Saturday, 28 December 2013

Mediterranean Gulls

After the excitement of seeing the Brunnich's Guillemot it was back to some serious gulling. As we eat our McDonalds, Dave and I suggested we should have a look through the gulls on Radipole Lake car park. After a quick drive up the road to see the Glossy Ibis we cajoled Colin into swinging into the car park. We were soon into some Med Gulls and three of them were colour-ringed. All three were probably ringed in France, but I won't know for sure until I get a reply back.

In all we saw 12 Med Gulls: nine adults, two second-winters and a first winter.

Adult Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 27 December 2013

Brunnich's Guillemot

A chance meeting at Swithland Res yesterday brought me out of long distance twitching retirement. A storm driven Brunnich's Guillemot had taken up residence in Portland Harbour near Weymouth. I made arrangements to meet Colin Green at his house at 04:15. My alarm went off at 03:00 and it took me a few minutes to remember why I had set it for so early in the morning. I can remember a time when I wouldn't have slept with the excitement of it all!

Dave Gray and John Waters and I arrived at Colin's place at the pre-arranged time and Colin soon had us on our way to Dorset. We were down in Dorset for first light and the storm that had been forecast was raging. This did not deter us and we were soon bracing ourselves against wind that was strong enough to pick Colin and myself up - that's a strong wind. 

The twitch started with what looked like a sketch from the 'Benny Hill Show'. We all raced around like fools "Its over here", "no it's this way". Eventually Allen Pocock wandered up and confirmed it had been seen, but it had flown behind the new breakwater. We took shelter and waited it out. While we were waiting we enjoyed good views of a Black Guillemot and a couple of Great Northern Divers.

Adult Great Northern Diver

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Black-throated Diver

I fancied a bit of fresh air after eating far too much yesterday, so this afternoon I headed off to Swithland Res in search of the immature Black-throated Diver that had been there a couple of days. It was still there and it came in close occasionally. However, in sunny conditions the light is a bit harsh near the dam and today it was sunny.

Black-throated Diver

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Caspian Gulls

December is supposed to be a good month for Caspian Gulls, but they have been noticeable by their absense at Shawell. That all changed this weekend when I managed to find four, although one of them may not have come from pure stock. It was a 3rd-winter, but there is no real criteria yet available to separate birds of this age that look good but have just a couple niggling issues. This bird had amber coloured eyes rather than dark brown and compared to the other three it was a little shorter winged. Neither of these issues rule it out from being a pure Caspian Gull though.

The 1st-winter was a cracker - these really have to be seen to appreciate how smart looking they are - flying rats they are not! The photo below demonstrates the four colour scheme that makes them look so smart.

First-winter Caspian Gull

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Flocking About

I occasionally lift my head up from my scope whilst I'm gull watching at Shawell A5 lagoons and a few weeks ago I noticed a flock of Starlings flying above the distant landfill site. Steve Nicholls and I spotted a pre-roost flock last weekend, which has now built up to about 4000 birds. They are roosting between the lagoons and the landfill site. This evening they put on quite a show, as they wheeled around creating really some impressive patterns.

Flock of Starlings

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Does Size Matter?

You can bet it does, but this isn't about what some of you might have thought.

I've noticed that some birders are surprised by the difference in size of gulls of the same species. There can be a massive size difference between the sexes. Some female Herring Gulls are only slightly larger than Common Gulls and males can be almost as big as a Great Black-backed Gull. The Glaucous Gull I saw yesterday was probably a female, because although it was bigger than the other gulls it lacked the brutish appearance of a large male. The photo below demonstrates the difference between the sexes very well.

Male and Female Glaucous Gull, Spitsbergen

It's Not Over Until the Fat lady Sings

It was an odd day at Shawell today. There didn't appear to be much activity at the landfill site, so the gulls had dispersed far and wide. I could see many of them flying to a distant field near to the M1. During the morning good numbers gathered on the bank between the two A5 lagoons and amongst them were over 300 Great Black-backed Gulls. Only one colour-ringed gull was seen today, an adult Herring Gull with an orange ring and the code 1416.

