Wednesday 31 December 2014

Colour-ringed Caspian Gull Update - Red 16P4

The Polish Bird Ringing Centre has replied very quickly to my report of the red colour-ringed Caspian Gull. It was colour-ringed as a chick on May 15th this year near Paczkow, Poland. Interestingly it was sighted by Reinhard Kunow on August 27th at Sierksdorf, Germany.

Shawell A5
Caspian Gull, 1CY
DN 31216
Polish Bird Ringing Centre.  Jacek Betleja
Sighted at Sierksdorf, Germany on 27/08/14 Reinhard Kunow

The Journey So far of Caspian Gull Red 16P4 

Reinhard managed to photograph it when it stopped off in Germany - see below.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Last Visit to Shawell for 2014

I couldn't resist one more visit to Shawell before the year's end, so yesterday morning I donned my thermal underwear etc, and trotted off.

This was the first day the tip was up and running after the Christmas break and obviously most of the gulls had got the memo, as plenty had turned up for the feast.

I spotted a first year gull swimming in the shallows and I spotted it had a red colour-ring. It took ages for my Jedi mind tricks to will it to climb out of the water, but eventually it obeyed me. My first impression of the gull was that it might be a Caspian Gull or a hybrid. 

It wasn't a classic but the more I looked the more I thought it could be a Caspian Gull. It was impossible to read the colour ring as it was wet and the sun was reflected by the water. The only figure I could read was a 1. Something spooked the gulls and I lost it amongst the hordes.

Luckily I soon found it again amongst  a group of gulls resting on the shore slightly closer to my position. It didn't land on the shore, but stood in the shallow water at the edge.

Caspian Gull (16P4), Shawell December 29th 2014

Friday 26 December 2014

Review of the Gulls at Shawell During 2014

During 2014 my fascination with gulls at Shawell continued unabated. The standout highlight for me was finding three juvenile Caspian Gulls during August. The subtle differences between the juveniles of other similar species and Caspian Gull juveniles take time and practice to appreciate.

My total gull species recorded was up by one this year thanks to a sighting of a Ring-billed Gull. In all I recorded 11 species and of these six were seen on most occasions. 

I made visits during each month and found once again that there is no gull season, as interesting gulls can turn up at the site at any time.

All gulls found by myself unless indicated otherwise.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Christmas Greetings

Before I start eating and drinking, I would like to thanks all those who have stopped by to read my blog or look at the pictures during 2014. I would also like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year - Ave a Good Un!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Iceland Gull Again

Herring Gull numbers are building up and just as in late December 2013 there are at least two thousand visiting Shawell at present. The throng of gulls at the tipping area is a wonder to see, but it is not a great place to practice your identification skills, as the gulls are constantly on the move. A first year gull with a soft brown overall colour and brownish tertials and primaries grabbed my attention for about two seconds before it was sucked up into the mass of gulls. Anyway whatever my first impressions were I never saw that gull again. On the periphery of the tip I did see a smart first-winter Yellow-legged Gull that had solid brown coverts and tertials that contrasted nicely with its grey saddle. I had not seen a first-winter for a while, so it was good to see another.

There was no sign of the Iceland Gull that I found on Wednesday at the tip, so it was time to move to the A5 Lagoons and hope for better luck. It didn't take long to find a smart fourth-winter Caspian Gull - a new one.

Fourth-winter Caspian Gull

This Caspian Gull was a real classic: a super slender long bill, a small head with a pair of dark eyes and an almost fully adult set of primaries. It hung about on the largest lagoon for over an hour, which gave me plenty of time to study it.

Fourth-winter Caspian Gull

At dead on 11:00 something, probably a Common Buzzard, caused the gulls to panic and amongst the first group to settle back down on the water was the third-winter Iceland Gull. It must have been hiding on the other lagoon.

Third-winter Iceland Gull

Almost as soon as it arrived it flew off again. It then returned briefly at about 11:30 and flew off again only to return about 15 minutes later. This time it stayed for about an hour.

