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!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Stonechats at Brascote Pits

I had just enough time to do a circuit of Brascote Pits this morning before work. As I neared the area that is described as the moon scape or the desert, I thought how good it would be for a shrike to be sitting on the distant gorse bushes. I raised my bins based solely on that thought and I was surprised to see a bird actually sitting on top of the bushes. It was a bit too distant, but I thought it looked like a Stonechat. I moved closer and could see that it was a Stonechat. In fact there were three Stonechats, which is an excellent record for Leicestershire these days. Since the cold winters 0f 10/11 and 12/13 the wintering numbers in Leicestershire have fallen dramatically. Hopefully last winter's mild weather and this year's good breeding season have helped their numbers to increase nationally.

They are still there this evening and have been seen by at least two other birders.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Black-necked Grebe at Shawell A5 lagoons

Whilst having a mooch about at Shawell yesterday I spotted a small grebe sp. It looked like a Black-necked Grebe, but I only had my bins at the time. I fetched my scope, but the grebe had gone missing. Some parts of the lagoons are impossible to view without trespassing and the grebe had obviously chosen to hide in one of those areas. After a long wait it reappeared and I was able to confirm that it was a juvenile Black-necked Grebe. It soon disappeared again into the corner of the first lagoon where it is not possible to view without a chainsaw.

I did manage to get a record shot, which isn't bad considering the distance and the very bad light.

I didn't see it again once the gull numbers had built up and I failed to find it this morning despite trying hard. I chose not to spread the news of its presence yesterday because of the difficulty in viewing it and the fact that this species often turns up at sites where access and viewing conditions are easier. The clearing in the hedge is aimed at viewing the bits that the gulls congregate in.

Anyone visiting the site should view only from the cleared area in the hedge at the side of the A5. This is found by walking uphill about 100 metres from the Newton Lane junction. Trying to view from anywhere else causes the birds on the water to fly off rapidly leaving you with nothing to see. The few regulars at the site have been left annoyed on numerous occasions by examples of poor field craft by some of the birders that have visited the site. Park only in Newton Lane, as the A5 is a clearway and you could get fined even if you park on the side of the road. 

Juvenile Black-necked Grebe
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Friday 19 September 2014

More Gulls

I was greatly relieved to find myself back in the hedge at Shawell A5 Lagoons again on Wednesday evening - no noisy bird club outings at this site.

Shortly after my arrival I found a first year Mediterranean Gull, which was happily knocking around with about 100 Black-headed Gulls on the far shore. This is the the third this year at the site and only the fifth one I've seen at the site since my regular visits began in 2012.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull

Norfolk Trip

Last weekend I was in Norfolk with Dawn, but it was one of those times when nothing quite goes to plan. There was a couple of Caspian Gulls posing all week on the beach at Cromer, but at the weekend they became really difficult to locate. The adult put in appearance only to be flushed by an over excited young lad - not his fault. I spent far to much time there without any photographic results to show for my efforts. Dawn went off to check out the shops, but there's only so many times you can look around the same shops - apparently.

Titchwell Beach - Away From the Madding Crowd

On Sunday we visited the dunes at Burnham Overy. Instead of making our way to the Barred Warbler that had been there for a few days, Dawn and I wandered off in the opposite direction. I spotted a large warbler in some low bramble bushes, but it was quite distant so I set up my scope. I managed to get a brief view of it, but it was in silhouette because of the position of the sun. Nevertheless I was pretty sure it was a Barred Warbler. It dropped down into brambles and so I moved to a better place with the sun behind me. It eventually climbed back up, but it was very obscured by branches. Sadly it flew from there to some very thick bushes and I never saw it again. I'm pretty certain it was a Barred Warbler, but I failed to get conclusive views.

Sadly Norfolk no longer does it for me the way it used to. The carpark at Titchwell was rammed solid on Friday afternoon with mostly retired birders. The person in the shop kindly asked if I knew my way around. I cheerfully said 'I did thanks'. I'm sure she didn't want to know that my first visits were made in the late 1970's and I knew the place very well thank-you very much. I wonder whether the folks who struggle to to identify the array of common waders on show are in someways getting more of a buzz out of the site than folks with more experience. Back in the day it always seemed like Titchwell was for the 'dudes' and Cley was for more serious birders and perhaps it still is, although I think Cley is about the same these days. Maybe I just don't like crowds anymore.

Spotted Redshank

Saturday 6 September 2014

First WeBS Count

I have agreed to count Shawell A5 Lagoons for the WeBS (wetland bird survey), so although the official day is tomorrow, I did my first count today. Fewer gulls visit the site on a  Sunday when the tip is shut, which is why I elected to do Saturday.

There is only a small area of water compared to many sites, so no massive duck numbers, but I was very pleased when Chris Wiltshier spotted a Black-tailed Godwit. We also had single Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Snipe. Five little Grebes were also present.

The online survey form thinks that eight Yellow-legged Gulls is a big number - not sure what it would think about the numbers present in mid-summer?

A few more Great Black-backed and Common Gulls were present today and a couple of the big boys posed for the camera.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Wednesday 3 September 2014

It's Amazing the Difference a Few Days Make

Last month I was tripping over Caspian Gulls, but whatever attracted them to Shawell is not working at the moment. Watching a site regularly is fascinating as you can actually witness the passage of gulls through the site. Herring Gull numbers had built up today compared to last month and there appears to be more LBB Gulls. However, most of the Yellow-legged Gulls had disappeared today. I saw at least ten different first calendar-year YLG's on Saturday, but just one this evening. 19 different YLG's of various ages were present on Saturday, but just three were there tonight amongst around 2000 LBBG's.

1CY Yellow-legged Gull

The 1CY Yellow-legged Gulls I saw on Saturday varied in their state of advancement towards first-winter plumage. Some were still very juvenile like, but most were similar to the one in the photos above and below.


I saw a few colour-ringed LBBG's tonight including Dutch ringed NP, which I have now seen on nine different occasions since 2012. NP seems to hang around Leicestershire until late in the year and then spends the cold months in Spain - can't fault him. I also saw single colour-ringed gulls from Germany and Norway.