Monday 30 December 2019

Christmas Day for the Gulls

With experience I have learnt that once the dustbin lorries start rolling again after Christmas the gulls come to Shawell for their own Christmas Dinner. Today was not exception and many thousands dined out on our leftovers.

With so many gulls it can be difficult to work through them, but after Saturday's Kumlien's Gull, I was hoping for more 'white-wingers'. The gulls had obviously fed well and were not wanting to fly far. They began to concentrate on a close bank, which enabled me to read quite a lot of colour-rings.

It took a while, but eventually I spotted a pale juvenile Glaucous Gull, which eventually gave really good views. A smart adult Iceland Gull arrived a lttle while after the Glauc and made the day complete.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Shawell, December 30th 2019
Adult Iceland Gull, Shawell, December 30th 2019
These were the 39th Glaucous and 48th Iceland Gull for the site.

I'll see you all at the site soon - Happy New Year!

Saturday 28 December 2019

Third-winter Kumlien's Gull

December had on the whole been a difficult month. Most Saturday's the gull had been shunning the sandpit and so most views were very distant. This was particularly frustrating especially after picking out juvenile Iceland Gull on the last day of November.

Today the gulls, filled with Christmas leftovers, were coming into the sandpit. After a flurry of Caspian Gulls I picked up a 'white-winger'. Obviously an Iceland Gull and a third-winter, but dark primary feather markings revealed it was a Kumlien's type. A Grey wash was very obvious on the outer webs of the primaries with the darkest markings being on the longest primaries. Two sub-terminal bars can clearly be seen on what is most likely P9 and P8. Considering the distance this has translated reasonably well in the photographs. The grey was actually more distinct through my scope.

Friday 22 November 2019

San Sebastián International Gull Meeting

Last week I travelled to San Sebastián to take part in the International Gull Meeting. Peter Rock and I flew from Manchester to Bilbao on Wednesday morning and from there we hired a car and drove to San Sebastián. 

The IGM Team Photo

First of all, however, we spent the day with Asier Aldalur, Gabriel Martin and Viorel Dumitru Gavril. Asier knows how to show a visitor the best side of the Basque Country - see below.

Rubbish Tip Near Bilbao.

It was at this rubbish tip that I got my first good view of the local Yellow-legged Gulls L. m. lusitanius (sometimes called Cantabrian Gull). They look slightly different to the lusitanius of Portugal although they are clearly closely related. The taxonomy of the gulls of the Altantic coast of Iberia is still being worked out.

A collection of Cantabrian Gulls


A couple of Griffon Vultures passed overhead and a Black Kite harassed the gulls.


After the tip, a tour of several harbours added to our experience of the local gulls.


Watching Gulls in Getaria

A Real Treat - Thanks Asier!

After gull watching we were treated to a meal cooked by Asier and a couple of his friends. This was a real treat and something I was expecting.

Asier Cooking a Fantastic Meal

The first day of the IGM was spent listening to some very interesting talks. I gave a presentation on the Identification of the Yellow-legged Gulls of southern Portugal. This contrasted with some very scientific themes, but hopefully the participants enjoyed it.

Juan Arigaza and Peter Rock (left)

The morning of the second day was spent at a nearby fish harbour where a haul of gulls was ringed. This gave an opportunity for the ringers to work together and learn about each others techniques.

Gull Ringing

Luka Juronovic and Merijn Loeve

Peter Rock and I separated from the group at lunchtime and sneaked off to a steak restaurant called Casa Julian. Here we enjoyed steak cooked over an open wood fire.

A days gulling was in store for the last day. The weather was not doing us any favours on this trip, but we made the best of things.

Here's a few more Cantabrian Yellow-legged Gulls:

Saturday 31 August 2019


An early start at Brascote Pits this morning paid off. Luckily I looked closely at a group of Mallards, as hiding amongst them was a Garganey. The upper wing showed a pale grey area and the white bands are broad and so it looks to be an eclipse drake.

It was very wary and flew for no apparent reason, but only as far as the adjacent pit. 

Garganey and Mallard, Brascote Pits 31st August 2019

Garganey and Teal, Brascote Pits 31st August 2019 - photo Adey Baker

Short video

Sightings for South-west Leicestershire 
1976: two at Huncote Sandpits on October 9th (GAD).
2015: pair at Brascote Pits on April 14th (AP et al).
2018: drake at Brascote Pits on April 28th (CDB, ABa, CSG et al).
2019: female at Shawell Sand Quarry from May 15th to 18th (CDB, SN et al.) and an eclipse drake at Brascote Pits on August 31st (CDB, ABa).

Things were quiet at Shawell, but an adult and juvenile Hobby made the effort worthwhile.

