Thursday 28 August 2014

Shawell Again

I spent the early part of the evening at Shawell again this Wednesday. Once again it was quite productive with a respectable total of nine colour rings being read including three from Norway.

J148E Second-calender Year Lesser Black-backed Gull (intermedius

Sunday 24 August 2014

Juvenile Caspian Gull Re-visited

I have been going through my images of a juvenile Caspian Gull that I saw on three separate dates this month. I have changed my mind a couple of times as to whether it was the same bird, due to apparent differences in the photos on separate days. However,  after Tom Lowe suggested it was the same bird, I had another look at the images and now I am happy to say I agree with him.

August 9th (overcast)

The image above was taken on August 9th and when compared with the other photos on different days you can clearly see how different light effects the appearance of the gull.

Below is the same individual on August 13th and then the 20th:

August 13th (raining)

August 20th (sunny)
August 20th (sunny)

Constructive comments are always welcomed.

Thanks for taking a look and Best Wishes,

Saturday 23 August 2014

Not Even Loved by its Mother

Today I started with a trip to Brascote Pits. 

This site may be past its prime, because the best pool has dried out and a lot of areas are being choked by willows and scrub. However, I was pleased to see four Greenshanks and quite a few young warblers including a Lesser Whitethroat.

The skies were clear first thing and despite a cold wind the sun was very bright. The lay of the land at Shawell makes gulling difficult when it is sunny, so that's why I tore myself away from the gulls for a few hours. The cloud started to build up about 10 o'clock, so I set off to Cotesbach landfill site. It was bitterly cold there and a pair of gloves wouldn't have gone a miss whilst I endured some squally showers.

Initially the gulls were quite close and I soon picked up an adult Caspian Gull. Unfortunately one of the dumper truck drivers felt the need to drive through the flock, which pushed them further away from my viewing point.

Adult Caspian Gull

Thursday 21 August 2014

Caspian Gulls

I had a good time gull watching (not gulling) at Shawell over the last couple of days. I read a total of 16 colour rings and saw three Caspian Gulls and quite a few Yellow-legged Gulls. 

In The photo below the 1CY looks slightly odd structurally, but its bill ratio and primary projection seem OK. It is still too young to use the trait scoring system, but the traits that can be used are OK. It can make your head hurt trying to work out if a particular Caspian Gull is pure. Any opinions on this gull are welcomed, as I'm always keen to learn. You can either comment directly to the blog or email me. Comments on Blogger don't always seem to work, but I've found if you click on Preview after writing the comment it helps.

This 1CY is the same as the one seen on both the 9th and 13th August - see comments below.

1CY Caspian Gull

Nice White Underwing

The underwing is creamy white apart from a little bit of brown on the underwing coverts. This is typical of 1CY Cachinnans. Yellow-legged Gulls can show pale underwings, but not as pale as this. The clean white axillaries are also a good feature, as other juvenile large gulls should have heavily marked axillaries, or at least grey brown markings. 

Same as Above

Just prior to seeing the 1CY Casp, I spotted an adult, which landed reasonably close and stayed long enough for me to get a few images. Its plumage is spot on: you can see the underside of the longest primary on the far wing and the pattern is text book good. The bill is also good, although its eyes are a little pale, but not as pale as Herring or Yellow-legged Gulls. Its legs are long and thin and the right colour.

Close Up

The final one is a 2CY.

2CY Caspian Gull (at the back)

In addition to the three pictured here, I saw a very distant 2CY, which looked OK for Caspian Gull plumage wise, but structurally it was obviously not pure and had plenty of Herring Gull genes. 

Below is one of the more interesting YLG's.

Beast of a 2CY Yellow-legged Gull
Colour-ringed LBB Gull (J7MM), ringed as a chick during July 2010 in Norway


Just a quick note to say that the Hookpod Team have been successful, with the help of those who donated, in reaching their target of £100,000. Hopefully they will do well with the trials and hopefully albatross bycatch will become a very rare event.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Hookpod - Saving the Albatross From Extinction

Whilst at the Birdfair yesterday I noticed a stand talking about saving albatrosses. I have made donations in the past to help this cause and so I was interested in what they were doing. They are trying to bring a new product out, which will help greatly in preventing albatrosses getting themselves hooked whilst following longline fishing vessels. As you will probably know, the albatross takes the bait that is supposed to attract Tuna and ends up hooked on a massive hook before the bait sinks. Almost all of the World's albatross species are threatened, so they need our help.