The afternoon was a bit slow, but I know that good birds can appear at anytime and today was no exception. Gulls often hang around at the landfill site all day only coming to the pools for a wash and brush up before going off to roost. Amongst the last group arriving for a clean up was a second-winter Glaucous Gull. However, it was almost blink and you'd miss it - a quick wash and then off.

It was an interesting bird in the fact that some of the coverts had pale grey vermiculations, which created a slightly uneven pattern across the folded wing. I considered the possibility of it being a hybrid, but dismissed this after looking at a selection of photos at home. Otherwise it had typical off-white primaries, a faded pink bill with a black tip and pink legs. The primary projection was short and although it was probably a female it dwarfed all the other large gulls close by. Luckily it was in no rush to fly away and circled the lagoon before flying away into Warwickshire.

Below is an image of a second-winter Glaucous Gull that I photographed in Lincolnshire. This one is very similar to today's version. The photographs I took today confirm the ID but are not good enough for publishing on my blog unfortunately.

Second-winter Glaucous Gull, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Is this the end of the Birding World?

After reading Andy Mackay's post 'Killed by the Internet?', I found myself reminiscing about the 'good old days'. Receiving a copy of Birding World used to be one of the highlights of my month. Like others I cancelled my subscription a few years back when I stopped regular twitching (I found a cure). Whatever the real reason is for the Birding World team to call it a day, they must surely have been affected by the myriad of websites and blogs covering the same subject for free.

This is the end of an era as far as I'm concerned, but those guys were very instrumental in ending another great chapter in the history of twitching by starting Birdline.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Azorean Gull

Below are a set of images of a gull that I found earlier this year at the Portimao fishing harbour, Portugal. I consider it to be an Azorean Gull (L. m. atlantis) based on a suite of characters. I am at present preparing a description to be sent to the Portuguese Rarities Committee.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Colour Ring Number 200

I have just reached the grand total of 200 successful colour-ring readings at Shawell A5 Lagoons. The 200th was a 3rd year Herring Gull which was ringed last year at Pitsea Landfill Site, Essex.

The most numerous species encountered wearing colour-rings was Lesser Black-backed Gull. 

The totals for all the gull species recorded with colour-rings is:

174 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
18 Herring Gulls
3 Black-headed Gulls
3 Great Black-backed Gulls 
1 Common Gull
1 Hybrid Yellow-legged x Herring Gull

The locations where they were ringed and the totals for each are:

Belguim 3
Channel Islands 6
Croatia 1
Denmark 5
England 115
Germany 8
Iceland 2
Netherlands 23
Norway 25
Poland 1
Portugal 1
Scotland 3
Spain 3
Wales 4

Colour-ringed Herring Gull

Saturday, 30 November 2013

More Caspian Gulls

For a change I spent some time at Shawell again today. The area that is being landfilled is visible from the roadside along Gibbet Lane again. No good for reading rings due to the distance, but I did pick out an adult and a second-winter Caspian Gull amongst the thousands of feeding gulls.

In the end I saw two second-winter Caspian Gulls and both were present at the A5 Lagoons at the same time during the afternoon. I'm pretty sure that one of them was the bird I spotted at the landfill site earlier in the day. The one below appears to have quite pale eyes. Seen closely they are coffee coloured.

Second-winter Caspian Gull

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Shawell A5 lagoons

Herring Gull numbers have built up quite considerably since last weekend. I counted over 1000 today along with a maximum day count of 291 Great Black-backed Gulls. 

Amongst the commoner species were three adult Yellow-legged Gulls including an intriguing dark mantled individual and a new adult or sub-adult Caspian Gull.

Caspian Gull

Friday, 22 November 2013

More First-winter Yellow-legged Gulls

First-winter Yellow-legged Gulls are still showing up at Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicestershire. 

I may be seeing more 1st-year birds just because I've got my eye in, but it would appear that more of them are using the site this year than last.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull

Caspian Gull Review (Not for the Faint-Hearted)

I've just carried out a review of all of the Caspian Gulls I've seen at Shawell this year. I found two amongst them that I no longer consider proven, but I'm happy to say that the others were OK.

