Saturday 26 July 2014

Gulling - how rude!

lately one of the most well read postings on my Blog is 'Back to Gulling'. This didn't make too much sense to me, as the video attached to that post was not getting a proportional amount of viewings. Well I decided to Google search the word Gulling and was I in for a surprise. Apparently 'Gulling' is an activity that men who watch 'Doggers' do. In order to protect the innocent I won't describe what Dogging and Gulling is here, but I bet they weren't looking for pictures of Seagulls when they Googled Gulling!

I will have to check out the look on people's faces when I tell them I'm off Gulling at the weekend.

Anyway I had a great Gulling session today at Shawell. Every now and then I could see at least a thousand gulls in flight over the landfill site, but not all of them came to the lagoons. However, a good number of Yellow-legged Gulls came in - mostly adults. My best count so far this month is 23 adults in one flock at the landfill site. Three different juvenile YLG's also put in an appearance today, which was pleasing. Also the first juvenile Herring Gulls are beginning to appear.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (compare it with the juv. LBB Gull at the back)
Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull for Comparison

Thursday 24 July 2014

Another Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

A visit to Shawell A5 Lagoons tonight produced another juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. This one was different to the one I wrote about in my last post - there are differences in the pattern on the greater coverts. Again the same features are present: whitish head contrasting with its back and wings, a dark mask around the eyes, heavy all black bill and dark white edged tertials. Many of the Lesser Black-backed Gull juveniles are still begging food from the adults and are obviously browner headed and have smaller bills.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
I noticed a dead animal on the A5 near where I watch the gulls and on inspection it appears to be a Polecat. I'm no expert on separating Ferrets from Polecats, so I welcome any opinions.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Birds are on the Move Again

The seasons seem to fly by these days - it only seems five minutes since we welcomed the return of the summer migrants and now they've done their business (hopefully) and are once more preparing to fly south. Gangs of Swifts are charging up and down my street screaming as they go, which is a fantastic sight on a warm and sunny evening. There is a small colony near my house that nest in one of the old buildings and each year they return to nest there. Sadly the number returning has being falling in recent years. Hopefully the fact that we have had a reasonable summer will have helped them raise a few new members of the gang. In a short time they will disappear again as if by magic.

Juvenile gulls are starting to appear at Shawell A5 Lagoons. Young Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are the commonest. At least one juvenile Yellow-legged Gull has moved north already. Yellow-legged Gulls are usually commonest at the end of July in Leicestershire, so it is not surprising a few juveniles have moved north with the older gulls.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
They are not the best images of the juvenile, as they are just screen grabs from a short video, but the features all show up: whitish head with dark mask around the eyes, chunky all black bill, dark tertials with thin pale edges, the top greater coverts stand out as they are darker and not so heavily patterned as the lower ones and finally it's much bulkier than the juvenile Lesser black-backed Gulls that were also present.

Friday 11 July 2014

What Does Adventure Mean to Me?

I was sent an email by Berghaus recently, asking for adventurers to write a short piece on their Blog about  ‘what adventure means to you’, so here goes...

For me adventure is being challenged by situations created by the natural world.  Of course embarking on an adventure does not guarantee you will have one and you should never try too hard. Adventure can be experienced even in the most familiar of locations when the conditions alter and become more challenging. Personally I think adventure kicks off when we take ourselves out of our personal comfort zone and explore somewhere new.

A wise man I met on a wet day in the Cairngorm Mountains told me that adventure is retrospective fun. Ice blasted in your face, freezing temperatures and deep snow may not be pleasant, but you'll never forget it, so maybe he was right. 

Adventure really gets going when nature asks questions of our ability, or when something completely unexpected happens. For those lucky enough to have been gifted with a spirit of adventure, there is still a wild world out there waiting to be explored...

Adventuring Out on a Winter's Day

Saturday 5 July 2014

Presumed Hybrid Herring x Caspian Gull

An interesting adult gull was present at Shawell A5 Lagoons today. On the water its grey upper parts appeared slightly darker than the nearby adult Herring Gull, but its head shape and size seemed wrong for a Yellow-legged Gull.

Eventually it walked out of the water revealing yellow legs and it had a metal ring, but not a colour ring. A colour ring would have helped sort out a few questions.

In the photos below you can see that it is small headed. Its body is quite slender and it stands in a similar way to a Caspian Gull. Amongst the features that are at odds with it being a Caspian Gull are its shortish legs, its bill being too colourful and its eyes are very pale with no obvious dark pigments. The longest primary feather (P10), which is just visible, looks to be very close to what should be exhibited by a pure Caspian Gull although in my opinion it had just a little bit too much black.

Despite it having yellow legs, I believe this is most likely a Caspian x Herring Gull. Quite a few known Caspian x Herring Gull hybrids have yellow legs.

Hybrid Gull
Hybrid Gull

Birds are already on the move with small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls arriving from the south and Black-headed Gull numbers are building up having been almost absent for a couple of months. A Common Sandpiper was also at the lagoons today.