Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Iceland and Glaucous Gulls at Shawell

 As a result of the recent lockdown I didn't report any of the 'white-winged' gulls that were recorded during the few visits I made to Shawell between January and March. This was of course to avoid gatherings at the site. Most of these observations were made whilst carrying out my WeBS counts, which I felt was safe to do as I was on my own outdoors.

These gulls were found by myself unless stated otherwise.

The first white-winger appeared on January 15th - a juvenile Iceland Gull, which I presume, after comparing photographs from both sites, was the same bird that had been at Watermead in late December 2020 and early January 2021.

Juvenile Iceland Gull glaucoides on January 15th

On the same day I also spotted a juvenile Glaucous Gull, which remained until April 13th. Below are a series of photos showing how much it faded throughout its stay. This one could fool you into thinking it was a different bird, but it was recognisable because it had some very white scapulars and lesser coverts.

January 15th 2021

February 16th 2021

March 17th 2021

April 10th

A very pale juvenile Iceland Gull on January 22nd.

Juvenile Icleand Gull glaucoides, January 22nd

Next came two Iceland Gulls, a dark juvenile and a second-winter. The juvenile was presumed to be one seen a few days earlier at Watermead CP. This was a different one to that seen on January 15th.

Second-winter Iceland Gull glaucoides on January 22nd

Juvenile Iceland Gull glaucoides

On February 22nd Steve Nichols found an adult Iceland Gull, which was seen a few more times up until March 25th.

Adult Iceland Gull glaucoides


A very pale second-winter Iceland Gull on April 10th & 17th.

Second-winter Iceland Gull glaucoides

The best was saved until last when a really smart second-winter 'Kumlien's Gull' appeared on May 1st. There was nothing subtle about this one as its dark primary marking could be seen from a long way off. Initially it looked like a juvenile as the bright sun bleached the plumage details, but when the sun went in grey scapular feathers could be seen. The second photo shows the J shaped pattern of the dark on the outer primaries. The inner primaries were almost white and the inner side of the outer primaries was pale, which is the normal pattern for "Kumlien's Gull'. 

This is the sixth example of this form to be found by myself at Shawell since 2018. The previous and only other 'Kumlien's Gull' at Shawell was found by Neil Hagley in March 2009.

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull on May 1st

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull on May 1st

Second-winter Kumlien's Gull on May 1st

In addition a couple of hybrid Glaucous x Herring Gulls aka 'Viking Gulls' were seen. The first was considered to be the same one seen a Watermead CP in December 2020 and January 2021. Steve Nichols picked it up at Shawell on March 2nd and it was also seen on the 4th, 5th & 6th, but then disappeared only to be seen again on April 10th to 17th.

This bird was considered OK, by some, but the Herring Gull like coverts and tertials were obvious, the black on the bill was a little too extensive and the dark outer primaries contrasting with the paler inner ones all point to a mixed parentage. It may not be a first generation hybrid though.

Viking Gull on March 7th 2021

Viking Gull on April 17th 2021

The other "Viking Gull' was less obvious, but in real terms it stood out amongst the first-winter Herring Gulls. Initially thoughts were it looked to be very similar to a hybrid American Herring  x Glaucous-winged Gull "Cook Inlet Gull'. However, a search of the internet found several similar examples from Iceland.

Viking Gull on March 4th 2021

Here's to next winter 😊

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Bramblings, Gulls, Starlings and Stonechats

 This winter has been dominated by Bramblings, Gulls, Stonechats and Starlings locally.

There have been a couple of Starling roosts that have been really exciting.

Photos taken in Southwest Leicestershire.







Male Brambling

Female Brambling

Stonechat

Caspian Gull


Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 Highlights

 For me personally 2020 was a good year despite all of the problems. I have mostly stayed locally apart from a quick holiday in February before Covid 19 became a thing. At some point Adey Baker and I decided that we could make a book out of the Southwest Leicestershire List and so lockdown and a twisted ankle gave me time to get going. 268 pages later it looks like our Sunday morning pipe dreaming is becoming a reality. There is still a fair way to go and we are not able to offer an expected publishing date yet, but hopefully late 2021/2022.

Bird wise it has been a fantastic year and arguably the best for this area. Below is a list of my local highlights for 2020; I hope you saw some of these and thanks for sharing your finds and company.

January:

The third-winter Kumlien's Gull and juvenile Glaucous Gull from December 2019 still at Shawell; a new sub-adult Kumlien's Gull at Shawell on the 3rd; an adult Glaucous Gull and a Merlin at Shawell on the 4th; 144 Snipe and 27 Jack Snipe at Kirkby Mallory; a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Shawell on the 10th; a new second-winter Kumlien's Gull at Shawell on the 15th and four Goosanders at Stoney Cove on the 21st.

February: 

A new third-winter Iceland Gull at Shawell on the 7th and the third-winter Kumlien's Gull was still present.

March:

Three Avocets at Shawell A5 Lagoons on the 14th.