Third-winter Caspian Gull

Monday, 11 November 2013

Small Female Caspian Gull

A smallish gull caught my eye on Saturday at Shawell A5 lagoons. Its clean white and grey plumage had me thinking Caspian Gull, but I wasn't fully convinced. Not all Caspian Gulls exhibit the full suite of characters that we perhaps expect. Its bill although parallel sided was not exceptionally long and it head despite being small didn't seem to have much of a slope to the forehead.

I hastily took some images of it whilst it bathed and these show a set of features consistent with it being an unquestionable Caspian Gull.

Bathing Caspian Gull

Friday, 1 November 2013

Azorean Gull Again

I'm still working through my gull photos from Portugal and researching the gull I consider to be an Azorean Gull. The experienced gull watchers that I've asked have either energetically or cautiously agreed with my ID. However,  a couple have suggested that it may have come from either Madeira or the Canaries rather than the Azores, as the Yellow-legged Gull populations from these islands can look the same as those from the Azores. I think this is a just in case remark. 

Photographic evidence appears to show more extensive head streaking on the Azores individuals and so my bird looks good as far as that's concerned. A single mirror on P10 only is more common amongst the Azores population rather than from the other islands - mine had just a single small mirror on P10 and no mirror on P9. The mantle shade/colour of my bird also fits Azorean best as far as I can determine.

Azores Gull, Portimao fishing Harbour, Portugal, October 1st 2013
Below is a comparison of four different gulls, including the Azorean, photographed around the same time. 

In clockwise order from top left: Yellow-legged Gull, my Azorean Gull, Channel Isles Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Scottish Lesser Black-backed Gull. Looking at these images it would appear that the mantle grey gets darker in that order. Yellow-legged Gull is said to have a Kodak Grey Scale value of 5 -7 , Azorean Gull 7-9 and Lesser Black-backed Gull 8-10.

In the close up image below of the mantles in the same order it would appear to agree, but there isn't that much difference between the Channel Isles Lesser Black-backed Gull and my Azorean Gull. This is unsurprising really as the Lesser Black-backed Gulls from the south and west of Britain are the palest of the species. The Kodak Grey Scale range of Lesser Black-backed Gull is 8-10 and Azorean Gull 7-9, so there is a good overlap. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

A Couple of Interesting Immature Yellow-legged Gulls

During my trip to Portugal in late September and early October I photographed a couple of immature colour-ringed Yellow-legged Gulls, which I identified correctly. However, I had a few lingering doubts. The first one was in juvenile plumage, which was unusual as all the other first year Yellow-legged Gulls had made good progress towards first-winter plumage. The fact that it had been taken into care might well be the reason for it still being in juvenile plumage as stressed birds often stall their moult. 

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Azorean Gull in Portugal

Last year I found a Yellow-legged Gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicestershire, which showed extensive head streaking and a primary pattern that resembled that of an Azorean Gull Larus michahellis atlantis, also known as Atlantic Gull. In the end I concluded that this gull was not an L. m. atlantis, but more likely a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis from a western population due to its upper parts being too pale.

I was, however, intrigued by the gull at Shawell and other sightings of probable  L. m. atlantis seen in the UK, so I decided to visit the Algarve in Portugal to study Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis present there in autumn. I based myself at Praia da Rocha, close to the fishing harbour at Portimao. This site is excellent, as it is easy to study gulls at close quarters.

During my second visit to the fishing harbour, on October 1st, I spotted a very distinctive gull, which I immediately felt was a good candidate for being an Azorean Gull L. m. atlantis

Azorean Gull L. m. atlantis

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Second-winter Caspian Gulls

Three different second-winter Caspian Gulls have graced Shawell A5 Lagoons over the past couple of weeks. Each bird had a different bill pattern and slightly different plumage. Photography was difficult due to the light and the distance involved.