Third-winter Iceland Gull
Third-winter Iceland Gull

The light was brighter today, which made the Iceland Gull look much more ghost like. Remnants of the immature plumage were still visible on the tertials and greater coverts. The paleness of the eyes was easier to see today as well. The legs are pink, but in certain lights they look a little paler than normal for Iceland Gull.

After the Iceland Gull departed, I noticed a striking gull near the shore that proved quite challenging. It was as clean looking as the adult Yellow-legged Gulls are at present. However, its head shape was wrong and so was its primary pattern. Its head was quite small and its bill was very long. The bill was a similar shape to a Herring Gull's, but it seemed too long. Its legs were a pasty yellowy orange, not right for Yellow-legged Gull. This gull may well be a hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull, but it is difficult to be 100% certain - what do you think?

Wednesday 17 December 2014

An Iceland Gull Finds its Way to Shawell

I had my usual Wednesday lunch break today at Shawell and I spotted what looked like a 'white-winger' resting amongst some gulls near the tip. It was facing me, so I couldn't see its primaries. Before I had the chance to confirm its identification, something spooked the gulls and they all took to the wing. Many were heading towards the A5 Lagoons, so I followed.

Hundreds if not thousands of gulls were at the lagoons, but initially I couldn't see any sign of the really pale bird. Working through the gulls I came across a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull and what may well have been a new hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull, but I didn't spend much time looking at it as I wanted the Arctic Wanderer.

It didn't appear to be at the lagoons but suddenly, as if by magic, it appeared on the far shore - it was an Iceland Gull - a result of last week's 'Weather Bomb'? Hopefully the first of many.

I have aged it as a third-winter, because of the bills lack of yellow and the patchiness of the coverts.

Third-winter Iceland Gull

Saturday 13 December 2014

Another look at the advanced Third-winter Caspian Gull and a Puzzle

It was bloody freezing today at Shawell, but I felt it was my duty to keep the gulls company. Its not that often that you have to scrape the ice of your car windows during an afternoon, but that's what I had to do after finishing 'sea gulling'.

I managed to read the colour rings on five species of gull today, which may be a record for me at Shawell. The much hoped for white-winger didn't appear, so perhaps the 'weather bomb' has not fully exploded yet. The weather map earlier in the week looked great for pushing a few towards us but we'll have to be patient.

Since mid-October I have seen at least one Caspian Gull on each of my visits to Shawell, but today it looked as though I would be unsuccessful. Many gulls were out of site from my position, but after a bit of argy bargy amongst the gulls on the top of the bank I spotted the interesting regular third-winter lying down. It is interesting because it looks more like a fourth-winter: its tail still has most of the dark band, instead of a long white tip to its longest primary it has a large white mirror with a black tip to the feather and on the outstretched wing the black extends as far as the Alula. It could be a fourth-winter, but the extent of the black in the tail makes me feel more comfortable with third-winter.

Third-winter Caspian Gull

Saturday 6 December 2014

Caspian Gull Extravaganza

Four maybe five Caspian Gulls were at Shawell today. The first was difficult to clinch as the sun was hampering viewing at the landfill site. The gull did, however, appear ok, but I couldn't photograph it amongst the melee on the tip face, so I'm not happy to claim it for certain.

I joined Steve Lister at the lagoons and soon found a gull to flag up as 'an interesting one', this is the code Steve and I use when we find a Caspian Gull - long story. Its head and bill were spot on, but its legs looked a little short. Whilst it preened we got an extended view of P10 and this matched the correct pattern for Caspian Gull. Steve commented that its legs were pink, but I judged the legs to be pasty pink rather than bubble gum pink. In the paper on Identification of Caspian Gulls, Part 1 Typical Birds, Gibbins et al it states: 'There is complete overlap in leg colour between cachinnans and the Herring Gulls of the eastern Baltic (from pure pink to lemon yellow) so this feature is of limited value'

I have done a quick trait score on the bird and it scores within the range of pure Caspian Gull. The legs are unusually short, but there is great variation in leg length amongst the other large gulls, so there is likely to be variation amongst Caspian Gulls also.

