IGM Meeting at Ruse, Bulgaria, February 2018: Trip Report on Gulls by Nick Rossiter

February 11th: up late from 11:00-15:00, had a look around the town and parks, recording some more good calls from the City Hall with its gull colony up to 70 adult, with michahellis (20) and cachinnans (50). Cold, gloomy weather.

Here are the recordings from Ruse on 11/02/18 of the calls with the birds in view as well: Mediterranean YLG (michahellis) clip 1 long calls 30s, clip 2 long calls 0s, clip 3 mew calls 15s long calls 35s rally calls 100s at night; Mediterranean YLG (michahellis) and Caspian Gull (cachinnans) clip 4 michahellis mew calls 15s long call 220s cachinnans long calls 100s squawk 160s, clip 5 michahellis long call 10s cachinnans long calls 15s; Caspian Gull (cachinnans) clip 6 long calls 50s 70s, clip 7 long calls 50s, clip 8 perched on roof (no strong calls).

Analysis of calls: the long calls of Caspian Gull are very fast, rather like a speeded up Lesser Black-backed Gull. The Mediterranean Yellow-legged calls are slower, deeper and can be guttural at end.

There was a covering of snow today in very raw weather, overcast, 1C max, calm. Had tea and dinner at hotel with 2 other gullers (including PR) from UK. 2moro up early before breakfast followed by minibus, to catch KL1374/KL0963. Will be at NCL by ttime if all goes well!!

February 10th: talk went well, Azorean atlantis is a hot topic; had 30 minutes and used all of that; great strides have been made in establishing the identity of atlantis since the last IGM attended in 2012. It is now accepted that c20% of atlantis have less black in the wing-tip than claimed historically. Also we've reduced a chaotic situation to 2-3 main forms: lusitanius, southern atlantis, Azorean atlantis, with a fast-moving genetic situation restricted to the Atlantic-Mediterranean intersection area where my studies in the field show what is going on. On the Atlantic coasts southern atlantis and lusitanius breed up to 50 km from Tanger and Tarifa respectively on cliffs and buildings; michahellis is invading from the Mediterranean, breeding on marismas, dunes and industrial sites; there is a narrow area around Gibraltar and Estepona where intergrades appear. We had dinner to close event at Chiflika, a traditional Bulgarian restaurant; plenty of dancing and music including a wild fiddler! Food was very tasty and traditional. Great chat with much enthusiasm about IGM2018; I've been to a number of IGMs, in Portugal, Poland, Croatia plus Bulgaria, making 4. Next one is in Basque country at Bilbao in 3 years time, so Atlantic gulls should feature well. Agreed to swap information with Juan (see 9/2). Other birds today included 3 Black-headed Gull, all 1w 1, 6 Common Gull, 5 ad 1 + 1 1w, looking dark in the field, 1 Mediterranean Yellow-legged Gull adult on Danube 2, 1 Caspian Gull adult on Danube 3, about 40 Caspian Gull, mainly on City Hall roof establishing territories for nesting and making many calls, the long calls being very fast: clips 1  2  3  4. So total was 4 gull-types. Weather was dull, cool, 3C, calm.

Have submitted to IGM organiser the talk given today as report (ppt) on Azores visit, presented at IGM 2018, held in Ruse, Bulgaria, on 11th February. It's been quickly posted on the IGM 2018 Presentations official record at http://www.talk.gull-research.org/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=1198, a page of the Gull Research Organization.

