Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Shawell Update

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) are still occurring at Shawell although many of them are well on their way to attaining their first-winter plumage. This summer the influx of juveniles has been on a larger scale than in previous years.  Presumably there will be even more Yellow-legged Gulls of all ages visiting Shawell in the years to come.

A mixture of plumage characteristics and jizz make most juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls fairly easy to identify. Some are real monsters, but many don't stand out amongst the juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls on size alone. I saw the first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Shawell on July 4th and my best count so far is eleven at one time.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

The juvenile below has been present for a couple of weeks. It has already moulted its scapulars and as you can see its coverts are very pale. It is a real eye catcher as it really stands out because of the amount of pale feathering and its large size. The short thick bill and large heads of this species are obvious on most juveniles, as are the really large lower scapulars of fresh juveniles (see image above).

First-Calendar Year Yellow-legged Gull Moulting into First-Winter Plumage

On Saturday August 22nd the gulls were quite distant preferring to sit on a large mound in the quarry. Many were hidden from view, but the Caspian Gull in the image below wandered in to view. It is most likely to be a third-summer (4CY), as it appeared to have some remnant black feathering on the alula. Although it is said that this can be present into adulthood.

Caspian Gull, Shawell, 22/08/15

To give you an idea how good my new Swarovski scope is, the Caspian Gull in the picture above was on top of the mound in the photo below. As you can see using a 50mm lens you can hardly even see the gulls. I could even read colour-rings at that range. Sadly this is the typical distance I have to work with at present.

Shawell Quarry
The only other birds of note recently were a pair of Ruff at the A5 Lagoons on 19/08/15.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

201st For SW Leicestershire

After the excitement of adding the 200th species to the South-west Leicestershire list I settled down to do the office work. Whilst looking up some information in 'The Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland' I came across a sighting of a Marsh Warbler at Shawell GP in 1982, which is number 201. It didn't take quite as long as finding the 200th to add another to the list.

I have also updated Redstart and Pied Flycatcher with some historical records.

Monday, 17 August 2015

A First For SW LEICS and the 200th Species

I had recently predicted that the 200th bird for the south-west Leicestershire list would be Cetti's Warbler. Well on Sunday morning I got a call from my wife saying there was a Cetti's Warbler at Brascote Pits. Adey Baker and I were at Croft, but hearing the news we decided to cut short our walk and head to Brascote. As we neared the tree where I had seen a Pied Flycatcher nine days earlier, I saw a small bird near the tree trunk. The sun was in our eyes, but I was sure it was another Pied Fly and I said so to Adey. Luckily it turned sideways on and I got a good view of its blackish wings with lovely distinctive white wing flashes. By the time we had messed about trying, but failing miserably to get a photo of it we had run out of time for a morning visit to Brascote.

After dinner I made my excuses and headed off to Brascote where I met Colin Green. Colin had glimpsed what he thought was the bird but he hadn't heard it singing. I persevered after Colin had left and at 16:00 I saw the bird in one of the small willow trees and it gave a short but powerful burst of song - get in there!

Nick Sharpe had found the bird earlier in the day. Nick arrived just after I had seen it and he told me about the fantastic views he had of it -well done Nick!

Colin returned to the site and got to see it later that evening.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Weekend Report

What a great weekend, unless you're an Australian Cricket fan! I enjoyed Saturday morning sat in my deckchair at Shawell enjoying the cricket and watching the resident pair of Red Kites and the numerous Common Buzzards. I'm not always a fan of the large birds of prey at Shawell, as they scare my gulls. However, the gulls were sitting along way off, so there was nothing else to do apart from enjoy the raptors.

Wing-tagged Adult Red Kite 
Adult Red Kite
Adult Common Buzzard
Juvenile Common Buzzard

The juvenile Common Buzzard above is very inquisitive/hungry and often flies around just above me whilst giving its begging call.

The gulls eventually appeared at the tip when the workmen packed up at 11:30, but frustratingly most of them landed out of view. Amongst them were two adult Caspian Gulls: the one from Wednesday and a new one that was in active primary moult. I was only quick enough to get a picture of the one from earlier in the week.

Adult Caspian Gull (partially hidden)

This morning Adey Baker and I decided that we should do Croft Hill & Quarry after seeing the Pied Flycatcher there on Friday (Adey and his son Ross managed to see the flycatcher, which saves me having to write a description, as they are on the three observer list). No flycatchers but we did get a Wheatear, which are quite rare at the site these days).

Wheatear, Croft Quarry

The large bird of prey theme continued as several Common Buzzards were soaring low over the embankment.

Common Buzzard, Croft Quarry

Friday, 7 August 2015

Pied Flycatcher

Its funny how things turn out, I was due to pick my daughter up from work at 5 o'clock today, but I managed to mis-read the time on my phone. I arrived at 4 o'clock and only realised my mistake when I pulled into the car park

So I had an hour to kill, but I wasn't going to waste it. I turned straight around and headed to Croft Hill. A Blackcap shot out of the hedge and landed close to an adult Spotted Flycatcher that was feeding two fresh juveniles. The adult flew towards some dead branches and another slightly smaller bird followed it. I was pleased to see it was a Pied Flycatcher. 

It continued to show well returning to the same dead branches after each sortie onto the ground in search of insects.

I would never have seen it if I could read the time - lucky!

Pied Flycatcher, Croft Hill, 07/08/2015