Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tip Gulls

When I was very, very young I went through a dodgy period of 'stamp collecting.' It was a worrying time as I became more and more engrossed in amassing a collection of 'Decimal Definitives.' These are the everyday stamps you used to stick on letters way before texts and emails made such a form of communication virtually obsolete. Now there were loads of these...enough to keep the most anal-retentive collector happy for years. The good old P.O. kept issuing ever more as the cost of postage rose. However, it all got a bit out of hand when 'Proper' collectors started paying a premium for stamps with different glues. I kid ye not. Some stamps were different because they sported Gum-Arabic on the back instead of Bostick, or Prit-stick on the reverse instead of super-glue. The latter were the most expensive due to their rarity as they stuck fast to your tongue when licked or some such. So I sold them. Now I think the same applies to gulls. As a rule I'm all in favour of splitting...more ticks means more goodness. But gulls...come on! How far can it go? I remember with fondness pre-Caspian/Yellow-legged/American/Armenian/Kumlien's times. Before these birds were born. When a Lesser Black-backed Gull was just that, not a fuscus/intermedius/graellsii job. And when there were just Common Gulls and kamtschatschensis wasn't invented. I can't keep-up and worse still I can't identify all of these when I see flocks of gulls. So I have a suggestion. Lumping!
Mixed flock of Tip Gulls -' Larus refusica'
I suggest that taxonomists or cladeists or whatever look very closely at similarities between gulls and begin to lump them back together to ease landfill-site identification. A good start would be to stick all the truly pelagic gulls such as Kittiwake and Sabine's together under the old moniker 'Seagull.' Next up would be the mainly land loving gulls, basically all the rest. These I would lump as a new species: Tip Gull - Larus refusica. You could have a few subspecies viz: Big Black Tip Gull, Greyish Tip Gull and Small Blurry Tip Gull.
More Tip Gulls
If this happy situation came to pass I would not have to spend time out in the freezing cold as I did today looking for a first-winter Glaucous Gull amongst a gabillion other gulls constantly flapping about. The sky seemed to be full of gulls wheeling about and I spent all the time mentally saying "What's that?" "What's that?" and "What's that?" I'd know what they were... they'd all be Tip Gulls!
Yet more Tip Gulls
No I didn't find the Glauc.

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