Sunday, June 07, 2009


When you've been around birding for a while, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing you can interpret what birds are doing. The reality of course, is that at best you can make an informed guess, with the benefit of experience. So when watching the local Silver Gulls along the nearby waterfront going through violent gyrations, (without giving it much thought), I assumed this was part of a display. It was only when I decided to try to photograph them 'performing'--a difficult task at best--I realised this was far from the truth.

In fact, it did take a lot of shots and careful examination of the images, to discover what they were up to. They were chasing and catching European Wasps. I should probably have realised this earlier, as I had "accidentally" photographed a gull that enlargement showed was chasing a wasp, at a nearby beach last Summer. But I had dismissed this as a one-off, isolated event. I guess that few birders spend much time closely watching the all too common Silver Gulls, but perhaps we shouldn't dismiss them so quickly. Having 'discovered' what they were up to, I went back and watched their modus operandi.

They,(there was up to 10 birds at a time), sat along the waterline, looking towards the sun, thus giving themselves the best chance of seeing the wasps silhouetted against the sky. Having spotted one, one or more of the gulls would give chase, sometimes, as in the lower image, squabbling over a single insect. What surprised me was the obviously large numbers of wasps involved, but also that the gulls would bother with such small prey sometimes requiring considerable expenditure of energy to catch. Ah well, perhaps it just gave them something to do while waiting to share in the lunch of people parked at the nearby scenic lookout. The Silver Gull joins a list of local species that, thankfully, target European Wasps. They include Yellow and Little Wattlebirds, Noisy Miners and Grey Shrike-thrush. May they have great success! You may need to enlarge the images by clicking on them, to see the wasps.


frogpondsrock said...

Fantastic. I like gulls and now I like them even more.I spend a lot of time fishing and when they're not biting I try to photograph the gulls.What sort of camera and lens do you use?

A few years ago I was watching a grey shrike thrush here and I thought it was just having a drink from one of my frog ponds and I nearly ignored it. When I crept up to have a closer look. It was actually spearing tadpoles. I have always had a second look since then.

cheers Kim

BirdingTas said...

Hi Kim,
I use a Canon DSLR coupled with a relatively light Canon 100-400mm lens. I consider this set up a good choice if you're birding and want to take the odd bird photograph--as opposed to carrying more dedicated (and heavy) prime lenses.
I spend a deal of time on the local beach photographing cormorants, terns and of course, gulls. This is a great way to hone one's skills at taking inflight shots and occasionally record odd goings on!
I photographed a shrike-thrush at a small pool which seemed surprisingly tame--it kept returning despite my presence. Then I realised that it was getting an easy meal of wasps that were drinking around the perimeter.
Thanks for commenting.