February 9th: out to the Ruse rubbish dump from 08:00-11:00 1  2  3, with plastic waste very conspicuous 1  2. We didn't stay any longer as although it was sunny there was a biting moderate breeze and the gulls refused to settle for any time; the 6+ feral dogs were impressive 1  2  3  4, a few look like wolves; evidently Jackals are the main predator in the wild, acting cleverly in packs. Caspian Gull was the commonest gull by far: here's adults 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 (with1s Caspian)  9  10  11  12  13  14  15 and 1s: 16  17  18  19  20. Caspian Gull adults usually show a quite deeply indented black triangle on the wing-tip, rather like Herring Gull but the black on the tips extends to P5 and often to P4, more like in Mediterranean YLG; P10 and P9 often carry large mirrors/wing-tips so much white here but some only carry a spot on P10; long white tongues are prominent on P10; the silhouette is slender as to wing-tips, head, neck and tail; the bill is long and narrow with constant width; the bill gonydeal angle is slight and the red spot is small. The 1s Caspian birds show similar structure to adults; the underwing is relatively plain with a lack of contrast between the darker carpal and wing-tips and the remainder of the wing; the birds are advanced in late winter/spring compared to even Mediterranean YLG with significant pale area on the base of the bill, white heads and faded plumage. Here's a piccie showing Caspian Gull 1s (left) and Mediterranean YLG 1s (right) 21; latter is darker and stockier with shorter, darker bill and more prominent carpal mark. Here are Mediterranean YLG adult 22  23, showing more black on wing-tip, darker grey colour and heavier, shorter bill, pale eye. A lone LBBG adult was found in a gull flock 24, highlighted here 25; the northern Norway birds appear to fly over the Black Sea to wintering grounds in Africa bustnes fuscus pdf so it may be fuscus though looks more like intermedius on mantle shade. Another LBBG, a 2w, is also in piccie 24, as highlighted in 24a, a lightweight bird reminiscent of fuscus. Could also be heuglini or barabensis. Some general shots of the gulls were taken: in flight as large flocks 26  27  28  29  30  31 and on roofs 32  33  34  35  36. The majority of birds in the flocks are Caspian Gull 1s though a few Mediterranean YLG 1s can also be seen. Two further shots 37  38 illustrate this with highlighted sections respectively 39  40 showing the sturdier Mediterranean YLG with shorter stubbier bills. Some adult Caspian are also shown on the roofs with a leg colour that is not bright yellow, more a greenish-yellow or pale flesh; Caspian have long slender legs compared to say Herring Gull. 12 Black-headed Gull (11 adult, 1 1w) and 2 Common Gull adult bring the total at the tip for gull-types to 5. Corvids were abundant with Rook, Jackdaw and Hooded Crow all seen well 1  2 (plus intrepid gullers!)  3. An extract 2a from piccie 2 shows some of the Black-headed Gull at the tip. Some of the larger counts from the photographs are just guidelines: the large gulls at Caspian 600 (400 1s, 50 2s, 150 ad), Mediterranean YLG 30 (20 1s, 10 ad).

We had a lot of talks today running from 14:00-22:00 so studied hard. Gull id is a very difficult problem but we're making progress and it's all very challenging. The timetable has been altered a bit but think I'm on tomorrow evening with a few talks left for Sunday morning. One speaker Juan Arizaga from Basque country in Spain reported on genetic studies on the entire range of Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull; it agrees almost entirely with the classification system coming out of my results: very encouraging!!

February 8th: did make Danube 1  2 at lunchtime: amazingly wide, lots of barges doing nothing, plenty of cachinnans, Caspian Gull, flying around (64 total, 48 adult 1  2  3, 1 2w, 15 1w 4) + 10 Black-headed Gull (9 adult, 1 1w 1) and a Mediterranean Gull adult. Weather was dull, slightly misty, 5C max, calm. Did lots more work on gull paper, here's v0.9 pdf. Finally made opening of meeting at 19:00: great to meet up with so many mates from 2012: they all remembered me!! We were supposed to see some formal gull photo shots but never materialised and the great brains of the gull world tucked into the buffet, beer and wine before retiring wounded at 23:30. Seriously was a great social event and floated some ideas from my Azores paper with some of the * with encouraging response. 2moro sees us up at 06:30, breakfast at 07:00 and * attraction of the week: visit to the Ruse rubbish dump, complete with feral dogs!!

February 7th: quite a journey: up at 04:30 in hotel; 06:00 KL0952 NCL-AMS; 09:20 KL1373 AMS-OTP (Bucharest); 15:30 OTP-RUSE by minibus; arrive 18:00; taxi to hotel Dunav Plaza, arrive 18:20. Time difference is GMT+1 to Amsterdam, GMT+2 to BUC so journey time from getting up was 11 hours 50 mins. And 4 countries visited: England, Holland, Romania, Bulgaria, last 2 for 1st time. Bucharest looked a bit ramshackle with lots of apartment blocks in poor condition; Ruse looks in better state and hotel Dunav (Danube) Plaza 1 is high standard with good facilities, including WiFi. Here's a map of Ruse 1. Near the hotel is the Monument to Freedom 1. We crossed the Danube at the border: it was massive. They use the Cyrillic script in Bulgaria, not so bad if you're into maths because some of it is similar to Greek. Soon found out that Бира is Bira (beer) with ρ being rho (r) in Greek! Also Π is pi (p) in Greek. Ruse is Pyce in Cyrillic. It's useful to know both forms as sometimes they only give the Cyrillic one. But some of it is not so obviously in Greek as for instance и, which evidently is close to the Greek i (iota). Had meal in the hotel; meeting starts tomorrow evening so chance to explore the Danube area beforehand. Max today was 8C with showers but sunshine and 11C are promised in next 2 days.

Many thanks to Strahil Peev and Karina Peeva (both Ruse) for their efficient and enthusiastic organisation of the meeting.

(c) Copyright Nick Rossiter 2018-2020