Sunday 25 January 2015

Third-winter Glaucous Gull

I am just four colour-rings short of recording 500 individual colour-ringed gulls at Shawell. This morning I chanced my arm and headed off to Shawell. The landfill is shut on Sunday, but sometimes there is still loads of gulls in the area. Not this morning, but there was about fifty gulls, mainly GBBGs, feeding amongst the rubbish still exposed on the tipping area. I set up my scope and started to search amongst them and a very pale gull flew threw my view. I panned after it and fortunately it landed just to the left. It was a third-winter Glaucous Gull. This is good as it demonstrates what a third-winter should look like after suggestions the one I found last Tuesday might be a third-winter. It is quite adult like, but the bill is still very immature looking.

The area where the gulls were feeding was quite distant, so I could only get poor quality record shots.

Third-winter Glaucous Gull, Cotesbach LF Site, 25/01/15

Saturday 24 January 2015

Bloody Buzzards!

Today at Shawell Common Buzzards were causing havoc. The gulls would not settle, as the local buzzards were insisting on flying low over the lagoons on a frequent basis. A fox also got in on the act by trying to sneak up on the gulls. As a result the gulls would not settle and fewer stayed at the site. I may have to declare the site a no fly zone for buzzards. One cheeky so and so was perched in the hedge overlooking the bank the gulls rest on and it didn't notice me until I was virtually standing next to it!

Nevertheless at least two third-winter Caspian Gulls put in appearances and the big white Glaucous Gull was there for a short while (seen later at the landfill site).

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons - also seen on January 10th
Second-winter Glaucous Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

Herring Gull Showing Some Characters of Thayer's Gull

Last thing this afternoon I took a look at Cotesbach landfill site from Gibbet Lane. The Glaucous Gull that I first saw last Tuesday was loafing around there and amongst the gulls I spotted a young gull, which grabbed my attention. It was a juvenile/first-winter type and it had very pale underwings. Compared to the other first-winter Herring Gulls nearby it looked paler and more juvenile like. The light was dreadful at this point, but I did manage to take a few photos, but it was distant and I needed to crank up the ISO setting on my camera up to 1600.

The outer primaries appear to be very similar to what is expected of a Thayer's Gull in juvenile plumage - dark outer webs contrasting with paler inner webs. On the closed wing the primaries looked to be striped created by the pale inner and dark outer web.

A Very Immature Herring Gull - With an Interesting Primary Pattern

Friday 23 January 2015

Put the Gulls on Ice

Tuesday January 20th turned out to be an excellent day for viewing gulls at Shawell A5 Lagoons. The gulls had gathered on ice, which had formed on the lagoon. The views were great and the gulls were close enough to get some reasonable images.

An adult Caspian Gull stood at the back of the pack and spent nearly all the time hunched up. It flapped its wings just the once but it held its wings open after the last flap and revealed a text book primary pattern. Its eyes were a brown colour and its legs were greyish pink.

Hunched Up Adult Caspian Gull

Tuesday 20 January 2015

A Tricky Caspian Gull

On January 20th I found a gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons, which I initially identified as a Caspian Gull, but I was concerned that its mantle was a bit too dark and that it still had many juvenile feathers. The series of photographs below, show most of the features and as you can see the mantle looks darker than shown by typical Caspian Gulls of this age and at this time of year. It is really interesting to see that it still has some juvenile rear scapulars and all the greater coverts are first generation. This is not typical for a first-winter Caspian Gull in January. I considered Heughlin's Gull, but I couldn't make a strong case for that as on the upperwing there is a pale area on the inner primaries, which Heughlin's shouldn't really show and the underwings are very pale.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

Glaucous Gull

I took a sneaky half day off from work this afternoon, as I had a hunch it was going to be good at Shawell. It turned out even better than I expected as the largest lagoon was partially frozen and most of the gulls were resting on the ice. I managed to get myself in position without flushing the gulls as they were very close to the side I was viewing from. With lots of legs on show it was inevitable that I would see a few colour rings, but it was white-wingers I was really after. It didn't take long for one to appear - a frosty looking Glaucous Gull - get in there! I have aged it as a second-winter, as it lacks any sign of adult like grey on the mantle and the underwings still have brown on them.

Second-winter Glaucous Gull

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Aggressive Caspian Gull

At lunchtime today there was lots of gulls at Shawell A5 Lagoons and amongst them was an adult and third-winter Caspian Gull plus an adult which I think has a little bit of Herring Gull in the mix as well as Caspian Gull - mostly the latter.

The third-winter was a new bird although in the photograph it looks similar to the third-winter I saw on the 10th. It was bigger and more boisterous. In fact it was down right aggressive. It attacked any Herring Gull that happened to venture close to it. In the end it picked on the wrong one and got put firmly in its place.

Third-winter Caspian Gull Seeing Off an Herring Gull

Sunday 11 January 2015

I Egret Not looking...

This morning Adey Baker and I had a walk around the perimeter of the Earl Shilton Sewage Works hoping to find a Siberian Chiffchaf. The hoped for Sibe was obviously hiding today, but we did see an ordinary Chiffchaff. As we arrived at a spot where we saw a Green Sandpiper in 2014, I noticed a couple of white looking birds in the field. I decided that they were probably gulls reflecting the winter sun and ignored them, but Adey actually looked at them through his bins and got the find. Not a rarity nationally or in Leicestershire but locally they are still a good species. I'm sure my corny title gave the game away - yes there was a couple of Little Egrets in the field. They were too distant for anything other than a record shot as you can see from my heavily cropped photo below. We also got a Green Sandpiper, so not a bad hours work close to home.

