Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Colour-Ringed Baltic Gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons

The tip was closed during the Easter Bank Holiday, so there were fewer gulls around than normal. Despite this I still managed to read six colour-rings on Saturday. The ringed birds were all Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but one was much darker than the others and I suspected it was a Baltic Gull. My luck was in as it had a Norwegian colour-ring and it was readable - black J727. A number of features looked good for Baltic Gull, so I reported it there and then to the Norwegian website Ring Merking. I was really pleased to see it was listed as a Larus fuscus fuscus the nominate Lesser Black-backed Gull, or Baltic Gull.

It was only present for a short while and very few gulls appeared after the group it was with moved on.

The jizz is typical of many Baltic Gulls, short legged, full breasted and a long tapered rear end. Some individuals have a more elegant profile, but this one is very similar to many colour-ringed birds depicted on Gull Research Organisation. It has a white mirror on P10 only, which, although larger than some, is perfectly within the acceptable variation for Baltic Gull. The tiny white tips are typical of late winter birds - these will soon wear and disappear.

Adult Baltic Gull, Colour-Ring J727
Adult Baltic Gull, Colour-Ring J727

It was ringed as a breeding adult  in a Baltic Gull colony on an island off the north-west coast of Norway. It was ringed in Colony B at Buholmen, Sørhorsvær, Samna, Nordland, Norway. The Norwegian population of L. f. fuscus is quite small and is probably getting smaller. At the time of ringing the birds in Colony B were said to be pure fuscus. I await comments from Norway. Assuming I get the thumbs up from Norway I will submit it to the BBRC. Adult Baltic Gulls are not acceptable unless the bird is colour-ringed and the bird is known to be a genuine Baltic Gull.

Gull colour ringing in Norway (17)
Last CR-Code Black ring with white code: J727 LBNW(J727);RBM
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number 4207875
Species Lesser Black-backed Gull (fuscus)  Larus fuscus fuscus Determined sex F Map Map
Upload picture25.06 2006Observers ad Sex (F) status Colour mark addedB Buholmen, Sørhorsvær, Sømna, Nordland, Norway65°18'26"N 011°37'30"E-------------
Upload picture20.06 2007Observersstatus Colour mark already presentB Buholmen, Sørhorsvær, Sømna, Nordland, Norway

65°18'26"N 011°37'30"E3600 Map
 Other Sightings Hidden****

Upload picture19.06 2014Observersstatus Colour mark already presentB Buholmen, Sørhorsvær, Sømna, Nordland, Norway65°18'26"N 011°37'30"E29160 Map
Upload picture02.08 2015Observersstatus Colour mark already presentC Buøya, Nordhorsvær, Sømna, Nordland, Norway65°19'06"N 011°37'51"E33251 Map
Upload picture26.03 2016Observers Colour mark already presentShawell A5 Lagoons, Leicester & Rutland, Great Britain

52°24'50"N 001°12'52"W35621606 Map

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Rutland Osprey Returns to Manton Bay

Succesful migration from Africa as Rutland Osprey Returns to Manton Bay

I went to Rutland Water to hopefully catch up with the long staying Long-billed Dowitcher. Luckily it was still there and showing well although it was a little distant.

Long-billed Dowitcher Rutland Water
Long-billed Dowitcher, Rutland Water
After finishing on the Egleton Reserve, I decided to go and look for an Osprey in Manton Bay. From the Osprey hide at the Lyndon Reserve I could see an Osprey by the nest. The volunteer in the hide told me it was the regular, un-ringed, breeding female. He also told me that her mate hadn't arrived back from Africa. The female was feeding on a fish, but all of a sudden she seemed to get excited. Yes you've guessed it, her mate blue 33 had arrived back from Africa and they both flew to the nest.

I took some video of the pair for you to enjoy...

It was nice to see the male and female Ospreys had both returned to Manton Bay, Rutland Water.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Injured Iceland Gull

Sadly the juvenile Iceland Gull that has been visiting Shawell recently has broken one of its wings and is unable to fly. The break looks very serious, so its chances don't look good. I tried to approach it but it took to the water and paddled off. Such a shame, but I guess that's life. I have no idea how it happened, but it must have happened at the lagoons, as there is no way it can fly.

Iceland Gull with a Broken Wing, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 26/03/16
Update: Several attempts have now been made to take it into care, but all have failed as it escapes on to the water. If it survives another attempt may be made with the aid of a boat on Wednesday.