The video below is great for seeing them just as I did. The poor light made it difficult to re-produce the grey on the mantle and scapulars as I saw it through my scope, but the first one on the bank shows how pale silvery grey they are. The first one is preening its breast in front of an out of focus piece of vegetation.

The last bird shows more contrast in the plumage than the other two and its dark bill adds to this effect. Check out the white underwings as it takes off. Other large gulls species will have more brown on the underwings at this age. 

The first two are typical of 2nd CY Caspian Gulls at this time of year, but the third one appeared more advanced except for the all dark bill.

Head size appears to be variable amongst Caspian Gulls with some birds having noticeably small heads whereas some not so. Studying photographs, it may be that the head size decreases the further east they come from. Chris Gibbin's photographs of Caspian Gulls from the Ukraine seem show them having larger heads than those from Azerbaijan - see the list of blogs that I follow for a link to Chris's blog. I have seen some really small headed Casps with the one in the video HERE having a small head. It is impossible to know where most of our birds are coming from, but there have been some colour-ringed Polish birds in the county. Unfortunately there are supposed to be quite a lot of hybrids in Poland!

As always feel free to offer any comments or disagreements: 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Gallery of CR Gulls From Portugal

As I've already mentioned, during my trip to Portugal I read the plastic colour rings on 60 gulls.

Below is a selection of photos of some of these birds starting with my favourite image:

Lesser Black-backed Gull, J6UX, Norwegian Ringed, Regular Records from Spain and Portugal in Winter 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Yellow-legged Gulls in Southern Portugal

As I've already mentioned, while I was in Portugal I wanted to take a good look at the Yellow-legged Gulls. These gulls should look similar to the ones we see in Leicestershire, but I was expecting to see some un-familiar ones from further north and west. 

Most of them did look the same as the ones that turn up at various sites here in Leicestershire, but some had similar streaking on the head and neck to Herring Gulls at this time of year and maybe a more Herring Gull look about them. 

Below is a selection of Yellow-legged Gulls taken in southern Portugal during late September and early October 2013. The first five are of adult birds that to me are not typical of the birds we see in the UK: 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Portugal Trip Report

I jumped at my good ladies suggestion that we should try Portugal for a late summer holiday. A few Jedi mind tricks helped her choose the destination, which as look had it was close to some renowned gulling sites. On September 27th we flew from East Midlands airport to Faro. From Faro we were transferred to our hotel at Praia da Rocha, near to Portimao. Azure-winged Magpies teased as they flew overhead in groups of up to 30 at times. White Storks and Cattle Egrets were seen seen feeding in roadside fields.

It was dark shortly after we arrived, so we found a suitable watering hole and then crashed out for the night. The following morning dawned a little overcast, but I headed in search of gulls and the location where we would be picking our hire car up from. I soon found a group of gulls on the beach and amongst them was two colour ringed Lesser Black-backs. I'll bore you in another posting about all the colour ringed birds seen on the trip.

Gulls on the Beach at Praia da Rocha
At 10 o'clock we collected our nice little Seat Ibizia and then a trip to the nearby small town called Alvor was the order of the day. Here we enjoyed a walk on the beach and the boardwalks that allow good views over the estuary. Four Med Gulls were seen: an adult and three second-winters. The estuary held good numbers of waders. It was similar to a day out to Titchwell to be honest, although a couple of Caspian Terns brightened up the day. Crested Larks flitted about as did migrant Wheatears. I turned to Dawn and said I'd be surprised if we didn't see a shrike on those distant bushes and right on cue one appeared - an Iberian Grey Shrike. She initially accused me of stringing, but accepted I was right after setting my scope up and making her look through it. This was the only shrike we saw along the coast.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013


I've just returned from an excellent trip to Portugal, based in the Algarve.

The birding was great with many highlights including somewhere in the region of 100 Booted Eagles and other raptors circling overhead.

I couldn't leave the gulls alone and ended up reading 60 different colour ring readings.

I am overwhelmed with paperwork as a result, but I will write a full trip report shortly.

The gull below was ringed by Peter Stewart, whose gulls regularly turn up at Shawell, so I was pleased to see it. The pose is great don't you think?