Adult Caspian Gull

Sunday 30 November 2014

Highlights From Shawell This Week

The highlight for the week was the Caspian Gull below, but I also saw some other splendid gulls...

Near-adult Caspian Gull

Saturday 22 November 2014

Just Find the One With the White Head

I've heard it said that to find both Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls at this time of year just look for the ones with the white heads - well it ain't that easy.

At Shawell, at the moment, there are some handsome looking adult Yellow-legged Gulls that are feather perfect, but there are also a few traps for the unwary (whoever the unwary are). Today I spotted an adult gull with yellow legs but something was not right about it, as far as YLG is concerned. Its legs and bill were not the right shade of yellow for me, its grey colouration was slightly too pale and its jizz was not quite right either. I considered 'yellow-legged' Herring Gull, but I would have liked to have seen a few dark streaks on its head at this time of year. I saw what appears to be the same gull in the afternoon and I could see that it had a few unusual dull dark markings - see the third photo down.

It is difficult to be sure but my gut feeling is that it could be one of the Dutch Yellow-legged x Herring Gulls. In the afternoon I saw a fourth-winter gull, which was similar, but it had much more white than black in its primary wing feathers. A couple of years ago Steve Lister and I saw a colour-ringed Dutch hybrid YLG at Shawell.

I'd be interested to get any opinions on this gull, as it is great to share thoughts on gulls like this. One thing for sure is that gulls keep things interesting and are always setting us challenges.

Possible Yellow-legged x Herring Gull

Thursday 20 November 2014

A Mongrel Gull

I had a few hours off work today, and surprisingly I was back at Shawell. I soon spotted the very distinctive third-winter Caspian Gull that I saw yesterday, but it was a bit too foggy to get any decent images. 

Yellow-legged Gulls seem to have moved back north with at least 11, of various ages, seen at the lagoons today. Whilst trying to count the YLG's I came across a gull with yellowish legs, but something about it made me discount it and make a mental note to go back to it once I'd finished my sweep. 

Its bill was perfect in colour for a Caspian Gull, but maybe it was a little short. Its body shape was more Herring Gull like and its legs were also short, but maybe not so short as to rule out Caspian Gull. Its eyes were quite pale and its wing length appeared a tad short. Its longest primary feather (P10) has a long white tip, which is a pro-Caspian feature, but the black on the feather didn't look quite right. In one of the photos P10 looks reasonable, but in others not quite right.

Its jizz was generally more Herring Gull like than Caspian Gull.

Gulls like this are a challenge to in-experienced observers, especially those who think that all you need to do is look for a gull with a clean white head at this time of year.

Presumed Hybrid Caspian Gull

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Shawell Keeps On Attracting Caspian Gulls

Two Caspian Gulls were on show this lunchtime at Shawell A5 Lagoons. A new third-winter and what was probably the same fourth winter that I saw on November 8th. They were amongst the gulls on the bank between the two lagoons. 

Third-winter Caspian Gull

Sunday 16 November 2014

Rugby Instead of Gulls

On Saturday I swapped the gulls for a day amongst the hordes of expectant English Rugby fans at Twickenham. 

England took on the might of South Africa and despite a valiant effort the English boys came up just short once again. The final score was South Africa 31 England 28. I'm sure if the three-quarter line can develop some confidence we will do well, but the English forwards fronted up and took the game to the South Africans. It was a great game and a great day out.

From my seat high up in the stand the players looked a little like ants, but the atmosphere was great especially when the English fans sang "swing low sweet chariot". The volume was deafening.

Wetting the Vocal Chords Before the game

Saturday 15 November 2014

Is This The Real Deal?

I saw the probable hybrid second-year Caspian Gull, that I mentioned in my previous post, again on Wednesday, but this time at the A5 Lagoons.

When I first saw it at the landfill site I initially thought it looked OK, but there was something about it that made me question whether it was pure. It is not unusual for Caspian Gulls to look different from one minute to the next and this was the case with this bird. It wasn't by any means a classic and its coverts especially the greater coverts where not typical. Hybrids can be difficult, especially if they show mostly Caspian Gull like features. It could so easily be OK, but its pale eyes, larger than normal head and the pattern across the coverts left me feeling uneasy. 