The Hookpod, as well as preventing the albatross being hooked will also stop millions of chemical lightsticks being thrown into sea. The Hookpod has a built in LED light. The lightsticks are used to attract bait fish and once used end up discarded in the sea. The Hookpod only opens up once the hook and bait reach 15 metres, which keeps the hook from catching albatrosses.

Clearly this is a very worthwhile project, but it does need money to get off the ground. It's not up to me to tell anyone how to spend their money, but if you can make a small donation then hopefully it will make a real difference to albatrosses. I have given my donation.

Go read all about it on the Hookpod Website, which can be found HERE

Whilst checking out a few bits and pieces on the internet tonight, I came across something about the Hookpod and I was surprised to see an image of me on their stand at the Birdfair. I'm sure you all agree that they captured my best side.

Friday 15 August 2014

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls Plus Another Sighting of One of the Juvenile Casps

During the summer months, when I can, I like to have an early evening visit to Shawell on at least one day. This Wednesday evening I chose to look into the quarry next to the landfill site and see what was about. A small group of gulls, mainly juveniles, were loafing around by one of the three small pools. A couple of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls were with them. I tried to Digiscope them, but it was quite difficult as the sun was shining straight on to my LCD screen. In the end I did manage to get a few records shots. The one in the first photograph shows the features quite nicely: large and robust, a large pale squarish head with an eye mask, a short but deep black bill, large brown scapular feathers and dark brown tertials with fine pale edges.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

Monday 11 August 2014

More on Caspian Gull PADZ

Steve Lister has kindly reminded me that he saw PADZ at Albion landfill site in December 2013 and February 2014 (see chart below). He had commented on his first sighting that it was a typical Caspian Gull apart from its legs, which were shorter than normal. I saw it out of the water standing next to a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which had obviously shorter legs. I considered PADZ's legs to be moderately long rather than short or long.

Adult Caspian Gull (PADZ)

Primary Pattern of PADZ

Using the trait scoring chart that was in BB (also here), I scored it as follows.

P10 overall pattern: white to black ratio, score 0, less black than white
P10: white tip, score 0, clear white
P10: tongue, score 0, whitish or pale grey tongue
P5: extent of black, score 1, black on both webs connected, forming band, black on outer web deeper than inner
P4: extent of black, score 2, no black
Iris peppering, score 1, moderately dark
Eye ring colour, score 1, not seen so scored it average
Bill shape, score 1, slim, slight gonydeal angle (within ratio 2.4-2.79) 
Leg length, score 1, moderately long

Total: 7

This falls within the range of a pure Caspian Gull. Most of the traits shown by this individual are the most common shown by the pure Caspian Gulls sampled. The eye colour might warrant another point as it was difficult to asses, but examining the zoomed up photographs I can see the eyes are obviously darker than typical adult Herring Gulls. 

Below is a copy of the sightings of PADZ so far, which was provided by the Polish Bird Ringing Centre.

Sightings of Caspian Gull PADZ
Map of Sightings for PADZ

The map clearly shows the westward movement that this gull makes during autumn and winter. It is surprising that there are no sightings from the London area - keep a look out boys.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Colour-ringed Caspian Gull (PADZ)

We have a saying around ere that 'you wait ages for a Midland Red bus and then two arrive'.

Well colour-ringed Caspian Gulls are no different.

A large group of gulls arrived at Shawell A5 Lagoons this afternoon and amongst them was an adult Caspian Gull. It took a while to reach that conclusion, as it wasn't showing enough of its primary pattern at first and its eyes were slightly paler than normal. Eventually I managed to record a wing flap, which showed everything was in order in the primaries and I decided that its eyes are within the acceptable range.

