Monday, 13 May 2019

Cairngorms National Park

It had been a while since my last visit to the Cairngorms National Park, but I was back last week. Being busy during the run up to the trip, I had neglected to check the weather forecast. However, I did hear the weather man saying that it was likely to be cold in the north.

A Beautiful View From the Cairngorm Plateau to Glenmore and the Rothiemurchus Forest

Well the weather man was not wrong about the cold and so a world of adventure awaited high up in the mountains. Monday saw Georgina, Sam and myself striding out from the Ski car park. Our first outing was a gentle reacquaintance with winter walking. We chose my regular Northern Corries route starting at the Fiacaill a Choire Chais ridge up on the the plateau east of Cairngorm; and then followed the edge of Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain. We descended between Lurcher's Crag and Coire an Lochain to eventually arrive back in the car park.

Georgina and Sam on the Early Part of Fiacaill a Choire Chais
Looking down into Coire an t-Sneachda and Across to  Fiacaill Ridge

A male Ptarmigan could be heard 'croaking', as we made are way up hill and luckily he was close to our route.

Male Ptarmigan
Coastguard Rescue Helicopter

It was reassuring to see a rescue helicopter was out checking on things, but luckily we were not in need of their help.

The conditions were perfect on the plateau, as the snow was deep but soft and our boots gripped well without the need for crampons. Visibility was also generally good although we did encounter a few cloud patches that drifted over an enveloped us for a short while.

Angel's Peak



During the week we enjoyed some fabulous days trail blazing through fresh snow and as you can see there were some happy smiling faces.


Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak from the Route to Ben Macdui

We still had time for some low level walking in the forest and the Capercaillies were showing well for once although very early in the morning when the light was poor.

Female Capercaillie

The snow fall in the mountains has caused many birds to descend to lower levels. Up to 30 Snow Buntings were taking refuge in the ski car park.

Male Snow Bunting
Female Snow Bunting

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Second Calendar-year Yellow-legged Gull

I started today by visiting both Cropston and Swithland reservoirs hoping for something to have been blown in on Storm Hannah, but I was disappointed. Brascote Pits was my next choice of location, but all was quiet there too.

I eventually arrived at Shawell just before lunch and you guessed it, it was quiet there too.

The only gull that took my eye was a second calendar-year Yellow-legged Gull that was skulking amongst a few hundred gulls on the bank between the two lagoons by the A5 road. The white squarish head with an obvious mask caught my eye, but other features are quite subtle. The mantle colour and pattern is very similar to many same aged Yellow-legged Gulls that I've seen in Portugal in spring. There are several replaced lesser coverts and a singe greater covert. This is quite retarded for most michahellis, but about right for lusitanius. However, I have seen similar looking birds in Bulgaria in January, so probably within variation of michahellis.

Second Calendar-year Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell

Second Calendar-year Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Winter's last Vestiges

An Iceland gull was enjoying the free buffet at Cotesbach landfill site today despite the sunshine and unusually warm temperatures for the Easter Bank Holiday

Four Wheatears had also stopped off before continuing north. Also two Yellow and a single White Wagtail were feeding around the fringes of the flooded sandpit.

Gulls were still present in big numbers but most are now immature birds.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Shawell Sanpit, April 20th 2019

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Video of Third-Winter Iceland Gull

The third-winter Iceland Gull was at Shawell again on Friday and Saturday. Below os a bit of video -enjoy!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Third-winter Iceland Gull

It was a little quiet this morning at Shawell, as most of the gulls were hiding out of view behind a large earth bank. Around 13:00 a few more gulls came to the sandpit off Gibbet Lane and whilst searching through them I noticed a small gull hiding behind a sleeping Great Black-backed Gull. Its head looked quite Iceland Gull like, but its primary feathers were hidden as it was stood facing me. I moved to a better position to view its primaries and as I expected they were white.

It looked quite mature apart from its coverts, which were a slightly paler grey. Its bill was quite yellow, with a marking on the lower mandible only and its eyes were very pale. All these features suggest it may best be aged as a third-winter.

Third-Winter Iceland Gull, Shawell, March 30th 2019
Third-Winter Iceland Gull