It was difficult to photograph as it was always face on to me.

Probable Caspian x Herring Gull Hybrid

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A Good Day at the Tip

Yesterday afternoon I spent some time at Cotesbach landfill site near to Shawell and I had one of my most successful sessions to date. In all I read 27 colour-rings and had close views of two Caspian Gulls, an adult that I've seen before and a new fourth-winter. I also saw what at first appeared to be a second-winter Caspian Gull, but under close examination it didn't tick all the boxes. It was not quite elegant enough and its coverts didn't look quite right either. I decided it might just have a few Herring Gull genes, so best to add it to the hybrid list.

One of the Colour-ringed Gulls - Dutch Ringed LBB Gull (FAUK)

Saturday 8 November 2014

A Rough Day for Counting

It's the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) weekend and my chosen day is Saturday for counting at Shawell. This is the better day to make sure I get the gulls.

The weather was dreadful today, even the gulls left early today. The wildfowl numbers are never anything to write home about, but it was good to see 13 Shoveler on the small gravel pit near to the entrance to the landfill site.

The gulls are viewable on the landfill site once again from Gibbet Lane although a little hedge trimming is required to make viewing more comfortable. From the road I spotted seven Yellow-legged Gulls including three first-winters.

Gulls were in short supply at the A5 Lagoons, but I did see the hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull that I saw last weekend and a fourth-winter Caspian Gull with better credentials.

Fourth-winter Caspian Gull

Saturday 1 November 2014

Hybrid Caspian Gull

Today was all about searching for my 400th colour-ringed gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons, but my run of finding Caspian Gulls continued. A small female was on the bank between some Great Black-backed Gulls that dwarfed her. 

Adult Female Caspian Gull

Wednesday 29 October 2014

More Caspian Gull Stuff

I had to work all last weekend, but fortunately I was off yesterday, as I needed a change of scenery. I spent the morning holding my car's hand whilst it was serviced and then took it for a test drive up the A5 to Shawell A5 Lagoons.

Winter now appears to be here judging by the masses of gulls that were present around Shawell. Hopefully the first white-winger will arrive soon.

Many gulls were congregated around the lagoons including three Caspian Gulls. A new third-winter and two that I've seen previously.

Third-winter Caspian Gull

The third-winter was a smallish gull and its eyes were quite pale, but other than that it was an obvious Caspian. On the water it had the typical profile: long bodied and winged plus it sat low on the water. On land it had nice long thin spindly legs.

The others were an adult I had already seen a couple of times and the sub-adult that I saw on the 22nd.

The adult was the last to appear, but it showed very well. I had already seen this one on both the 18th and 22nd. Both previous times I failed to see the pattern on P5, but this time I saw it well and it had a dark marking across the feather. This gull scores very well on the trait scoring scheme and is without doubt a pure Caspian Gull. The wings look a little short in the photo below, but that is the angle of the bird and also the longest primary feather is still growing.

Adult Caspian Gull
Adult Caspian Gull

Wednesday 22 October 2014

A Three Caspian Gull Lunch Break

I was happy with three in a day at the weekend, but three in my lunch break today is even more impressive (Paul I did ask them to fly south towards Guernsey, but I'm not sure if they were listening).

The first one was none other than Polish colour ringed PADZ, last seen back in August. Another adult, which I'm fairly sure is one of the ones present last weekend, was preening on the same bit of shoreline. If that wasn't enough I spotted what is most likely a fourth-winter on the water. All too soon I had to continue on my journey to Northampton, but it had been a good dinner break. I was hoping to read two new colour rings, as I'm just two short of 400 different colour ringed gulls at the site, but alas you'll have to wait for that gripping story for a little while.

