are not seen in the parts of America where I have lived, so seeing them at Staffa was quite a privilege!
PUFFINS at STAFFA (Mull & Iona Ranger Service)
POST-SCRIPT: Puffins, gulls, and shags — as noted (in the limerick, above) — enjoy eating fish, from the sea-waters that wash ashore coastal rocks and beaches of the Hebrides. Meanwhile, to consider what humans enjoy eating, when visiting Scotland’s Highlands and Hebrides, check out “When in Scotland, Eat Well!” — posted at https://rockdoveblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/when-in-scotland-eat-well/ .
BARNACLE GOOSE flock in flight (credit: BirdGuides)
And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. (Mark 13:18)
The above-quoted Scripture refers to the “flight” of human refugees, during a time of future world crisis. However, for migratory birds, long-distance flights are not deemed a “crisis” because they are an ordinary twice-yearly lifestyle — winging from breeding grounds (as summer fades into autumn) to wherever it overwinters, usually with stopover breaks along the way, then vice versa (during spring).
For the BARNACLE GOOSE (called Hvitkinngås in Norwegian, literally “white-cheek goose”), however, the breeding grounds are fairly frigid, with that anatid dwelling mostly in four populations: (1) east Greenland breeders, who overwinter mostly along the western coasts of the British Isles, especially in the Hebrides (e.g., Islay) and western Ireland; (2) Svalbard’s breeders, who overwinter in and near the Irish Sea’s Solway Firth, that separates England and Scotland, not far from the Isle of man; (3) Russian breeders, some summering at or near Novaya Zemlya, or its neighboring Siberian coastland, who overwinter in the Netherlands or nearby Germany; and (4) an unusual not-so-migratory eastern colony, which appear to have abandoned the Russian population, and are now resettled (and mostly residing year-round!) in and near islands and coastlands of the Baltic Sea, including coastal Estonia, Finland, and Sweden (although some of these “transplants” may overwinter in and around Netherlands).
One of Norway’s most extreme territories is the arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the largest island of which is Spitsbergen. Svalbard hosts one of the world’s three most-northern breeding populations of migrating Barnacle Goose (Norwegian: Hvitkinngås, meaning “white-cheek goose”) colonies. Imagine the goslings hatched there each year!
“The barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) is a medium sized, black and white goose … occu[ring] in three separate populations that breed [first] in northeast Greenland, [second] in Svalbard[,] and [third] in northwest Russia and the Baltic region … [with those] from Greenland winter[ing] in Ireland and in the western parts of Scotland, [while] the Svalbard birds spend the winter in the Solway Firth between England and Scotland” and the Russian population “winters along the western coasts of Germany and the Netherlands”.
Also according to the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Svalbard-breeding population looks just like the other white-cheeked geese: “The Svalbard barnacle goose is indistinguishable morphologically from birds in the other populations, but is geographically isolated. In Svalbard, the barnacle goose breeds on the western coast of Spitsbergen and within Tusenøyane south of Edgeøya” – while “most barnacle geese breed in colonies on small islands, but some pairs also breed on cliffs on Spitsbergen.”
But as weather warms after winter, and daylight hours stretch (vs. night darkness), the northward migration repeats; breeding occurs in the arctic north:
“The spring migration starts in April or early May, when the geese leave Solway Firth and head for Helgeland on the western coast of mainland Norway. In the second half of May they move on to the southern part of Spitsbergen before reaching the nesting areas toward the end of May. In late August or early September the autumn migration starts. Bjørnøya is an important stop-over site where the birds can spend up to three weeks waiting for favourable winds to initiate migration to the wintering grounds in northern Britain. Some birds probably migrate directly from Spitsbergen to the Solway Firth.”
As a previous blogpost indicates, this “new” eastern (Baltic coastlands) population may be the result of Novaya Zemlya breeders who wisely abandoned that Russian archipelago due to the USSR’s hydrogen bomb [“Ivan”, the Russian Царь-бомба, i.e., “Tsar Bomb”] testing there.