Saturday 31 March 2018

More Iceland Gulls at Shawell

I didn't really know what to expect today with it being a Bank Holiday weekend and also the forecast was for another rainy day - we wouldn't like to spoil the run of rain or snow every Saturday this year would we! Luckily the rain held off until lunchtime, but it was still dull and cold.

There were no gulls first thing or any sign of activity at the tip. I tried the A5 Lagoons, but there was just eight Great Black-backed Gull there. I was thinking of where else to go, but decided to try the lane at the back of the tip, as there is a field that looks good for Wheatears. No Wheatears, but there were gulls heading towards the tip. I hastily made the phone call to ask for permission to enter the land where I watch the gulls from. The phone was answered, which meant there might actually be some tipping going on, and permission was granted.

My luck was in as they were accepting lorries and some household waste was expected. The gulls were constantly feeding and there were thousands of the beauties (eye of the beholder).

It didn't take long for the first 'white-winger' to put in an appearance. The first one was the regular pale second-calendar year bird.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

Soon after another arrived - a darker second calendar-year bird. It was feeding on the near edge of the gulls, so I waited for it to fly and photographed it in flight. Though its a dark bird its outer primary pattern matches glaucoides better than kumlieni although the tail band and dark chunky bill appear to be more like what would be expected for a kumlieni. I would have been interesting to have seen it a month or so back. I originally mistook it for another dark individual that has been present for a couple of weeks, but photographs show that one has a white tail and off white primaries, so this is a new bird. Comments welcomed.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18
Juvenile Iceland Gull, Cotesbach landfill 31/03/18

I next spotted a 'white-winger' in flight. I expected it to be one of the two juveniles already seen, but when it landed I could see it had some grey scapular feathers. It was a sturdy looking thing with a squarish white head. A new bird and a second-winter. Unfortunately the gulls went up and I lost it as it dropped below on to the slope where the machine drivers push the waste - I can't see that bit.

About an hour later I spotted another second-winter, but this one was smaller with a tiny round head and a buff wash to its head and underparts.

Second-Winter Iceland Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site 31/03/18

Second-Winter Iceland Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site 31/03/18

Four Iceland Gulls in one day is a record for the site. That makes it ten so far for 2018 and eleven in total for the 2017/2018 'white-winger' season. One could say that its been a good winter for Iceland Gulls.

There were still lots of Herring Gulls around and some of the second calendar-year birds were very fresh looking. This suggests that they were hatched somewhere in the very north - possibly the Arctic. The bird below caught my eye because of just how pale it is.

First-Winter Herring Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site 31/03/18

Four Caspian Gulls were around with a really smart looking classic first-winter amongst them. The one below was also quite smart, but first prize went to the other one. Although it lost marks for being shy in front of the camera.

First-Winter Caspian Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site 31/03/18
The gulls were commuting between the landfill and the sandpits off Gibbet Lane and I saw many in both places.

Friday 30 March 2018

Caspian Gull

I was surprised to see the first-winter Caspian Gull was still at Stoney Cove this morning. It was also there at lunchtime. His nickname is Larry. Why? Well I was asked what it was and I answered 'a Larus cachinnans'. 'A Larry what?' came the reply.

Thursday 29 March 2018

A Caspian Gull at Stoney Cove

Most mornings I have a quick look if there is anything on the water or cliffs at Stoney Cove. During the winter there are always Black-headed and Common Gulls on the water and occasionally a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On Wednesday I noticed a pale looking largish gull on one on the buoys. Checking it out I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a first-winter Caspian Gull. I had no camera and so I just enjoyed watching it. After five minutes it flew off heading roughly north-east.

After work this evening I noticed that the same gull was back on the buoy. It was raining heavily, but I managed to get some digiscoped shots.

This is the first occurrence of this species at the Cove. Hopefully I'll get a chance to photograph it in better weather.

First-Winter Caspian Gull, Stoney Cove 29/03/18

Saturday 24 March 2018

Iceland Gulls at Shawell

It seems bad weather on a Saturday is set in for the year. One of the landfill workers commented that it was the best Saturday of the year because it was only drizzling!