Adult Caspian Gull

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull with Very Dark Eyes

I have seen the occasional Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) in Britain that appeared to have dark eyes, but the views were often distant, so I may have been mistaken. In Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America it states that in adults the eyes are rarely dark brown or darker. The gull below, that I saw in Portugal, is not quite fully adult, but it clearly has very dark eyes that are not likely to alter significantly as it reaches full adulthood.

Dark Eyed Yellow-legged Gull

Monday 20 October 2014

Caspian Gull Influx?

I'm not sure if there's been a noticeable influx of Caspian Gulls at other sites, but I've certainly had my fair share at Shawell A5 Lagoons this weekend.  After seeing three yesterday I popped back this afternoon and found another trying to hide amongst some adult Herring Gulls. I have aged it as a third-winter due to it being too advanced in its journey towards adulthood for it to be a second-winter. That said, it hasn't replaced all of its tertials and coverts with adult like feathers, so it might be a very advanced second-winter.

Third-winter Caspian Gull

Sunday 19 October 2014

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons

Since arriving back from Portugal, I have been delighted to find a few smart looking (that's perhaps a matter of opinion) first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls at Shawell. The one in the image below shows all the standard features: Large and robust, with fairly short legs; grey mantle and scapulars that contrast with the mainly brown coverts; tertials that are pale edged and darker than the coverts and an all black chunky bill. The anchor markings on the scapulars are slightly paler than some I've seen, but this is still a classic individual.

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, October 2014

Saturday 18 October 2014

Three Caspian Gull Day at Shawell

The second-winter Caspian Gull with the green colour-ring was back at Shawell A5 lagoons today and once again it was snoozing on the bank between the lagoons. I suggested to Steve Nichols that it was most probably the same gull that we had seen the previous weekend and when it stood up I was pleased to see the colour-ring. We were able to confirm the ring read XNDJ, so it was the same gull. It has injured its right leg and it walks with a slight limp.

Second-winter Yellow-legged Gull - XNDJ

Friday 17 October 2014

First-year Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michehellis) Versus First-year Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

Yellow-legged Gulls turn up in Southern England on a regular basis and are readily identified in all their guises by experienced gull watchers. I have made it my mission to learn the complexities of this species and trips to the Algarve last year and again recently have really helped. Possibly the most difficult age for birders to identify is juvenile and first-winter. With this in mind, I attempted to take lots of images of first-year birds during my trips.

The text book features of a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull are: large and brutish looking, a whitish head with a dark eye mask, greyish mantle and scapulars feathers with dark anchor markings, contrasting brown wing coverts and dark brown pale-edged tertials. The bill is usually black or mostly black and the shape is distinctive, being relatively short and appearing heavier towards the tip due to the steep gonys angle. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are often found with Yellow-legged Gulls and this is the species that is most likely to cause confusion at this age. 

The first four gulls below are classic first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls and identification should prove fairly straightforward:

First-winter Yellow-legged Gull

A Dragonfly Tick

Whilst I was away in Portugal the weather was extremely warm compared to the same time in 2013. As well as the massive numbers of Red-veined Darters that I have already mentioned, there was also large numbers of Lesser Emperors although they proved impossible to photograph. 

I stopped along a gravel track one day and noticed a small dragonfly perched on the ground next to a small stream. At the time I hadn't a clue what it was, but I managed to get some photographs. Checking my field guide at home I have tentatively identified it as a mature male Epaulet Skimmer. The main feature is the waisted abdomen.