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Portimao, Portugal

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

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mediterranean Gull

Below is a short video of a juvenile Mediterranean Gull that I found at Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicestershire on August 31st:

Black-headed Gull numbers had increased since my last visit and amongst them was a smart juvenile Mediterranean Gull. It is just over twelve months since I last found a Med Gull at the site and that was also a juvenile.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Thursday, 29 August 2013

More Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls and Stuff

Hasn't the weather been good this summer? After moaning about the constant rain, wind and hail storms last year it has been really good to keep waking up to another bright day. There have been plenty of butterflies around, which bodes well for future years. The buddleia in my garden is alive with Peacocks and Tortoiseshells plus at least one Painted Lady. In all I've seen eight species in the garden over the last week. 

Painted Lady

A pair of Ravens reappeared where I work yesterday and announced themselves very noisily. They were present all day and will probably be around all winter now.

I am starting to make a habit of visiting Shawell A5 lagoons after work on  Wednesday evenings and last night was no exception. The Black-tailed Godwit that was first seen on August 22nd was still present. Three Black-tailed Godwits at this small site, so far this autumn, is pretty impressive as far as I'm concerned. I'm still waiting for either a Little Stint or Curlew Sandpiper, but there's still time. 

The gulls were around, but someone was shooting close by, which was making them nervous. I did manage to find two more juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls amongst them.

One was a very young bird bird and the other was almost in first-winter plumage.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull with Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull

Saturday, 24 August 2013

3rd Year Caspian Gull

The gulls were gathered at Cotesbach landfill site in their thousands again today. The weather wasn't quite as bad as the forecast suggested, so the visibility was reasonable. The working face of the tip was a bit too high for me to see the feeding gulls well, but a YLG moulting into 1st-winter plumage showed well on the near edge of the mound.

I moved to view the gulls resting and bathing in the quarry. Amongst the gulls was a splendid juvenile Herring Gull, which was attired with a big yellow ring with the code F+C. This gull was ringed in Gloucester.

A 3rd year Caspian Gull flew on to the pool in the quarry, but only took a drink and then flew off. Luckily I relocated it in the afternoon at Shawell A5 Lagoons. It showed very well for much of the afternoon. It was moulting its primary feathers although some old ones were still present but quite faded. A new primary is visible in the photographs though it is not fully grown. The bird shows the typical profile, which seems to be most obvious at this age, a smallish head and a long body with a low profile. The small dark eyes are set forward and the bill is typically washed out and slender. Also note the 'pencil markings' on the side of the neck. 

The head is perhaps not the smallest I've seen, but it is within the range, as far as  I can determine by studying many photographs. The head size varies just like in other similar gull species. This birds head still looks small in relation to the long body.  

3rd-winter Caspian Gull

Tricky Juveniles

My previous posting about a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Cotesbach landfill site seems to have been popular. As such I thought I'd waffle on a bit more about large white headed gulls in their juvenile plumage. I failed to find any juv. YLG's on Wednesday night, but I did spend plenty of time looking closely at the juveniles of the commoner species that were there.

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed and Juvenile Herring Gull

The middle bird in the photo above is a juv Herring Gull and the one in front of it is a juv. Lesser Black-backed Gull. Before identifying a juv. YLG or Caspian Gull a good working knowledge of the other two species is essential. Of course it is not always easy and there will be many opportunities to get it wrong. This particular Herring Gull, from my experience, has notches on the tertials that are larger than most. The tertials are the horizontal feathers to the left of the long black wing tip feathers (sorry if you know this already). The notches are the cream coloured triangular shaped markings on the brown feathers. Not all tertial notches on juv. Herring Gulls are as obvious, but notches of some sort can almost always be seen unless the feathers are really badly worn. The tertials of juv. LBB Gulls are dark brown with pale buff fringes. Beware, however, that some LBBGs have notched tertials. To me, juv. Herring Gulls always appear to be slightly frosty in comparison to the more dusky juv. LBB Gulls and the large head size of HG is usually distinctive. HG bills are usually obviously more bulky than LBBG's, but not always as there are a few large juv. LBBG's to contend with.