The day started poor with no gulls being present, however, I eventually spotted a huge flock that had taken to flight from the ground above the landfill site that is not viewable from anywhere I can get to.

Amongst the flock was the pale juvenile Iceland Gull that was first seen at the site on March 8th. It landed briefly allowing me to confirm that it was the individual that I thought it was. I saw it a few more times in flight, but it never performed for the camera.

The gulls then went missing, so I had a look at the A5 Lagoons and I was pleased to see four Snipe on the bank and a pair of Great Crested Grebes appeared to be nest building.

I then checked out the sandpit on Gibbet Lane and amongst the resting gulls I spotted the adult Iceland Gull that has been around for a week. I'm not sure if it is the one from last month or another one. Two adults have frequently been roosting at Draycote Water.

Steve Nichols joined me and enjoyed good views of the adult and then left to check the A5 Lagoons. There he located a juvenile Iceland Gull, which departed before I got there. Steve's photograph revealed that it was the juvenile I saw last Saturday. A three Iceland Gull day is a site record.

Adult Iceland Gull, Shawell, March 24th 2018

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Colour-Ring Readings

I have recently read colour-rings on a couple of exciting birds.

The first one was in Portugal at the Portimao Fish Harbour. I mentioned in a previous blog that I had see nine Caspian Terns arrive and settle down on some rough ground with roosting gulls. Well one of them had a yellow cr and the code PFS. It had been ringed as a chick at NÄRPIÖ, POHJANMAA, VAASA (SF88), FINLAND. 62°30′N 21°06′E. 

Map Showing Ringing Location in Finland and My Sighting of it in Portugal

Caspian Tern Photographed in the Dark at Portimao (6400 ISO)

The second sighting was of a colour-ringed Herring Gull that was ringed in Russia at Kandalakshskiy Nature Reserve, Severnoe lesnichestvo, isl. Farvaternaya. I saw it on 09/03/18 at Cotesbach Landfill site. Amazingly this bird KL47 was relocated at Poolsbrook Country Park on 15/03/18 by Richard Lowe.

Map Showing Ringing Location in Russia and Cotesbach landfill site

Russian Ringed Herring Gull KL47

Saturday 17 March 2018

Iceland Gulls at Shawell

It was very cold today at Shawell. I was staring straight into the jaws of a very cold easterly wind. My access to view the landfill site is coming into question at present due to the condition of the walkway to my viewing position. It is really muddy and in many places the mud is very deep. Nevertheless I managed to find a position to stand. Strong winds make gulls mobile and they were not staying on the ground for long today.

My first good bird was a fresh looking juvenile Iceland Gull. After that I located a couple of Caspian Gulls - a first-winter and a second-winter. I also spotted an obvious hybrid Caspian Gull. The gulls then drifted of, but on their return I picked up a splendid adult Iceland Gull. I only managed a few poor images of it, but at one point it came really close. Sadly it never stayed in one position for long.

I gave up just before lunch as the wind chill was starting to bite!

Adult Iceland Gull, Cotesbach Landfill Site

Thursday 15 March 2018

Update of White-Winger Sightings at Shawell.

White-wingers (Iceland and Glaucous Gulls) are the highlight of the winter months for any gull watcher prepared to suffer the cold. Below is an account of all the denizens of the frozen Arctic wastes that have graced Shawell. 

The finder is the first name. I have used my initials (CDB) and everyone else is named in full.

Glaucous Gull

33 have been seen to date. 


1. Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Cotesbach Landfill site on January 4th (Neil Hagley).

2. Juvenile, Cotesbach Landfill site on December 28th (CDB). 


3. Fourth-winter at both Cotesbach Landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on February        16th (CDB, Andy Forryan and Garsham Roberts). 

4. Juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on February 22nd (CDB).

5. Second-winter at both Cotesbach Landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on March 9th (Steve Lister, CDB). 

6. Juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on March 16th (CDB). It spent all afternoon on the lagoons. 

7.Juvenile at Shawell A5 Lagoons on March 27th (CDB).  I consider it to be a different individual to the one on March 16th due to its small size and plumage differences. 

8. Adult at Cotesbach Landfill site on March 28th (CDB).

9. Second-winter or pale juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on December 14th (CDB, Steve Nichols). 


10. Second-winter at Cotesbach landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on January 18th (CDB). 


11. Second-winter at the A5 Lagoons and Cotesbach Landfill site on January 20th (CDB) to 24th (CDB, Steve Nichols, Dave Scott and Andy Forryan). 

12. Third-winter at Cotesbach Landfill site on January 25th (CDB). 


13. Juvenile at Cotesbach Landfill site on January 9th (CDB). 

14. Juvenile on January 16th (CDB) & 21st (CDB) and February 18th (CDB, Steve Nichols).

15. Second-winter, January 21st at the A5 Lagoons (CDB, Steve Nichols). It had an injured leg. 

16. Fourth-winter at both Cotesbach landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on February 18th (CDB). 


17. Juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on January 11th (CDB). 

18. Juvenile at the sand quarry on January 21st (CDB). 

19. Juvenile at the sand quarry on January 27th (CDB) & 28th (CDB) and February 4th (CDB, Steve Nichols, Mike Alibone).

20. Juvenile (dark individual) at the sand quarry on February 11th (CDB, Tim Kociuch, Steve Nichols).

21. Adult at the sand quarry on February 11th (CDB, Tim Kociuch). This one had a colour-ring (orange G1NT) that was fitted by the North Thames Gull Group in March 2015. It has also been seen in Northamptonshire and Cheshire. It or another was again seen on February 17th at the landfill (Steve Nichols) and on February 18th in the sand quarry (CDB). On both the 17th & 18th its colour-ring was not visible, but on the 18th CDB saw the same or a similar mark on the adults neck that is visible in the photo from the 11th. G1NT was last seen by Steve Nichols on March 4th.

22. Adult with some vestiges of winter plumage at the landfill on February 17th (Steve Nichols). 

23. Juvenile at the sand quarry on February 18th (CDB). 

24. Juvenile on the landfill area December 9th (CDB, Steve Nichols). 

25. Adult at the landfill site on December 28th (CDB).


26. Juvenile on January 13th in the sheep field near Shawell village and on the landfill (CDB).

27. Juvenile on January 20th (CDB, Steve Nichols) and 25th (CDB).

28. Juvenile on February 3rd (CDB), 21st & 22nd (Steve Nichols et al)

29. Pale juvenile on April 16th (Steve Nichols, CDB)

30. Juvenile on December 8th (CDB, Steve Nichols)

31. Second-winter on December 13th (CDB), 14th (Steve Nichols), 15th (CDB), 28th (CDB) 29th (CDB, Steve Nichols).

32. Adult on December 29th (CDB, Steve Nichols). 


  • Second-winter (no. 30 first seen 2018) again on January 1st 2019 (CDB, Steve Nichols, Robert Lee), 3rd (Brian Moore) and 5th (CDB, Chris Hubbard, Mike Alibone, Richard Penson).
  • Adult (no. 31 first seen 2018) again January 1st 2019 (CDB).

33. Juvenile on January 3rd (Brian Moore) and 5th (Chris Hubbard, CDB, Mike Alibone).

Iceland Gull

A total of 38 (possibly 37) have been seen to date.


1. Juvenile between February 9th and 19th (Neil Hagley et al). Photo Here

2. Adult on February 23rd (Andy Howes).

3. Second-winter on December 11th and 12th (Neil Hagley and Dave Gray). Photo Here

4. Second-winter (Kumlien's Gull) March 6th to 18th (Neil Hagley et al) Photo Here


5. Second-winter on the A5 Lagoons on February 24th (Dave Gray).


6. Un-aged on the A5 Lagoons on December 27th (Garsham Roberts). Possibly the same as one on January 9th and 28th 2011, but CDB not confident that this bird was aged.