Mature Male Epaulet Skimmer

Thursday 16 October 2014

Caspian Gull Sightings at Shawell so far During 2014

 CDB's Caspian Gull Sightings at Shawell so far During 2014

  1. Second-winter, January 11th
  2. Adult, January 18th
  3. Second-winter, January 18th
  4. Fourth-winter, February 1st
  5. First-winter, March 5th
  6. Second-winter, March 5th (also March 15th, 26th and 29th)
  7. Fourth-winter, March 8th
  8. Second-winter, March 22nd
  9. Second-winter, March 29th
  10. First-winter/summer, April 5th
  11. Juvenile, August 2nd
  12. Juvenile, August 5th, colour-ringed XDFV
  13. Juvenile, August 9th (also August 13th and 20th)
  14. Adult, August 9th, colour-ringed PADZ (also October 22nd)
  15. First-summer/second-winter, August 19th
  16. Adult, August 20th
  17. Adult, August 23rd
  18. First-winter, September 17th (also September 24th)
  19. Second-winter, October 11th, colour-ringed XNDJ (also October 18th)
  20. Adult, October 12th (also October 18th)
  21. Adult, October 18th (also October 22nd, 28th & 29th)
  22. Third-winter, October 19th
  23. Fourth-winter, October 22nd (also October 29th)
  24. Third-winter, October 28th
  25. Adult, November 1st, (female)
  26. Adult, November 1st (also November 10th)
  27. Fourth-winter, November 8th (also November 19th & 22nd)
  28. Fourth-winter, November 10th
  29. Third-winter, November 19th (also December 6th)
  30. Third-winter, November 20th (also December 6th, 11th and 13th)
  31. Adult or fourth-winter, November 26th
  32. Third-winter, November 29th
  33. Adult or fourth-winter, November 29th (also December 3rd)
  34. Adult, December 6th (short legged)
  35. Adult or fourth-winter, December 6th
  36. Fourth-winter, December 20th
  37. Third-winter, December 23rd
  38. First-winter, December 29th, colour-ringed 16P4
  39. Adult, December 29th
Note: these are all considered to be different individuals - bill colour and unique marks plus eye colour was compared especially on adults to work out whether they were the same or not.


All presumed to be Caspian x Herring

  1. Adult, February 7th
  2. Adult, March 5th
  3. Adult, April 9th
  4. Adult, July 5th (metal ring on right leg)
  5. Second-summer/winter, August 20th (also August 23rd)
  6. Adult, November 1st, (also November 5th and 8th)
  7. Second-winter, November 10th (also November 12th & 22nd)
  8. Adult, November 20th
  9. Adult, November 22nd
  10. Fourth-winter or adult December 11th
  11. Adult, December 20th

Sunday 12 October 2014

Another Colour-ringed Caspian Gull at Shawell

Back to reality - no more wandering amongst the gulls reading colour rings with the naked eye, as I did in Portugal. It was back to extreme 'sea gulling' at Shawell A5 lagoons.

The day was going well, as I'd read quite a few colour rings including a couple from Guernsey. Most Guernsey LBB Gulls know better than to hang around in Britain during the colder months, but 7T8 and 4CK6 hadn't read the memo.

Anyway I spotted what looked like a second-winter Caspian Gull lying down on the bank between the lagoons. It spent most of its time fast asleep, but all of a sudden it jumped up and revealed a green colour ring. It must have been a 'doggy dream' as it was back down and fast asleep in seconds. It started to rain heavily, but still it lay there asleep. A commotion amongst the nearby gulls ended up with one of them falling on to my subject, which got it back on its feet very quickly! 

Steve Nichols arrived at this point and helped me read the colour ring. We both agreed on D and I knew the starting letter was X, but there were two other characters to read. I fitted my camera and zoomed up to 10x. I got a quick look at the last letter, which was a J. We now had X_DJ, but what was the last letter? I thought it was a V at first, but the haze cleared for a second and I was sure it was a N. We didn't get any longer to ponder, as a Common Buzzard scared the gulls and the Caspian Gull flew towards the tip. I was not over confident, but it looked like the green colour ring had the code XNDJ. I was able to take a few seconds of video in the pouring rain and below is a screen grab from that video just for the record.

                                             Caspian Gull XNDJ

So were we right?

This evening I sent an email to Dr Ronald Klien, as he is in the know about these East German ringed Caspians. 

In the time it took me to have my Sunday night bath he had replied:

Hi Carl,
Hiddensee EA-183821 + green XNDJ
nfl. 7. June 2013 Gräbendorfer See /Brandenburg GER   51.42 N  14.06 E
No other sightings yet. Hiddensee-Centre was informed, official report will come to you from there.
Many thanks and good gulling.