Juvenile LBB Gull

On Wednesday night I estimated that there were at least 3000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls loafing around at the landfill site. There were still about 20 YLG's, 30 Herring Gulls and a lone GBBG.

Third-winter Yellow-legged Gull

Amongst the gulls on the A5 Lagoons were at least nine YLG's and the one above was a real monster. He took great pleasure in bossing the other gulls about.

A Couple of YLG's from Wednesday 21/08/13 (left and back)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Leicestershire & Rutland Annual Bird Report

I picked up my copy of the 2011 Annual Report on Saturday at the Rutland Water Birdfair. I didn't, however, spend a great deal of time reading it, as one of the joys of being Editor is not wanting to read it again after all the proof-reading etc.

After six years, as Editor I've handed over the helm to Mark Skevington who has kindly taken on the role. I wish him luck and I now look forward to sitting in my armchair reading the next report for enjoyment.

During my time as editor I've had a great deal of help from the editorial committee, and so I would like to thank them all once again for their efforts. I must also thank John Wright for helping with illustrations each year. They really lifted the publication in my opinion.

Anyone without a copy that wishes to read it should either join LROS and get a free one or purchase the report from Sue Graham - DETAILS HERE

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

I visited Cotesbach landfill site late yesterday afternoon and many gulls were loafing about in the quarry. Searching through them, I had found nothing of particular interest until I got to the very last gull.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Latest Update From Shawell

I've made quite a few visits to Shawell A5 Lagoons and the nearby landfill site already this month, which has resulted in twenty four colour ring readings. These were all sported by Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Most were ringed in the United Kingdom including two from Guernsey, but others were ringed in Germany, Holland, Iceland and Norway. One of the more interesting life histories was that of VV4T. This one was originally ringed at Rainham Tip, Greater London during late 2011, but shortly after it was holidaying in Western Sahara. I'm still awaiting the report on the Icelandic bird, but hopefully that will be an interesting one. I did see a couple of colour-ringed Herring Gulls, but the rings were un-readable due to having mud covering some of the ring.

Amongst the LBB Gulls this weekend were some really dark individuals. These are of the sub-species Larus fuscus intermedius, which are birds that nest to the east of Britain mainly in Norway. The sub-species Larus fuscus fuscus (Baltic Gull), which nests in eastern Scandinavia is the darkest backed of the group with the whole wing looking black. The sub-species that nests in Britain is larus fuscus graellsii and this one has dark grey upper parts that contrast clearly with the blacker primary (wingtip) feathers. The blackest of the gulls I saw yesterday also had very long wings which is a feature of the sub-species Baltic Gull. However, the organiser of the Norwegian gull ringing scheme stated to me that fuscus type LBB Gulls are nesting near Tromso. From this I take it that some Larus fuscus intermedius look like Larus fuscus fuscus. I have seen coloured-ringed LBB Gulls from Tromso at Shawell a few times, but they weren't as dark as the bird in the photo below. Hopefully a colour-ringed Baltic Gull will be seen at Shawell sometime, as this is probably the only way of being certain of its origins.

The bird in the photograph below is much darker than others I've seen that were ringed in Norway as intermedius, also its quite long winged.

 Larus fuscus but which one?  (lying down)


Whilst searching for some extra photos for a talk I'm preparing I found the image below. It was amongst loads of pictures I'd taken of this female Dotterel a few years ago. I had missed it previously, but now I've found it I'd like to share it with you.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Shawell's Purple Patch Continues

I was amazed to come across a couple of Black-tailed Godwits whilst searching through the gulls at the Shawell A5 Lagoons this afternoon. This is only the second time this species has been recorded in the SW Leics list area and a tick for me. They were present for about an hour and a half, before they flew off heading south.

It was difficult to photograph them as they were distant and the light was a bit too harsh. The photo below was my best attempt.

