The unsound approach

Photospot – Slaty-backed Gull Identification 

Winter! YES!! The best season of the year. The season of real birds - it's GULL time! With the recent appearance of an apparent Slaty-backed Gull in Lithuania, all UK birders will be thinking the same thing. There's never been a better time to indulge in that most exciting form of birding: rubbish dump gulling!

Never mind that it smells worse than Kerry Katona’s laundry basket... And just ignore the giant rat that’s working its way up your trouser leg. Don’t worry about the used-syringes – they are always blunt by the time they reach the dump. These are minor hardships; big prizes are at stake. Your local dump is a Godsend – a magnet for those most graceful, beautiful and fascinating of all birds, the Large White-Headed Gull Complex.

This group has a seductive allure that is difficult to resist. Many great minds have fallen under their spell, and many lives have been dedicated to the cause.  The elite Gull experts, skilled beyond the realm of mere mortals, have transcended new heights in bird identification. They pull on their waders and dive into the melee, wielding advanced New Approach terms like “sloping forehead”, “extensive mirror”, “venetian-blind” and “pearl necklace”. Armed with these fearsome catchphrases, they can cut through ambiguity like a light-sabre through butter. They can take an amorphous swarm of greys, browns and whites and within minutes have it sifted, sorted and categorised into each form, age and gender. Using their next-generation skills, these experts have determined that the complex in Europe consists of not ten, but ninety-three different species. Once you have your eye in properly, you’ll find them all strikingly distinctive.

We all know that European gulls offer us a lifetime of fascinating birding, but that’s not where the true excitement lies. After last year's gorgeous Glaucous-winged, the big prize this year has got to be Britain’s first schistisagus.

To help you stay ahead of the pack, we hereby present you with the latest punkbirder photoessay. Get your eye in!


Slaty-backed Gulls

(all pictures North-east Russia, mid-summer)

 Immature Slaty-backed really is a distinctive beast. Note in particular the delicate nature of the plumage, with a rather gentle, open facial expression.



One of the best features for young Slaty-backed is that they often trigger a gag reflex in observers. Did you just throw up in your mouth a bit?


Note the graceful posture adopted as this individual feeds on rotten tinned fish. They have an acute sense of smell, so Gull professionals often use Korean-brand tinned herring as a method to attract Slaties out of flocks of western species. We’ve already stockpiled fifty pre-opened cans in the garage, hopefully they will be ripe soon.


This retarded half-summer pre-basic alternate bird has retained juvenal nuffulars 


Still with us? Then it’s time for a REALITY CHECK:

FACT: You have a better chance of finding Ross’s Gull in Britain than you do Slaty-backed Gull.

FACT: Ross’s Gulls are a billion billion billion times better than Slaty-backed Gulls.

FACT: Whilst you’re looking for Ross’s Gull on the coast, you might also find something else interesting , like a Harlequin Duck or whatever.

FACT: You will never ever find anything else interesting whilst looking for Slaty-backed Gull at a rubbish tip. Except perhaps some discarded porno mags, or the spare parts you need to repair that freezer in your garage. And we know what you’re thinking, but sorry - Thayer’s Gulls do not class as interesting.

So the burning question is: Why the hell would anyone really want to spend their spare time hanging around at a rubbish dump looking for these awful birds?? Do they know something we don’t?? Have all our municipal dumps recently fired their workforces and replaced them with red-hot East European girls?? We suspect not.


Klaus drove the digger for free.....