Monday, 28 January 2013

Something New

This weekend just gone, I saw something new. Whilst at Shawell I saw a Grey Heron get in the water and do battle with 19 Cormorants for a large fish. The heron was on the bank when one of the Cormorants surfaced with the fish. The other Cormorants tried to steal it, but then the heron flew out and landed in the water and joined in with the struggle. It failed, but it certainly gave it its best shot.

The Hungry Heron

If that wasn't enough, a fox appeared below me and it really was in a bad way - it appeared to be starving. Anyway it looked up at me and didn't have the energy to run off. All of a sudden a buzzard appeared and almost got the fox. It just managed to free itself from the buzzards grasp and run away. However, I don't rate the foxes chances of survival, as it really did look a pitiful thing.

And now for the gulls...
The previous weekend at Shawell I came across a Herring Gull type with dull Yellow legs and dark eyes. There was a Yellow-legged Gull close by, so I was able to compare the mantle colour and it was a darker grey than this bird. As you can see from the photos below, it is about the same shade as the Herring Gulls. I considered Caspian Gull, but the bill shape and colour along with the head profile were wrong. Unfortunately it did not come out from behind the others gulls, before they flew off, so I was unable to study the primary pattern. I have looked at quite a few photos of Lesser Black-backed x Herring Gulls and it doesn't seem quite right for one of those. Its stance was generally up right, so perhaps it is a Caspian x Herring Gull? or is it a Yellow-legged x Herring gull. Not easy this gull ID!

Mystery Gull

When you are looking for scarcer birds that are similar to other more common ones you can sometimes make mistakes or be drawn in. After the puzzle of the bird above, I was delighted to find a genuine adult Caspian Gull this weekend. It was actually on the field behind the lagoons, but all of the features were clear to see. Personally I think Caspian Gull is at its most distinctive when on land. The long legs and wings give them a unique look amongst gulls. The longest primary feather P10 was on show, as the bird walked about and I managed to see the full underwing primary pattern as it preened. It was impossible to digiscope it until it stopped walking about, but once it did it was mostly obscured.

Caspian Gull (at the back)

Digiscoping and cropping during processing is wonderful for getting record shots of distant birds - the Caspian Gull above was really far away by the time it settled down. The thin parallel sided bill and the forward position of the eye are visible in the photo.

Although digiscoping is good for record shots, I do hope to one day get the chance to photograph Caspian Gulls a little closer with a real camera set up. For now you'll have to put up with the flight shots of Black-headed Gulls that I took on Sunday.

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull

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