April:

Curlew singing near Tooley Spinney, Earl Shilton on the 3rd and a Hobby on the 26th.

May:

A pair of Avocets at Brascote Pits on the 18th & 19th.

June:

A pair of Avocets (one with a colour-ring) at Shawell A5 lagoons on the 8th; another pair of Avocets at Brascote Pits on the 13th and a Roseate Tern at Shawell Sandpit on the 20th.

July:

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls at both Brascote Pits and Shawell Sand Quarry on the 28th.

August:

A Cuckoo at Brascote on the 1st and single Pied Flycatchers at Croft Hill on the 14th and the 30th & 31st. 

September:

A Shag at Stoney Cove from September 2nd; Wryneck at Brascote Pits from the 5th; two redstarts at Brascote Pits on the 6th and a remarkable influx of Stonechats into the area began with a pair at Brascote Pits on September 25th; 

October:

a Knot and a Red-breasted Merganser on the 4th; three Yellow-browed Warblers: one at Croft Hill on the 6th and singles at Brascote Pits on the 16th and 26th; a Rock Pipit over Croft Hill on the 6th; Crossbill over Croft Hill on the 11th; 1270 Redwings over Croft Hill on the 11th; Woodlark over Croft Hill on the 17th; Bramblings over Croft Hill on 18th & 19th and four Goosanders at Brascote Pits on the 31st.

November:

Single Goosander on the 1st at Brascote Pits; a single male Brambling on the 21st heralded the start of a nice influx at Brascote; a Goosander flew low over Brascote on the 22nd; a Cetti's Warbler at Shawell GP on the 27th and eight Bewick's Swans low over Earl Shilton on the 28th.

December:

22 Bramblings at Brascote Pits on the 1st; eight White-fronted Geese low over Brascote also on the 1st; a Merlin at Cotesbach landfill site on the 9th; a very good candidate for a Yellow-legged Gull of the form known as lusitanius at Cotesbach Landfill site also on the 9th a drake Goosander over Brascote Pits on the 14th and two Starling roosts in the area: one of c10,000 and another of c30,000.

Male Brambling Brascote


Starling Murmuration

Here's to an even better 2021!



Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Lusitanius Yellow-legged Gull at Shawell?

 I was at Shawell today and winter is definitely upon us judging by the large number of gulls using the site. There were some smart looking adult and near adult Caspian Gulls, but it was a Yellow-legged Gull that caught my eye. Having travelled to Iberia on many occasions, I am familiar with the subspecies L. m. lusitanius. This subspecies frequents the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. In The Basque Country the Yellow-legged Gulls are quite distinctive and are sometimes thought to be closer related to Herring Gull than Yellow-legged Gull. Today an adult Yellow-legged Gull in the sandpit off Gibbet Lane really reminded me of this form. Without a colour-ring it is perhaps not possible to prove, but the head shape, fine head streaking and general body shape fit well. The Yellow-legged Gulls from the Basque Country are generally sedentary, but one ringed bird has been seen in England and I have seen a colour-ringed bird from there in the Algarve.

There are many difficult gulls to be seen at Shawell with yellow legs, but these don't fit Yellow-legged Gull (michahellis). Their primary patterns tend to give the game away, but this bird had the typical very black (dipped in ink) pattern of a Yellow-legged Gull. Herring Gulls with yellow legs are seen fairly regular at Shawell, but they are easily separated from today's bird. 

Putative lusitanius Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell

lusitanius Yellow-legged Gull, The Basque Country, November 2019

lusitanius Yellow-legged Gull, The Basque Country, November 2019

Another view of the bird at Shawell today.

I will finish off by saying anyone visiting Shawell should know that parking is even more limited now than before and even the viewing point can be blocked by plant vehicles. Please take care. If it gets too bad in the New Year news may have to be withheld.

Oh and here is a Caspian Gull from today...

Caspian Gull, Shawell December 9th 2020



Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Back at Shawell it was Quite Baltic

 I have only visited Shawell a few times since lockdown, as there has been no weekend tipping and I've been at work in the week. Today I was away from work and so I spent the morning there. The first thing of note was a record breaking count/estimate of the number of Lesser Black-backed Gull. There was a minimum of 8000 probably 10,000. The water levels had dropped and so I was also able to read colour-rings once again. The highlight of the colour-ring birds was a first calendar-year Caspian Gull from Germany - XJNJ.

Whilst scanning through the hordes I spotted a real belter of a gull. Although it is not safe to identify an adult Baltic Gull without a colour ring, this one for me was spot on. It was initially standing sideways on and it was long-winged and elegant. Unfortunately when I attached my camera the bugger turned its back on the camera.

Pro Baltic Gull features include: jet-black upperparts with no contrast between primaries and the rest of the upperparts, long-wings and only replaced two inner primaries. However, no colour-ring no cigar.




As well as the putative Baltic Gull there were five Caspian Gulls and at least 11 Yellow-legged Gulls plus a Ruff and two Dunlin.