It was captured on Wednesday but the vet who inspected it decided the injury was too severe, so sadly it was "put to sleep". Not a great end to its life, but at least it didn't suffer a slow death through starvation.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

A Review of the Gulls at Shawell During 2015

2015 was another good year at Shawell, with the landfill site continuing to attract many thousands of gulls to the area. 

Most birders stop looking for gulls during the summer months, but summer can actually be one of the most productive times. A first-summer Baltic Gull at Cotesbach landfill site in early July (subject to acceptance) was the highlight for me. Once again the eagerly awaited influx of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls occurred in July. 

My sightings of Mediterranean Gulls increased during 2015, but sadly I failed to read colour-rings fitted to two of them

Caspian Gulls continued to entertain and frustrate me in equal measures throughout the year. The mixed colonies of 'Large White Headed Gulls' in Germany produce some hybrids that can be challenging when they turn up at Shawell. The regular Polish ringed Caspian Gull PADZ was back in Leicestershire again this year favouring Shawell in January and again in August. PADZ moves between  Shawell and Albert Village in the north-west of the county.

Species Accounts:

Black-headed Gull    Chroiccocephalus ridibundus

Present throughout the year with numbers peaking as usual in late-winter.

16 colour-ringed birds were recorded. Several from Poland and one from both Latvia and Lithuania.

Mediterranean Gull    Larus melanocephalus

A good year with my best annual total so far. 
  • Adult, near summer plumage, February 17th (un-ringed)
  • Adult, summer-plumage, February 25th (Polish colour-ring)
  • Adult, near summer-plumage, March 14th (un-ringed)
  • Second-winter, March 14th (un-ringed)
  • Adult, full summer-plumage, March 18th (Polish colour-ring, different to one on February 25th)
  • Two adults, summer plumage, July 4th (one had a metal BTO type ring)
  • Juvenile, July 11th (un-ringed)

Common Gull    Larus canus

As normal this species is present throughout the year, but in small numbers. 

Just two colour-ringed birds were recorded, one ringed by the North Thames Gull Group and the regular Norwegian bird (JEJ8), which was first seen at Shawell in February 2011.

Lesser Black-backed Gull    Larus fuscus

This is the most numerous gull species throughout much of the year apart from mid-winter when numbers drop as low as 300. However, during migration times and even in mid-summer counts of around 2000 are not unusual.

The majority of colour-ringed gulls are of this species. In 2015 I read 184 new colour-rings plus many re-reads of colour-rings I'd seen in previous years. A second-calendar year bird, ringed in Denmark, was at Cotesbach landfill on July 25th and the next day I saw it on top of the roof of Casepak recycle centre in Leicester.

Baltic Gull Larus fuscus fuscus 

  • July 11th, first-summer Cotesbach Landfill.
During a session at the landfill site I spotted a really distinctive gull. Realising that it had nice fresh looking 'tar black' primaries quickly focused my attention. First-summer Baltic Gulls time their moult differently to first-summer Lesser Black-backed Gulls. During the summer second calendar-year LBBGs have worn and faded primaries with maybe a few either missing or re-growing. Basically first-summer LBBGs look scruffy. This bird has fresh looking primaries, new third generation tertials, many new scapulars and median coverts. It is also moulting some of its greater coverts and its underparts are clean white. Add this to its general structure and I think it is a good candidate. Many others agreed and so I have submitted it to the BBRC. First-summer Baltic Gull are identifiable based on moult timing according to a recent study.

First-Summer Baltic Gull (subject to acceptance by the BBRC)
  • August 29th, Adult at both Cotesbach Landfill and Shawell A5 Lagoons
I first spotted a very black looking Larus fuscus at the landfill site, but one of the machine drivers drove in front of it and started working. This disturbed the gulls and they flew to a distant part of the quarry. Luckily I picked it up during the afternoon at the A5 Lagoons and enjoyed prolonged views. Its plumage was spot on for the nominate form of Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus), or Baltic Gull. It small elegant body and long wings are good for this sub-species as well. Without a colour-ring it is best to say it is a gull showing characters of Baltic Gull.

Presumed Baltic Gull

Herring Gull    Larus argentatus

Seen in all months with numbers peaking in late December. The highest count was c3000.

I recorded 33 colour-ringed birds including two from Norway, one from Russia and the Finnish ringed adult first seen in 2014 reappeared in November this year.

Yellow-legged Gull    Larus michahellis

Seen in all month’s with the highest numbers being present during mid-summer, as usual. The highest count was 33 in the same group at the landfill site on July 29th. One of the highlights is seeing the influx of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls during July. The first juvenile gulls to be seen are almost always of this species. 

