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: 

Protect Salgados for the future!

Bluethroats winter around the perimeter of the lake and everywhere you look wildfowl and herons via 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.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Caspian Gull with Injured Neck

I happened to be at Shawell again at lunchtime today and just had enough time to have a quick look at the gulls on the A5 Lagoons. The first gull I looked at was a first-winter Herring Gull with an orange colour ring. It was ringed by the North Thames Gull Group -  quite recently I presume. 

Shortly after that I came across an adult Caspian Gull. It had a large bulge in its shoulder area and judging by the way it constantly flexed its neck it must have been quite uncomfortable. This is the nineteenth Caspian Gull that I have seen at Shawell this month, which is easily a record. With a bit of luck tomorrow I should see the twentieth. Over the past few years my annual total has been about 40 at the site, but by the looks of it 2016 is going to be a bumper year. This is perhaps to be expected due to the population increase being recorded in both Germany and Poland.

I guess it won't be much longer until the status of Caspian Gull is the same as Yellow-legged Gull in the UK.

Adult Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons - Not the Bulge in its Shoulder

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Lunchtime at Shawell

There wasn't much action initially at Shawell this lunchtime, but a group of around 100 gulls eventually arrived and amongst them were two maybe three Caspian Gulls.

The first was a small adult female, which could easily have been overlooked. Her Caspian Gull features were quite subtle. Luckily she was having a good wash, which is always followed by a wing flap. I managed to capture the underwing primary pattern that, although a bit blurred, shows the typical primary pattern. The long white tip to the longest primary (P10) is visible.

Female Caspian Gull

Shortly after the adult, I spotted a first-winter. The photo doesn't really do her justice. I would be great to be able to get closer to the gulls.

As the gulls began to climb out onto the bank I spotted a gull, which had some Caspian Gull like features. Its bill was long and parallel edged, its legs were long and its primary pattern looked OK for Caspian Gull, but structurally I wasn't convinced. It head was a bit bulky and its eyes looked quite large although quite dark. It is probably a hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull, but its difficult to be certain, as it could be just an odd Herring Gull.

There are still thousands of gulls in the area, so hopefully some more 'white-wingers' soon.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Back to Normal

After all the ice and Glaucous Gulls on Thursday it was back to normal at Shawell today. That said three Caspian Gulls were good to see - an adult, and two second-winters. The adult I saw on Thursday but the second-winters were both new birds.

Second-Winter Caspian Gull

Second-Winter Caspian Gull (same as above)

Second-Winter Caspian Gull
Below is a video of the second-winter which is worth a watch as it is such a smart looking gull. Remember best watched on Youtube with the quality setting on HD.


As always I was entertained looking for colour rings and amongst yesterday's crop was a first-winter Great Black-backed Gull from Norway. It great that these colour rings help us understand where these birds come from.

Norwegian Ringed Great Black-backed Gull JJ408