Thursday, 26 September 2013

Second-winter Caspian Gull

Half an hour at Shawell A5 Lagoons today rewarded me with great views of a second-winter Caspian Gull.

 As long as the local Buzzards give the gulls long enough to settle they leave the safety of the water and move onto the bank that separates the two lagoons. Just before I was about to leave I spotted this smart bird right on the top of the bank. I was travelling light so I only had my small compact camera and scope. Sadly I get quite a bit of vignetting with this camera and scope combination, but I've managed to crop the image to remove the problem.

Second-winter Caspian Gull

Second-winter Caspian Gull

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

More Gulls

I spent sometime at Shawell again last Saturday for a change and once more first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls were the highlight.

The first bird was most likely a female as it was a petite individual. I was happy that all the key features were visible including quite pale underwings. The tail had a black band which tapered at the outside edge and the rump and uppertail coverts were white with a few black spots. The nearby first-winter LBBGs had brownish underwings and the rumps and uppertail coverts were dull brown with extensive spotting.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull

Saturday, 14 September 2013

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull

It doesn't seem five minutes since I spotted the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull for the year at Shawell. It was actually July 27th and the bird was in fresh juvenile plumage. Things have progressed rapidly, so much so that I spotted a YLG in first-winter plumage on Thursday afternoon. It is well known that Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls generally hatch earlier in the year than Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. As a result their progress towards first-winter plumage is more advanced than the northern species, which are still juvenile like and much fresher looking.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Keep an Open Mind

Adey Baker and I did our regular Sunday morning walk at Croft Hill & Quarry today. We had Redstarts and the like in our sights, but we have learnt over the years that you need to keep an open mind. Often its a species that we hadn't even considered that makes the day. 

Apart from a few Blackcaps things had been very quiet, but a few seconds of high energy birding saved the day. On our way back from the embankment to the hill you follow a footpath that brings you close to the quarry edge. I looked out over the quarry and noticed two small groups of what appeared to be waders flying towards us and they were not very high in the sky. They were quickly forming up into one flock of seven birds. They had long straight bills, so I instantly shouted 'godwits'. They flew behind a tree and then back into view. We could now see them from behind, but instead of seeing black tails and distinctive white wing bars, we saw greyish brown wings with faint brownish tails and white wedges on the uppertail coverts and a little way up the back. I think both of us were a little stunned by the realisation that they were Bar-tailed rather than Black-tailed Godwits. The legs were not visible to us whereas Black-tailed Godwits have legs that project well past their tails in flight. We both agreed that they were Bar-tailed Godwits and happily ruled out other similar wader species. The views had been good considering, luckily they were not high in the sky or distant.

The timing of this sighting is spot on, as this is the peak time for this species in Leicestershire and Rutland according to statistics in Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland.

This is only the third record for the south-west Leicestershire area after four at Frolesworth Manor lake on May 14th 2001 and a single at Brascote Pits from May 6th to 12th 2012.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Norfolk