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