Sunday 28 June 2015

Curious Birds

It is quite obvious that some of the birds at Cotesbach landfill site actually fly over to check me out. Several times one or other of the resident pair of Red Kites has flown low and slow over me and had a real good look at me. Yesterday morning a juvenile Raven circled just above me, as did a juvenile Common Buzzard. I wear a high vis vest whilst on site, so obviously I stand out, but I have not noticed birds behaving quite like this elsewhere.

Juvenile Raven

Juvenile Common Buzzard (note: no tail band and short wings)

I was also checked out by the drake Shelduck as I neared the pond his family are residing on. This of course is more normal behaviour. The ducklings have matured fast and they were a little easier to approach and take a few photos compared to when they were really small.

Drake Shelduck
Juvenile Shelduck - One of Seven

The Red Kites were hunting almost continually yesterday and I saw at least one everywhere I went around Shawell. Both birds are distinctive due to feather loss/damage.

Red Kite

There were lots of gulls loafing around in the quarry, but they remained mostly distant, so it was good to have other distractions. I visited a small pool close to the A5 Lagoons and I was delighted to find some White-legged Damselflies and also good numbers of Red-eyed Damselflies. The pool is next to a meadow that appears to have been left to its own devices. Quite a few Common Spotted Orchids were visible in the long grass, so maybe there are more interesting flowers to be discovered.

Red-eyed Damselfly

Common Spotted Orchid

Saturday 20 June 2015

Caspian Gull at Cotesbach LF Site in June

There are still lots of gulls around Shawell at present. Today I counted 1440 Lesser Black-backed (rounded to the nearest 10), 50 Herring, four Yellow-legged and one Caspian.

Though most legs were bare of bling, I did spot a few colour-ringed gulls including a German ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was a second-year and I had seen it at Shawell previously during August 2014. I have also seen Dutch and Norwegian ringed LBBGs recently. 

There must be more local breeding gulls to be found judging by the large number of adult gulls feeding on the tip today. If anyone does spot any gulls in Leicestershire hanging around industrial sites please let me know, as I have an offer on the table to colour-ring the young gulls.

I have almost given up trying to survey the gulls breeding on the roof at Sunningdale Business Park, Leicester as the management say they are just too busy to spare me half an hour to view the warehouse roof from the higher office block - bah humbug! I can't ask anyone of a higher position in the company as the refusal came from a 'Partner' Landlord. 

The landfill site and sand quarry at Shawell are strictly private and the gulls are not viewable from any public area. It has taken me three years to gain access and it still isn't easy to get good views. The gulls have many choices of places to go and it is not possible to chase them. I have had training from Lafarge Tarmac in order to enter the quarry, which was very kind of them. Hopefully in the future I will be given permission to get closer to the working part of the tip.

The gull in the photo below first appeared when the rain had soaked my eyepiece, but I saw enough to think it might have been a Caspian. It re-appeared on the tip in slightly drier conditions and it stayed in view long enough to see that it was a Caspian Gull. Its slender proportions were obvious when compared to three bulky third year Yellow-legged Gulls that were close by. 

The photo was made from a video, so it has lost a bit of detail, but you can get the idea. In the photo its bill has lost the black mark near the tip and its shape is not quite right to how it looked in the field. You can see that it is long and slender though.

Second-summer Caspian Gull

It was aggressive towards the other gulls and three times it did the 'albatross pose'.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Herring Gull Chicks on a Rooftop in Leicester

The lovely people up at Sunningdale Business Park have not yet found the time to reply to a letter I sent them. I asked if I could survey the breeding gulls by viewing them from a building that overlooks the roof. Their head of security has also been very busy as well as he hasn't called me despite saying he would. Funnily enough Casepak who run the recycling centre where the gulls feed have also been too busy to reply to my request to view the gulls from a safe vantage point.

I understand that they may not want to give me access for some reason, but at least they could acknowledge my request! There is very little of interest up on the roof apart from the gulls, so I don't think I'll be able to carry out any industrial espionage.

Anyway a small part of the roof can be viewed from Scudamore Road and this morning I saw six Herring Gull chicks and a single Lesser black-backed chick. I know this because I watched them being fed by their parents.

The short video shows three of the Herring Gull chicks.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Breeding Success

I keep an eye on two Peregrine eyries within the boundaries of my south-west Leicestershire listing area. One site has become hard to monitor as the pair there have moved the nesting site to a ledge which is much further from the viewing point, but not so the second pair. I was watching two young on the nest ledge from a safe distance when something caught my eye. It took a second or to to work out where the movement came from but when I did I was surprised to see it was a juvenile Peregrine. It must have set out on its first flight, as it was quite a distance from the eyrie. Luckily I had my camera with me, so I blasted off a few shots and then retreated just in case the parents were watching. The pair have raised three eyases (chicks) this year.

Juvenile Peregrine

Staying with the breeding theme, the seven young Shelducks are still doing well at Cotesbach Landfill site and the Herring Gull chicks in Leicester are piling on weight on a diet of old pizzas and chips.

Monday 8 June 2015

Breeding Gulls in Leicester

Back in July 2013, Dave Gray checked out a site in Leicester where he thought gulls might be breeding and he saw several un-fledged juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull on the roof of a large warehouse. This was the first record of this species breeding in Leicestershire.

However, no further studies have been carried out at the site due to the difficulties of viewing and the tight security.

I decided to visit the site about two week ago and I found a large mixed breeding colony of gulls. I was able to get views of at least three pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls that were incubating eggs and I also saw three pairs of Herring Gulls with a total of eight chicks between them. There will be many more breeding pairs, as I estimate there is a minimum of 200 gulls present although some are immature.

A Breeding Pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus graellsi) in Leicester

This is the first confirmed breeding record for Herring Gulls in Leicestershire and the record of the breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls supports Dave's sighting in July 2013.  

I have managed to get a view of the roof in two places, but much of it is still hidden from me. What makes this site so attractive to gulls is that there is a re-cycling plant over the road, which offers a plentiful supply of food. At the time of writing I have not got permission from either of the companies whose properties the gulls are using, but I am working on it. 

Can You Spot the Herring Gull Chicks?

So far I have managed to photograph two colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Both were ringed in Gloucestershire. The first one D+M was ringed as a chick in a roof top colony in Gloucestershire during July 2010. D+M has been seen at both Cotesbach and Albion landfill sites in Leicestershire by both Steve Lister and myself.

Lesser Black-backed Gull, D+M, Leicester

The second colour-ringed gull JND was ringed in its second-calender year at Gloucester landfill site during May 2010. Again this one has been recorded at both Cotesbach and Albion landfill sites. It has also been recorded wintering in Spain during 2011 and 2012.

Lesser Black-backed Gull, JND, Leicester

Unfortunately the building is set to be demolished soon, so it will be a case of having to search for a new breeding area.