Thursday 31 January 2013

Ducks and Seagulls

I recently made a count of 308 Wigeon at Shawell A5 Lagoons, which is my best count there so far. They are more or less resident at the site this winter. 

Eurasian Wigeon

During the same expedition I took myself over to Cotesbach (Shawell) landfill site, where I was lucky enough to find a 1st-winter Caspian Gull.

Monday 28 January 2013

Something New

This weekend just gone, I saw something new. Whilst at Shawell I saw a Grey Heron get in the water and do battle with 19 Cormorants for a large fish. The heron was on the bank when one of the Cormorants surfaced with the fish. The other Cormorants tried to steal it, but then the heron flew out and landed in the water and joined in with the struggle. It failed, but it certainly gave it its best shot.

The Hungry Heron

If that wasn't enough, a fox appeared below me and it really was in a bad way - it appeared to be starving. Anyway it looked up at me and didn't have the energy to run off. All of a sudden a buzzard appeared and almost got the fox. It just managed to free itself from the buzzards grasp and run away. However, I don't rate the foxes chances of survival, as it really did look a pitiful thing.

And now for the gulls...

Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Hard Yards

Freezing weather means only one thing - take a holiday day and risk getting your car stuck in snow to read some rings. The usual parking spot at Shawell A5 Lagoons, was out of bounds due to the road being hidden under snow. I asked permission and parked in the car park of the nearby industrial units. That was an adventure, as the snow hadn't been cleared and I almost got my car stuck, 

The ice on one of the lagoons was the attraction for me, as hopefully the gulls would stand on it and show off their bling. Initially it was frustrating as they would fly back onto the water as I approached.

A good gathering of gulls formed on the bank between the lagoons and one of the adult Great Black-backed Gulls was colour ringed. I had never successfully read the colour ring of a GBB Gull despite trying many times in the past. The ring was positioned awkwardly so the code was not fully visible. Eventually I read the code which was JDL. Almost straight away I spotted a 1st-winter GBB Gull that was also colour ringed and this one was easy to read - JP573. 

Great Black-backed Gull (JDL) 1st record away from Gloucestershire

Sunday 20 January 2013

Still on the Edge

Sitting in my armchair after a very cold couple of hours at Shawell, I thought I'd dig out a few old photos of the Derwent Edge. Trail blazing through snow is hard work, but it's always exciting to be the first to leave your mark, even if its not permanent. The photo below shows other walkers using the path I'd made earlier. The other photos were taken at the Derwent Edge in various conditions during winter.

The Derwent Edge, January 2010

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Life on the Edge

The first hint of snow and I was off on one of my winter training days in preparation for my annual winter trip to Scotland. As normal I was lured to the Derwent Edge.

Derwent Edge
The walk up hill to the edge is a good stretch of the legs, especially after I've been a bit inactive for the last couple of months. I was also carrying full winter gear and my camera equipment. Some say only mad fools venture up onto the moor in snowy conditions and sometimes I'm all on my own (not sure what to make of that). In previous years the snow has been much deeper, but there's time yet.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Yellow-legged Gulls

I spent the day freezing at Shawell A5 Lagoons amongst thousands of gulls, although it was a little disappointing that no gulls from the arctic were prepared to share the cold with me. At least four  sun worshipping Yellow-legged Gulls were still present so it can't be that cold. Herring Gulls are the dominant species at present and many of the adults have attained clean white heads. This makes it harder to spot the scarcer species amongst them. 

The star bird of the day was a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull. The picture below doesn't fully do it justice as the grey mantle with the bold anchor marks was more distinctive. The head appeared whiter. The second picture shows a similar aged Herring Gull. The Herring Gull is browner overall; has browner tertials with faint notch markings rather than pale fringes and the bill is bi-coloured rather than black all over. 

1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull (top left)

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Turnstone Update

I've just received the life-history (since ringing) of the Turnstone I spotted on New Years day.  

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Perfect Start to the Year

I had been watching the weather forecast over Christmas hoping that it would be dry on New Year's Day. The weather promised to be good especially on the east coast. For once the forecast didn't alter so I set off towards Norfolk at around 05:30.

I decided to try for a wader spectacular at Snettisham. Arriving just before the sun came up was perfect. Enough time was available to get to the far end of the reserve before the tide turned, so hopefully there might be a show on offer. Sadly it wasn't the highest of high tides, so the birds were not forced to roost on the gravel pits but as it turned out the show was fantastic.