Little Egrets Near Earl Shilton Sewage Works

Saturday 10 January 2015

Hard Going at Shawell Today

WStrong winds today kept the gulls on the move and only small groups were at the A5 lagoons. The wind in the morning made it very uncomfortable for the gulls that tried to rest on the bank. They weren't at the landfill site either, but I bumped into the manager and he told me that many gulls were in fields between the landfill and the M1 motorway. These are only visible from the high ground on top of the tip.

Amongst a small group of gulls that did pitch down at the lagoons was a third-winter Caspian Gull. Also a Norwegian colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull put in an appearance and surrendered its code - JP600. In October and November 2012 it had been sighted on a couple of different oil rigs in the North Sea. Another colour-ringed GBBG was there but this one avoided having its colour-ring read. I did, however, manage to confirm the code of an adult Black-headed Gull that I first saw in December 2014. This one spends much of its time  around the Ythan Estuary in Aberdeenshire.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Lunch at Shawell

Today I had my first Wednesday lunch break of the Year at Shawell and, you guessed it, there was a couple of Caspian Gulls in residence. Both appear to be ones that I've not seen before. I briefly saw a third-winter on the opposite shore, but it flew off just after arriving. Next an adult appeared on the bank between the lagoons and it was a bit more cooperative than the third-winter. The adult appeared to have short legs but that was down to the height I was viewing it at, because as it moved up the bank I could see that the legs were typical of most Caspian Gulls. The third-winter reappeared on the same bank as the adult and gave prolonged views.

Adult Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 07/01/15, (2015.6)

The longest primary P10 was still growing and was just slightly shorter than P9, so it will look even longer winged in the near future. This one was quite large so most probably a male. The image above is quite typical of Caspian Gulls on the bank as they all seem to be quite sleepy when resting on it.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 07/01/15 (2015.5)

The third-winter had noticeably long legs, but in the photo above a bit of each leg is hidden by the grass. Its bill has a bit of a droop to it, but its length against depth ratio fits the norm for Caspian Gull. Defining where to drawn the line between pure and hybrid with this species is very complex as at times different experienced observers will have conflicting opinions.

Friday 2 January 2015

Improved Caspian Gull Photos

Although the gulls are quite close at Shawell when compared to doing a gull roost at a large reservoir, they are still a little distant. Photography is restricted to digiscoping, so my images are generally just record shots. Occasionally a good subject comes closer than normal and the light is OK at the same time. Today I was pleased with my results on the Caspian Gull below. This gull looks to be the same as one that I saw on November 29th 2014 - see Here.

Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, January 2nd 2015 (2015.3)

Thursday 1 January 2015

Caspian Gulls at Shawell During 2015

Caspian Gull Sightings at Shawell so far in 2015.
  1. Adult, January 1st.
  2. Adult, January 2nd (also December 29th 2014: 2014/39).
  3. Adult, January 2nd (also January 14th, plus November 29th and December 3rd 2014: 2014/33).
  4. Third-winter, January 2nd.
  5. Third-winter, January 7th (also January 17th) may not be pure, bill droops slightly.
  6. Adult, January 7th.
  7. Third-winter, January 10th (also January 24th).
  8. Third-winter, January 14th.
  9. Adult, January 20th (also January 21st).
  10. First-winter, January 20th.
  11. Third-winter, January 24th (seen at both the landfill site and at the lagoons, but not photographed).
  12. Adult, January 31st, colour-ringed, PADZ (also August 4th and previous sightings in 2014).
  13. Second-winter, January 31st.
  14. Advanced Third-winter, February 4th
  15. Second-winter, February 21st
  16. First-winter, February 21st
  17. First-winter, March 11th
  18. Second-summer, June 20th
  19. First-summer, July 11th
  20. Second-summer, July 11th
  21. Third-summer, July 25th
  22. Juvenile, August 1st (difficult ID)
  23. Adult, August 5th (also August 8th)
  24. Adult, August 8th (longest primaries moulted)
  25. Fourth-winter, August 22nd
  26. First-winter, September 5th
  27. Second-winter, September 16th (also September 19th)
  28. First-winter, September 22nd
  29. Third-winter, October 8th (also October 10th)
  30. First-winter, October 10th
  31. First-winter, November 7th, colour-ringed 10P6 (also November 25th)
  32. Adult, November 11th (November 13th), brighter bill than most at this time of the year, but otherwise OK
  33. Adult, November 12th (also November 13th)
  34. Fourth-winter, November 12th (also November 25th)
  35. Second-winter, November 12th (also November 13th)
  36. Fourth-winter, November 14th, small female (also November 21st)
  37. First-winter, November 25th
  38. First-winter, November 28th
  39. Third-winter, November 28th (possibly a hybrid)
  40. Fourth-winter, November 28th (also December 12th)
  41. First-winter, December 2nd
  42. Fourth-winter, December 17th (pale eyed)
  43. Adult, December 31st
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 unless stated
  1. Adult, January 1st (also January 2nd, 10th and 14th).
  2. Adult, January 2nd(also January 17th) could be crossed with a Yellow-legged Gull or may be a Yellow-legged x Herring Gull hybrid.
  3. Second-winter, January 2nd.
  4. Adult, January 31st
  5. Juvenile, July 18th 
  6. Second-winter, September 16th
  7. Adult, October 28th
  8. Third-winter, November 4th (also November 7th)
  9. Adult, November 7th
  10. Adult, December 12th
  11. Adult, December 31st