7. Third-winter at the A5 Lagoons between January 9th and 28th (CDB, Neil Hagley et al). 

8. Second-winter at the A5 Lagoons on February 29th (CDB). This one was probably a male and it had a distinctive bill pattern. Not photographed due to camera failure.

9. Second-winter at the A5 Lagoons on March 3rd (CDB, Steve Lister, Garsham Roberts).

10. Adult at the A5 Lagoons on March 10th (Neil Hagley) and 17th (CDB, Steve Lister).  Not photographed.

11. Second-winter at the A5 Lagoons on March 23rd (Dave Gray, CDB).


12. Biscuit coloured Juvenile at the landfill site on February 9th (CDB). Not photographed.

13. Pale juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on March 9th (CDB, Steve Lister), 27th (CDB) and 28th (CDB) plus April 6th (CDB).


14. Second-winter at both the landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on January 18th (CDB, Steve Nichols, Dave Gray).

15. Adult at the A5 lagoons on March 15th (CDB).

16. Third-winter at the A5 Lagoons on December 17th (CDB) and 20th (CDB, Steve Nichols)


17. Juvenile at the A5 Lagoons briefly on March 14th (CDB).


18. Juvenile at the A5 Lagoons on February 12th (CDB). 

19. Faded juvenile at the A5 Lagoons regularly from March 16th (CDB, Steve Nichols et al). Sadly it broke its wing and had to be taken into care and put to sleep on March 30th, as the injury was too severe. 

20. Third-winter at both the landfill site and the A5 Lagoons on April 9th (CDB).


21. Juvenile at the sand quarry on January 21st (CDB, Steve Nichols) and February 7th (CDB) and 11th (CDB, Tim Kociuch, Steve Nichols,).

22. Adult at the sand quarry on February 4th (CDB).

23. Faded juvenile on April 1st, 8th and 15th (Steve Nichols, CDB)

24. Juvenile at the lagoons on the ice on December 12th (CDB) and at the landfill on December 16th (CDB, Steve Nichols).


25. Juvenile at the landfill on January 6th at the landfill site (CDB).

26. Juvenile on January 27th in the sand quarry (CDB, Roger Davis).

27. Adult on February 21st and 22nd (Steve Nichols et al) and it or another on March 17th (CDB), 21st (CDB) and 24th (CDB, Steve Nichols) Two adults have been roosting at Draycote during February and March. 

28. Second-winter in the sandpit on February 21st (Steve Nichols)

29. Second-winter in the sandpit on March 8th (David Scott, Rod Baker).

30. Juvenile at various locations around the area, on March 8th (Dave Scott, Rod Baker)  9th (CDB), 10th (CDB), 24th (CDB)  27th (Steve Nichols) and 31st (CDB).

31. Juvenile (a fresh looking bird not bleached) on March 17th (CDB) and 24th (Steve Nichols).

32Second-winter, quite large headed probably a male, at the landfill on March 31st (CDB). Not photographed.

33. Second-winter at the landfill on March 31st (CDB).

34. Juvenile at the landfill and sandpit on March 31st (CDB, Steve Nichols). Showed some characters of kumlieni.

35. Juvenile April 5th at the sandpit (Steve Lister) and at the A5 Lagoons on April 7th (CDB, Steve Nichols). Also on April 14th, 16th, 21st and 25th (CDB) and May 12th (CDB, Steve Nichols). May 12th is the latest date for an Iceland Gull seen in Leicestershire & Rutland.

36. Juvenile at the sandpit on April 6th (CDB).

37. Second-winter on April 14th (CDB, Steve Nichols).

38. Second-winter on December 31st (Steve Nichols, CDB, Rod Baker and Dave Scott), January 2nd (Steve Lister) and 3rd (Brian Moore).


  • Second-winter (no. 38 seen in 2018) again on January 2nd (Steve Lister), 3rd (Brian Moore) and 5th (Richard Penson, CDB).

To be continued...