Friday 30 August 2019

Shawell A5 Lagoons

Another session after work on Thursday at the A5 Lagoons proved good. I have found a way of getting a little closer to the gulls, and as a result the colour-ring reading is a easier. Plenty of familiar birds from previous years and some new ones for my ever growing spreadsheet were seen. I have now made 4000 colour-ring readings at Shawell. A moulting juvenile Caspian Gull posed well and amongst a flock of gulls that dropped in last thing was a first-winter Mediterranean Gull.

First Calendar-Year Caspian Gull

First Calendar-Year Caspian Gull

First-Winter Mediterranean Gull

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Another Redsart

Nick Sharpe found two Whinchats yesterday at Brascote, which continued the run of good birds in my local area. Adey Baker and I along with Nick looked for them early in the evening, but had no luck. However, David Mitchell stuck with it and saw three Whinchats and a couple of Wheatears after 8.00pm.

Before work this morning I revisited the site and was very pleased to find a male Redstart and two of the three Whinchats.

The photo of the Redstart definitely belongs in the record shot category.

Male Redstart, Brascote Pits, August 27th 2019

Whinchat, Brascote Pits, August 27th 2019

Sunday 25 August 2019


After yesterday's Pied Flycatcher it was great to see two Redstarts at Croft Quarry. It had been seven years since the last one at Croft Hill. Foolishly I had made the rookie error of forgetting to change my camera battery before leaving home, but luckily Adey Baker was on hand to record the event.

Male Redstart, Croft Quarry, August 25th 2019. Photo by Adey Baker

Female type Redstart, Croft Quarry, August 25th 2019. Photo by Adey Baker.

Below are the sightings for south-west Leicestershire.

1.            Redstart: a scarce passage migrant to the area with spring records being the least common. Records were more frequent historically. Breeding was recorded at Croft in 1945 and 1946 and at Hinckley in the latter year. Further breeding records came from Market Bosworth in 1951 and 1953 plus Stoke Golding in 1952. Breeding was also recorded at Market Bosworth in 1972. (Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland).

Modern Records:
1999: juvenile at Croft Quarry on August 26th (CDB), Huncote on August 27th (TK, GAD) and Croft Hill on September 22nd (CDB).
2000: single females at Frolesworth on July 30th and August 7th and 8th (GER) and a male at Croft Hill on August 19th (CDB).
2002: a female at Frolesworth Manor Lake on April 28th (GER), a male at Croft Hill between September 1st and 4th (CDB) and a female/juvenile at Fosse Meadows on September 19th (GER).
2003: single females at Hill Farm, Frolesworth between August 27th and 29th (GER) and October 2nd (GER).
2004: a male at Hill Farm, Frolesworth on April 19th (GER).
2006: a female at Fosse Meadows from April 23rd to the 25th (DMi).
2008: three 1st-winters at Croft Hill on August 24th and 25th (ABa, CDB et al.); also single 1st-winters at the same site from August 30th until September 2nd (CDB, DLT) and September 9th and 10th (BM, AP, DG, CDB).
2009: a female at Stoney Cove on April 28th (CDB) and two 1st-winters at Croft Hill between September 6th and 9th (ABa, RED et al).
2011: a male at Burbage Outwoods on April 8th (ABa) and single females at Frolesworth Manor Lake on September 3rd (GER) and Frolesworth Rectory on September 11th (GER).
2012: a male at Hill Farm, Frolesworth between April 13th and 15th (GER), a female at Brascote Pits on April 15th (CSG) and a female/juvenile at Croft Hill on September 29th (CDB).
2013: a singing male near Shawell on May 11th (CDB).
2016: a female at The Outwoods, Burbage on April 21st (RP).

2019: a moulting male and a female/1st-winter at Croft Quarry on August 25th (CDB, ABa).

Update from Shawell

During the last 10 days I've being having a colour-ring reading extravaganza at Shawell. I've made about 80 readings and for once I'm seeing the birds close. Norwegian Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) made up a significant percentage of the colour-ringed gulls recorded; including the first juvenile. Caspian (Larus cachinnans) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) are giving themselves up a little easier at present, as they are already carrying out there post-juvenile moult, whereas most Herring (Larus argentatus) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls still in juvenile plumage. Some of the latter two, however, are moulting a few scapulars, so care has to be taken.

Large, Presumed Male, Post Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Small, Presumed Female, Post Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Juvenile Caspian Gull (German Ringed X18J) Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd - Slow Moulting Bird
Second-Summer Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 24th 2019

Post Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 17th 2019
Presumed Herring Gull Already Moulting Some Scapulars, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 17th 2019 

The gull below gets me going every time, as I think I have a Yellow-legged Gull with a colour-ring. However, A+G is a hybrid (parents LBBG and LBBG x HG). Ringed in Gloucester as a chick in 2014.

Hybrid, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Juvenile Herring Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Pale Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 20th 2019
Dutch Ringed (KBDK) Lessser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019
Norwegian Ringed (J760L) Lesser Black-backed Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, August 22nd 2019