I am really chuffed by this result - thanks Ronald

I was allowed to sneak back to Shawell A5 Lagoons today, as the ladies of the house were out shopping in Leicester. I hoped to get a better view of XNDJ, which was asking a lot as the nearby tip is closed on Sundays and so fewer gulls congregate in the area.

Almost as soon as I arrived I spotted what looked like an adult Caspian Gull. It was re-growing its longest primaries, so it looked short winged, but it will look longer winged in a few weeks. I did get to see the new longest primary (P10) as it preened and although short the pattern was spot on for Caspian Gull. Its eyes were slightly paler than I would like, but their eyes are variable just like in other gull species. Its eyes weren't as pale as the adult Herring Gulls that were present.

Adult Caspian Gull

All the standard features are there to see: long parallel sided washed out bill, small head, beady eyes and a low profile as it rests on the water. Its legs were a sickly flesh colour. 

The Mystery Unravels

During my trip to Portugal in 2013 I visited the Portimao Fishing Harbour where I found a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull with a yellow colour ring and the code M+C. Initially I thought it might be a young Herring Gull due to the pattern of the greater coverts and the notched tertials. It appeared more like a small Herring Gull as well when compared with other obvious juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the time.

M+C, September 2013

Thursday 9 October 2014

Red-veined Darters

Ever since Adey Baker and I found some Red-veined Darters at Huncote, I have been fascinated by them. I have seen them in large numbers in Spain before, but nothing had prepared me for the numbers I was to see in the south-west of Portugal last week. Dawn commented that it's a good job they don't bite. There must have been millions of them. What's really interesting is how they survive in such massive numbers in an area that is so dry and lacking in open water? At one cliff top location there was some very shallow surface water and swarms of RVD's were there and most of the males and females were coupled up.

Male Red-veined Darter

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Portugal 2014

Dawn and I decided that a second trip to Portugal would give us the chance to visit the sites we missed last year. We once again headed to the Algarve for the last days of September and early October.

The stand out highlight of the trip was seeing an Iberian Wolf. I spotted it near to the LPN Bustard Reserve at Guerreiro. This site is close to Castro Verde a drive of just over 90 km from our base at Praia da Rocha on the Algarve coast. I stopped to scan for bustards and was very surprised to see what looked like a wolf running away from us. It was distant, but I told Dawn to get out of the car and look for what I thought was a wolf running away from us up the hill. I set up my scope just in time to get a brief view at a higher magnification before it disappeared over the brow of the hill. With this view I was convinced it was a wolf and luckily Dawn had found it and agreed. It was mostly grey in colour with a few brown areas. It ran as though each pair of legs operated together (loping). It ears were obviously quite big even at the distance, as were its feet. I was able to compare its size with some sheep that were at a similar distance and I could see that it was taller, but not by that much. Iberian Wolves are smaller than other European Wolves. Its style of running was different to a Red Fox in that they tend to run with a much quicker leg action. I considered the possibility of it being a dog, but I discounted that because I don't know of a dog that matches what I saw. This sighting was made outside of what I believe is the stronghold of Iberian Wolf in Portugal, however, their numbers are increasing in both Portugal and Spain. After the wolf had disappeared we continued to search for bustards and we were rewarded with good views of three Great Bustards. During the day we saw at least forty more.

The weather was really good with temperatures up to 29ºC daily. I don't know if it was this that had encouraged White Storks to return to their nests and start displaying but it was great to see. One day we came across a group of at least a 100 White Storks soaring high above us.

White Stork on Nest

Wednesday 24 September 2014

First Year Caspian Gull Again

This is probably my last trip to Shawell on a Wednesday evening until next year, as the sun sets too early now to give me much time. I did manage to get a site tick in the form of a couple of un-spectacular Red-crested Pochards, but the highlight was seeing the same 1CY Caspian Gull that I saw last Wednesday.

It looked much greyer this week but this was most likely down to the light. The notching on the outer greater coverts was the same which lead me to the conclusion that it is the same gull.

1CY Caspian Gull - Well Snouty!