I continued to watch it preening and splashing about and then it flapped its wings so hard it shot up in the air and revealed it had a yellow colour-ring. I switched to Jedi mode and using some powerful mind tricks I was able to persuade it to swim to the shore and climb out onto the beach. Once it stood still I was able to read the letters, which were PADZ.

Adult Caspian Gull (PADZ)

This gull already has history in the UK, as it was seen in February 2013 at Candles Landfill site, Telford and during December 2013 and February 2014 it was seen by Steve Lister at Albion landfill site, Leicestershire. It was ringed as a chick in a Caspian Gull colony just west of Krakow, Poland in May 2009. This colony is outside the accepted hybrid zone for Caspian and Herring Gulls.

I can't stop tripping over juvenile Caspian Gulls at the minute. Before the big influx of gulls arrived I found another juvenile on the water and reasonably close to my spot in the hedge. The light was far too bright (always moaning about the light), but I did my best to get a few record shots through my scope. This one was a really impressive individual with a classic profile. It was already moulting some of its scapulars, which tells me it is not one of the other two I saw earlier this week and it was a larger, probably a male.

Juvenile Caspian Gull
 By the way I think its Arriva Buses now.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Juvenile Caspian Gull

Another visit to the Shawell area on Tuesday night and another juvenile Caspian Gull. It was the first gull I looked at and I immediately realised it was a good one. At first it wasn't as structurally obvious as the juvenile I found last weekend, but its plumage was really good. Whilst I was looking at it I realised it was colour-ringed. 

Last year I set myself the target of finding a juvenile Caspian Gull and also a ringed Caspian Gull - well with this one I have struck gold. This is a great reward for the hours I spend searching through thousands of gulls.

Juvenile Caspian Gull (XDFV)

As soon as I saw the ring I knew I had to read it!

Luckily the colour-ring was easily readable. With help from Ronald Klien, I quickly traced the ringing origin to Eastern Germany. I was overjoyed that I had found a juvenile Caspian Gull and one that would help piece together where the Caspian Gulls visiting Britain originate from. I now know that it was ringed in a mixed breeding colony where Caspian Gulls dominate, but hybrids are fairly common. Both Ronald and I feel this is a good Caspian Gull, probably a female. I will have to wait a little while for the ringer to submit his report to the Hiddensee Ringing organisation before I receive all the ringing details.

Juvenile Caspian Gull (also juvenile LBB Gull and Yellow-legged Gull)

Monday 4 August 2014

Colour Ring Update

My obsession with gulls continues unabated and my efforts during the summer have been worthwhile. 

One of the things that has amazed me is just how many gulls are to be found in the centre of England during the summer months. It is also great to witness the gulls migrating through Shawell. Whether its the northward movement of Yellow-legged Gulls into the area during July, or the arrival of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (intermedius) from Norway it's all interesting stuff. Knowing that many of the LBB Gulls will be going south to Iberia or beyond into Africa is also exciting (for me and a few like minded enthusiasts at least).

Getting good enough views of these wary beasts is quite a challenge, especially as the buggers panic every time a Buzzard flies past, or a helicopter, or they see their own shadow. Nonetheless I have managed to read quite a few colour-rings lately. The most satisfying was finally nailing a Dutch ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull. I first saw this gull last year, but I mis-read one of the letters and although there was only one gull with a similar code the ringer Kees Camphuysen felt it was best left un-proven. I read MAPD but the only one near was MARD. Well last Wednesday I saw what was most likely the same gull and this time I got a clear reading and it read MARD. This was the first proven sighting away from the breeding colony.

Lesser Black-backed Gull MARD from a Dutch Breeding Colony

Lesser Black-backed Gull MARD

MARD is a male and until this year he was paired with a British ringed female, but this year he gave her the boot for a younger version.

At the weekend I read the ring on a Norwegian born Lesser Black-backed Gull (JJ5M) that has been recorded in Western Sahara. This is a distance of 3782 km, which it travelled during its first year.

LBB Gull (LR.AR)

The gull above was ringed in Belgium and it is probably on its way to Morocco where it has wintered during the previous two winters.