Ever since Phil Smith mentioned the dark race of Common Gull recently, I seem to have become obsessed with the bloody things - so I figured a bracing walk on Ainsdale beach inbetween rain showers would put that right this afternoon.
After ten minutes of pain watching three perfectly normal Common Gulls (not many gulls on the beach this pm), I was beginning to realise the folly of my ways.
Luckily a birder in a car slowed to tell me he'd been watching the Snow Bunts - and that he'd had six.
This was as good an excuse as any to suspend Common Gull scrutiny and I headed south fast.
I found the flock feeding about 200 yards south of the beach entrance in the tidal debris, but I could only see the "usual" five birds.
They seemed to be behaving a bit better today, hanging round the same small area and allowing me to get quite close.
Crouching down on the sand, I let them come to me, which they did fairly quickly - I must remember to bring some seed down for them next time I visit.
For a change they didn't flush when a dog walker went past - which happened on several occasions - preferring instead to almost freeze on the open sand, lowering themselves and staying silent until the threat had gone.
The three males were sticking together as they scurried about the small mounds of seaweed and driftwood - perfect for their type of camouflage, especially in the fading light.
The whole group went for a bath in one of the tiny pools of water formed beside the beach rubbish, losing quite a bit of their charm in the process - but you've got to wash I suppose if you're working in such a salty environment.
Left them as the light really began to go, and mercifully, there were no more Common Gulls to check.
Earlier, on the way home, there was quite a big flock (between 1 and 2,000 birds) of Pinkies feeding in the stubble fields between the Tesco store and the Lighthouse roundabout on the eastern side of Formby by-pass - I wonder if Dan's Tundra Bean was amongst them?
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...