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, July 2015

Caspian Gull    Larus cachinnans

Another good year for this species. In total I saw 43 different birds

January seems to be the best month, however, sightings can be expected throughout the year. April and May were the only months I drew a blank. The challenge to find a juvenile in August proved difficult with the best contender possibly being a hybrid.

Understanding the variables is the challenge with many gull species and probably none more so than this one. It is all too easy to label any possible Caspian Gull with a few non-typical features as a hybrid, but care has to be taken not to jump too quickly to this conclusion. As with other gull species there is a great deal of variation between individuals, especially immature birds. Probably the best method to rule out the possibility of hybridisation is to use the 'trait scoring system'. This really requires photographs, but didgiscoped images are usually OK. For anyone interested in learning more CLICK HERE.

The colour-ringed Polish adult (yellow PADZ) that I first saw in 2014 was back during January and August. In addition a new colour-ringed Polish first-winter (red 10P6) was seen on two occasions during November.

Iceland Gull     Larus glaucoides

Just one recorded.
  • Juvenile on March 14th at the A5 Lagoons

Glaucous Gull     Larus hyperboles

Two were recorded in January. 
  • Second-winter on January 20th and 24th at both the A5 lagoons and the landfill site.

  • Third-winter on January 25th at the landfill site.

Great Black-backed Gull    Larus marinus

Seen throughout the year apart from May. Numbers are at there highest during January and December. The highest count was 650 in mid-January.

Six colour-ringed birds were recorded, all but one were ringed in Norway and the other was from Denmark.

Other Reviews:

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Iceland Gull - Take Two

I'm not one to be beaten, so I started work early and worked through my lunch break, so I could get over to Shawell again. I was of course trying for a photo of yesterday's Iceland Gull.

There were lots of gulls at the lagoons and while I waited for my target bird a smart adult Med Gull entertained me. This was an un-ringed bird so the second Med Gull in a week.

Ken Reeves arrived, which added a second pair of eyes to the party. Whilst I was reading a colour-ring, Ken spotted the Iceland Gull on the bank. It was the same one was as yesterday and luckily it wasn't in a rush today and my camera worked!

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons
After Ken left a first-winter Caspian Gull arrived. I spotted it in flight and as it was quite active I managed to get some flight shots of it - always a challenge when using a scope for a lens.

First-Winter Caspian Gull
First-Winter Caspian Gull
First-Winter Caspian Gull
First-Winter Caspian Gull

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Iceland Gull at Shawell

I called in at the A5 Lagoons this afternoon for a quick look and a juvenile Iceland Gull was on top of the bank between the two lagoons. I grabbed my camera and started videoing. Once I finished I checked the recording and for some reason the video hadn't saved. While I messed about with the camera the Iceland Gull disappeared!

It was a memory card that I'd previously tried in my new camera and it didn't work right. Today I was using my old camera that has never let me down before and neither has the memory card, so I'm not best pleased.

This juvenile was a uniform tea colour - all its markings had faded. Its eyes were dark, so it is a juvenile.

Hopefully I'll catch up with it again.

There's still lots of gulls at the site at present. There has been a large arrival of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Caspian Gulls are quite scarce at present although a first-winter was present last Saturday.

First-Winter Caspian Gull

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Hungarian Colour-Ringed Mediterranean Gull at Shawell

My return to Shawell on Saturday proved to be a productive affair. I have missed reading three previous Mediterranean Gull colour-rings, so an opportunity to successfully read another was one not to be messed up. The problem is that the colour-rings fitted to the smaller species are tiny compared to those fitted to larger gulls. Conditions need to be perfect to read the small rings. The extra 10x magnification that my new scope give me helps.

Anyway there was a large gathering of Black-headed Gulls at the A5 Lagoons - around 4000 of them. I was hoping that they may have brought with them at least one Med Gull. Straight off I spotted a Black-headed Gull with a Polish colour-ring, which was a good start. As I worked through the gulls I found an adult Med Gull buried amongst the flock. The gulls did a shuffle round, which allowed me to see more of it and I could see it had a red colour-ring.

The code was not easy to read due to the position the ring was in, but eventually I read it. It was H9A4 and my research at home revealed that it was ringed in Hungary. I sent off the details and this morning I received confirmation that I had read the code correctly. It had been ringed at its nest site in Hungary in 2013 just prior to it fledging.

I didn't get a photo of it on the shore as it was always partially hidden, but I re-found it later on the water.

Interestingly the only other sighting of this bird is from Topsham, Devon in November 2014.

Adult Mediterranean Gull (H9A4)

Ringing Location of H9A4