Sunday, 21 February 2016

Glaucous Gull Video

Due to the distance I am from the gulls at Shawell it is often easiest to video the gulls through my scope. Below is a short video of the juvenile Glaucous Gull that was at the A5 Lagoons yesterday morning.

Best watched in HD format. You may have to change the quality by clicking on settings.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

New Camera

I have been biding my time waiting for the price of the Cannon 7D mk 2 to come down. Also I was undecided whether or not to change to a compact camera for digiscoping, but in the end I decided to stick with a DSLR as I can use this for both techniques.

I checked the prices and decided, as the mk 2 was now cheaper than I paid for my mk1 in 2010, it was time to purchase.

So what improvements have I experienced? Well the autofocus on birds in flight has improved massively. It grabs the focus instantly and allows me to track the birds in focus much better than the earlier model did. The image quality also appears to have improved. Video quality has also improved, as has the ability to focus using Live View when digiscoping.

This morning I went over to Braunstone Frith to try photographing gulls in flight. Despite the very dull conditions I still managed to get more images in sharp focus than I am used to.

Below are a couple of images from this morning:

Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
After putting the camera through it paces I headed off to Shawell to do the WeBS count. There wasn't that many gulls on the A5 Lagoons, but one of them was the juvenile Glaucous Gull that has been around since January.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull
Another regular also put in appearance. The second-winter Caspian Gull in the photo below has been visiting Shawell since November 2015.

Second-Winter Caspian Gull

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Another Good Day at Shawell

I had a well deserved rest from work today, but there was no time to be idle, as it was off to Shawell for my gull fix. I missed last weekend as I was away working down south.

I started the day at the landfill site and the gulls new the script. The sun was in my eyes looking towards the landfill, so the gulls flew to the quarry and landed with the sun in their eyes rather than mine. I soon came across two Glaucous Gulls resting within a few metres of each other. One was the juvenile I saw a couple of times last month and the other was a new bird. I presume it's a fourth-winter due to the remains of the black tip to the beak being visible.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull

At lunchtime I made my way to the A5 Lagoons and several thousand gulls had beat me to it. As well as the 'white-wingers', I saw a couple of Caspian Gulls and read 27 colour-rings. Many of the colour-ringed gulls today were Black-headed Gulls. It is always pleasing to read the small colour-rings on Black-headed Gulls at a distance of about 150 metres. The two Glaucous Gulls appeared at the lagoons giving me a second opportunity to admire them. A birder arrived just before I had relocated the 'white-wingers', which was very lucky for him. Both of the Glaucous Gulls were probably females as they were quite small.

Fourth-winter Glaucous Gull

First-Winter Caspian Gull
First-Winter Caspian Gull

Friday, 12 February 2016

Iceland Gull at Shawell A5 Lagoons

I was close to Shawell A5 Lagoons this afternoon and it would have been rude not to have a quick look at the gulls. A quick scan revealed nothing of interest other than a colour-ringed LBBG.

I was just about to leave when I spotted a really smart juvenile Iceland Gull on the water. It must only just have arrived, as it wasn't there during my first sweep through the gulls. It had dark eyes and a more or less black bill so it's a juvenile. The primaries were completely white, so L. g. glaucoides rather than L. g. kumlieni. Kumlien's Gull can have white primaries without obvious markings apparently, but in the UK it's an Iceland Gull.

This is the 12th Iceland Gull I've seen at Shawell since I started my long term study back in 2012. I have been lucky enough to have found 10 of them myself.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Protect Salgados Lagoons

Regular followers of my waffle will know that I enjoy trips to The Algarve. One of the best sites for birds is the Salgados Lagoons or Pera Marsh. The large lagoon at the site is an Internationally important staging post for migrating birds. The lagoon has had a chequered history. I have heard stories of it being drained to water the nearby golf course and being disturbed by 4x4 enthusiasts.

Recently efforts have been made to make it better for birds and birders, but now planning has been passed to develop the area. The Algarve does not need more hotels or golf courses, as there is already more availability than customers.

If you care about migrating birds please sign the petition by clicking on the Link below it doesn't cost anything: 

Protect Salgados for the future!

Bluethroats winter around the perimeter of the lake and everywhere you look wildfowl and herons vie for your attention. Scrubland to the west of the lagoons is a magnet to small migrant birds. Sub-alpine Warblers gather there in small numbers during autumn along with flycatchers, shrikes and the increasingly uncommon Turtle Dove.

Where will the Hoopoe feed if this habitat is concreted over?

Video of a Hoopoe at Salgados turning on a six pence:

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

First-Winter Caspian Gulls

So far this year I've done pretty well with Caspian Gulls and especially first-winter birds, which are my favourites.

Last Saturday I returned to Casepak recycle centre by the old British Shoe site in Braunstone, Leicester. I was hoping to get another chance to photograph the juvenile Glaucous Gull, but alas there was no sign of it. I spotted an immature gull with a very white head and underparts flying between the recycle compound and a nearby roof. I reacted quite quickly and managed to get a series of images of it. As I suspected it was a first-winter bird, but could it be identified from the photos? I placed a series of images on Facebook European Gulls group. I asked if it could be a first-winter Caspian Gull. Initially there were comments in agreement and then another group member asked why it wasn't a Yellow-legged Gull. I posted a better image showing the underwing a bit clearer. He quickly changed his opinion to most probably Caspian Gull. Another comment said he was concerned about the lack of streaking on the neck. I managed to find examples of Caspian Gulls with the same sparse amount of neck streaking. The go to Caspian Gull man said he thought it was most likely a Caspian Gull, but thought the tail was poorly marked.

After going through this process and searching through many photos I personally consider it to be a first-winter Caspian Gull. As I've said before there is a staggering amount of variation amongst immature gulls.

There is a considerable amount of overlap between Caspian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls. As a rule first-winter Caspian Gulls have whiter underwings, but there are some Yellow-legged Gulls of the same age with equally pale underwings. The combination of a pale window on the inner primaries with pale spots on the outer webs; pale grey mantle; small white head, the shape of the black tail band of the outer tail and the pale underwings all point to Caspian Gull. In some images the bill looks chunky, but in others it looks longish and parallel edged.  

Presumed First-Winter Caspian Gull
Presumed First-Winter Caspian Gull
Presumed First-Winter Caspian Gull
At Shawell I get a bit more time to study the gulls and the first-winter Caspian Gull in the video below posed nicely allowing me to record some decent video.

So for all you armchair gull watchers here's something for you to enjoy:

Best watched by clicking on the Youtube logo and switching the quality to HD.