Sunday 28 April 2013

A Complete Gulling Season at Shawell

Having developed a keen interest in watching gulls at Shawell A5 Lagoons, Leicestershire during the early months of 2012, I decided that I would try and visit the area as often as possible. Between July 2012 and the end of April 2013, which is essentially the main gulling season, I tried to visit at least once a week. Initially my efforts were restricted to the A5 Lagoons, but more recently I have divided my attention between the Cotesbach landfill site (also known by birders as the Shawell landfill site) and the A5 lagoons. Please note that access to the landfill site is only available with permission from the land owners - do not trespass.

The plan was to improve my knowledge of both Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, especially the immature ones, and read as many colour rings as possible.

This was quite a challenge especially during the coldest days of winter. I stuck it out despite loosing feeling in my feet several times. On one occasion I just had to pack up, as the snow was falling too heavily to see through my scope.

I recorded ten species of gull, of these six were seen on most visits.

Where possible, I have photographed the more interesting birds. This is quite challenging, as most of the time the distance between the subject and the camera is 100 metres plus. I tried basic digi-scoping by holding the camera against my scope, but this was frustrating to do and the results were generally poor. Recently I have attached a DSLR to my scope via an adapter. The results have improved, but not yet to my full satisfaction - getting closer is the challenge.

Below are accounts of each of the species recorded:

Black-headed Gull    Chroiccocephalus ridibundus
Seen during almost every visit. Autumn numbers were low until late August, but then increased rapidly to peak at 1800 on September 5th at the A5 lagoons. The highest count for the area was c5000 on March 30th (a combined count with Steve Lister at the A5 Lagoons and me at the landfill site at the same time). By the end of April they had almost completely deserted the area.

Three colour-ringed birds were recorded: SJ22 ringed in Croatia on December 19th 2010, TS39 ringed in Poland on December 17th 2005 and 662 ringed in Denmark on March 31st 2012.

Mediterranean Gull    Larus melanocephalus
A juvenile, just starting to moult into first-winter plumage, was at the A5 Lagoons on August 15th.
Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Shawell A5 lagoons, August 15th 2012
Common Gull    Larus canus
Amongst the commoner gull species visiting the site this one is the least numerous. The first record was a juvenile on August 18th. Thereafter small numbers were present throughout. Most counts were of less than 20, but at least 50 were present on March 30th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull    Larus fuscus
Present throughout the period and generally the most numerous species. During July and August counts of 500 + were common. The highest count during the autumn was 1270 at the A5 Lagoons on October 6th. Numbers fell slightly from December through to February, but increased again in March when c1500 were at the landfill site on the 16th. The highest combined count for a single day for the whole area is almost certainly over 2000.

56 colour-ringed birds were recorded. The majority were ringed in Britain including Alderney and Guernsey, but others were ringed in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Norway and Spain.
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site
Herring Gull    Larus argentatus
The first record was of a single adult on July 21st with the first juvenile arriving on August 4th. Numbers slowly built up during the winter peaking during January and February when counts of up to 600 were made on several occasions.

Nine colour-ringed birds were recorded and all of them had been ringed in Britain. A 1st-winter AY9T recorded on 26/01/13 was still in the area on 28/03/13.

2nd-winter Herring Gull (1T1B)
Yellow-legged Gull    Larus michahellis
Recorded in small numbers on nearly every visit with a marked increase during the autumn. The highest count was 11 on August 4th. Estimating the number of different individuals was difficult due to high proportion of similar looking adults. However, photographic evidence suggests that many of them were actually different birds. Adults were by far the most numerous followed by 3CY, 2CY, 4CY and finally 1CY. 

CY refers to calendar-year.

Monthly Totals - two weekends were missed in September

A YLG with a heavily streaked head appeared on September 29th, which may well have come from a western population see HERE

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

Caspian Gull    Larus cachinnans
Seen in all months apart from July with December, February and April being the best months. A total of 39 different individuals were recorded. Photographic evidence suggest that just one of these was seen on multiple dates. Careful scrutiny of all Caspian Gulls was undertaken and at least five were suspected of being hybrids - none of these are included in the list below. 

Unless indicated the sightings were made at the Shawell A5 Lagoons. 

  • 3rd-summer, August 8th 
  • adult, August 15th
  • adult, August 25th
  • 3rd-winter, September 2nd
  • 3rd-winter, October 6th
  • adult, October 12th
  • 2nd-winter, October 20th
  • adult, October 21st
  • adult, November 17th
  • two 2nd-winters, December 1st
  • two adults and a 3rd-winter, December 8th
  • adult, December 12th
  • 1st-winter, December 29th (landfill site)
  • adult, January 5th (landfill site)
  • adult, January 26th
  • 1st-winter, January 31st (landfill site)
  • 2nd-winter, February 2nd (landfill site)
  • 2nd-winter, February 9th and again on February 12th, March 13th and 16th and April 3rd and 17th
  • 2nd-winter, February 12th (associating with the individual first seen on February 9th)
  • three 1st-winters and a 3rd-winter, February 16th (one 1st-winter at the landfill site)
  • adult, February 22nd (landfill site)
  • 1st and 4th-winter, March 9th (landfill site)
  • 2nd-winter, March 13th
  • 3rd-winter, March 30th
  • 3rd-winter, April 3rd
  • three 2nd-winters and an adult, April 6th (two of the 2nd-winters and the adult were at the landfill site)
  • three 1st-winters, April 13th
  • two 1st-winters, April 27th (landfill site)
Monthly Totals of Presumed New Birds
3rd-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons
1st-winter Caspian Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site

Iceland Gull     Larus glaucoides

Two were recorded: 
  • a juvenile / 1st-winter on February 9th (landfill site)
  • a pale 1st-winter on March 9th, 27th and 28th and April 6th (at both the landfill site and the A5 lagoons)
1st-winter Iceland Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

1st-winter Iceland Gull, Shawell A5 lagoons
Glaucous Gull     Larus hyperboreus

Six were recorded:
  • juvenile on December 28th (landfill site)
  • 4th-winter on February 16th (landfill site and the A5 Lagoons)
  • juvenile on February 22nd (landfill site and the A5 Lagoons)
  • 2nd-winter on March 9th (landfill site and the A5 Lagoons)
  • juvenile on March 16th and 27th ( A5 Lagoons)
  • sub-adult on March 28th (landfill site)
Glaucous Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons
2nd-winter Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull    Larus marinus
This species was first recorded on July 21st when an adult and and two 1st-summers were present. Numbers remained fairly low until November when several counts of 100 + were made. The largest counts were made during January and February when at least 500 were present.

Colour-rings were successfully read on three individuals: adult JDL was ringed in Gloucestershire in 2010; 1st-winter JP573 was ringed in Norway in 2012 and 2nd-winter JP070 also ringed in Norway

1st-winter, Great Black-backed Gull ( JP573) Shawell A5 Lagoons
I intend to carry on visiting the area during the spring to observe the gulls using the site when most of them are away at the breeding colonies.

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