Black-tailed Godwits

Friday, 2 August 2013


After finding a Turnstone at Shawell A5 Lagoons on July 22nd, it was a real surprise to see another one there last night. Both were males, but it would seem unlikely that just one bird is involved. I've been to the site quite a few times during the 11 days that separate the sightings without seeing a Turnstone. The site is small, so it couldn't really go missing. Unless news that it has been hiding at the nearby Stanford Res comes to light, I will treat it that two birds were involved.

Four newly arrived Turnstones were at Rutland Water today.

The scrape that has developed this year will hopefully attract more waders. Hopefully a Pectoral Sandpiper, as that would be a great one to be the 200th species for the SW Leics list.

Turnstone, Shawell A5 lagoons, 01/08/13

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Night Heron

It was perfect timing, my phone went off just as I was pulling up outside home after work - a Night Heron was at Thornton Res. Late news of a small brown unidentified heron at Thornton Res had already been circulated, so it was a great relief to many that the bird had reappeared and been identified.  I set off straight the way and I was pleased to find that it was still there when I arrived. Local Thornton birder Andy Smith kindly gave me a look through his scope - pressure off. This bird attracted most of the keen county birders, some I hadn't seen for ages. Shame that the light was poor due to the fact it was raining but you can't have everything. There have been eight Night Herons seen previously in Leicestershire and Rutland and the last acceptable record was back in 1984.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Back to Gulling

During the last week, I've made three trips to Shawell A5 lagoons and one to the Cotesbach Landfill site. The gulls seem to have arrived in larger numbers this July compared to my observations during July 2012. Yesterday I recorded 19 Yellow-legged Gulls, which I believe is a conservative estimate as the total was most probably much higher. There are already juvenile Herring, Lesser black-backed, Yellow-legged, Common and Black headed Gulls 

Second-Summer Yellow-legged Gull (lefthand bird)

Yesterday's highlight was a third-summer or maybe fourth-winter Caspian Gull, which was at both the landfill site and then later at the A5 Lagoons. Whilst watching it at the landfill site, I was treated to it giving the long call and doing the albatross pose. I managed to catch a couple of half hearted attempts at the albatross pose on video, but unfortunately it flew shortly after I attached my camera to my scope.

The Caspian Gull is the pale grey mantled bird slightly hidden just to the right of centre and then it moves across to the left. Note the black extending into the coverts on the upper wing, which shows it is not yet an adult. The small size of its head and the long slender bill show really well towards the end of the video. So to does the general body shape.

Garsham Roberts on seeing this bird said that Caspian Gulls can never be called ugly and added that this one was really smart  looking - here here!

There was no sign of the Black-necked Grebe this weekend, but I did see it last Wednesday. A juvenile Little Egret was at the A5 Lagoons for a short while yesterday.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Fun in Scotland

We had a great time in Scotland especially as the weather was fine all week. 

I've added a few photos below:

The Photographer was the One Getting Wet!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

What's Up in Scotland

I've just arrived back from a week in the Cairngorm National Park helping with 'What's Up' and having a blast in the hills. My son, Sam, and I camped at the forest holidays site in Glenmore. We spent our time divided between scrambling (climbing rocky bits generally without ropes), mountain biking, bagging Munros and looking for upland birds.

The main target was to locate and hopefully photograph Dotterels. I have photographed them in spring before, but I wanted to record the young to complete the story. Initially this proved difficult, as the usual site failed to reward me with any sightings. Luckily a second site proved better and I found three family groups along with a 'trip' of 16 adults.


Monday, 22 July 2013

A Quick Update

I've just returned from a week in Scotland and whist I was away, Steve Nicholls found a splendid summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe at Shawell A5 Lagoons. Luckily it is still there and I finally saw it yesterday morning. This is the 199th species to be recorded in the south-west Leicestershire area.
Black-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe

Whilst I was there a summer plumaged Turnstone put in a brief appearance. This is only the second record for the SW Leics List after three together at Frolesworth Manor Lake in 1997.


I will update the south-west Leicestershire list in due course, but I'll wait until the BN Grebe goes.

So what will the 200th species be?

A trip report for my jaunt to Scotland will be posted shortly....