Atlantic seabirds , Volume 7 - Issue 1 p. 44- 48
For many of us gulls have become the ultimate avian soap opera. Peter Grant set the scene with Gulls: a guide to identification back in 1982 and then added more characters to the plot four years later in a second edition enlarged to include North American species. At this stage, the storyline adhered solely to identification complexities; nobody imagined that the denouement was destined to swirl around challenges to the taxonomic status quo, never mind searching for clues to evolutionary relationships among the DNA of the birds themselves. Gull-watching became addictive in the 1990s. In Ireland, a veil was lifted from previously overlooked American Herring Gulls and Thayer’s Gulls, while a succession of pioneering identification papers murmured that big changes were afoot on continental Europe and beyond. Although just a decade ago, this was an era of portentous smoke signals on the far horizon. Hard news was difficult to come by, unless you could read Swedish or German, never mind comprehending terminology such as ‘P10’, Kodak Grey Scale, and a proliferation of subspecies names in Latin. I remember feverishly photocopying an English language ‘bootleg’ translation of Lars Jonsson’s 1996 paper in Var Fagelvarld on Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls (subsequently repeated and updated in Alula in 1998) and taking out a subscription to Limicola to pore over photographs of these ‘new gulls’ in Detlef Gruber’s blitzkrieg articles on field recognition. Since then, perceptive Young Turks have spearheaded advance after advance, at times being derided by a stuffed shirt establishment unwilling to grapple with a changing orthodoxy (warranting the creation of additional species) among, in particular, the ‘large white-headed gulls’. Within the last decade, gull identification websites on the internet and periodicals (principally, Alula, Birding World, and Dutch Birding) have been the modus operandi by which the growing pool of knowledge has been disseminated. In essence, a quiet but sweeping revolution has taken place. However, one thing has been lacking: an oracle describing, portraying and synthesizing all that has happened.
|546237.jpg Cover Image , 8kb|