Saturday, 12 August 2017

Juvenile Caspian Gull

The large male juvenile Caspian Gull was still at Shawell today and a new smaller presumed juvenile female was there too. On top of that one maybe two first-summer Caspian Gulls and a colour-ringed juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (subject to agreement by ringer). It had a German colour-ring, but that doesn't mean it was ringed in Germany. Colour-ringed Yellow-legged Gulls are rare in the UK, so this was an exciting find.

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell 12/08/17

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull HD430, Shawell, 12/08/17

Friday, 11 August 2017

Shawell Offers Up a Summertime Prize

I was away in Norway last week, which generated lots of office work, so apologies for my silence. I will write a post about Norway shortly, but here's an update of a successful evening at Shawell.

Loads of gulls present and the prey for the visit fell nicely in to my lap. I was hoping for a juvenile Caspian Gull and a great beast of a bird was holding court.

Photography is difficult due to the distance but all the features are there to see on this one. Milky brown upperparts, plain brown coverts with the Nike swoosh on the greater coverts, long legs and small headed etc.

Juvenile Caspian Gull, Shawell, August 10th 2017

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Pied Flycatcher

My highlight this weekend has to be the Pied Flycatcher at Croft Hill. I had been over to Brascote early morning and just before I set off back home I checked my phone and noticed I'd missed a message from Adey Baker. I hadn't realised he was back from his holiday, so I texted him to say I had gone to Brascote. Shortly after he texted back saying he was on Croft Hill and he'd had a brief view of what looked like a Pied Flycatcher. Soon he messaged me again and this time he said he'd got a photo and it was a Pied Flycatcher.

My plans for the morning had altered and I headed to Croft. It took us quite a while to relocate it, but the time was well spent as we also found a family of Spotted Flycatchers.

'Female Type' Pied Flycatcher Croft Hill


Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher, Croft Hill

Croft Hill is one of the best sites to find Pied Flycatchers in Leicestershire. Pied Flickers are scarce migrants in the county. Below are the most recent records from the site:

2004: a male on April 24th (CDB, ABa). 
2008: a male on April 18th (DT), plus two females/immatures during September: one from 8th to 10th (NWH et al) and another on the 27th (ABa, CDB).
2012: a female/immature on September 2nd (ABa).
2015: single females/immatures on August 7th (CDB, ABa, RBa) and August 16th (CDB, ABa).
2016: a single female/immature on August 21st (CDB, ABa, DT).
2017: a single female/immature on July 30th (ABa, CDB)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Weekend Report

Saturday was a good day. It started with me finding a pair of Barn Owls in a barn that I have been checking for about 30 years. I've seen pellets occasionally but it was great to see a couple of owls in there. At Shawell the Red Kite invasion had increased to 17 birds.

Red Kite

As well as the tricky gull in the previous post I saw a couple of Caspian Gulls and many Yellow-legged Gulls. Amongst the Yellow-legged Gulls were five smart juveniles.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull


Can You Spot the Caspian Gull?

On Sunday I was at Brascote Pits in the morning and three juvenile Common Terns were there and when they landed on the shore I checked for colour rings and surprisingly they were all ringed. Each one had a yellow colour ring - U24, U25 and U26. These 3 juvs were rung on the same raft on Meadow lake at Watermead Country Park on 27/6/17.

Juvenile Common Tern
The Shelduck brood were doing well, as were the three young Oystercatchers.


Adult and Young Ostercatcher







Sunday, 23 July 2017

Possible Heughlin's Gull

On Saturday I found a gull at Cotesbach tip that ticked all the boxes in part one of the Altenburg Criteria (identification of first-summer Baltic Gull) but it possibly falls down because of the second part of the criteria. However, if it isn't a Baltic Gull then what is it. Structurally it seems to fit Baltic Gull. However, it seems to be a strong Heughlin's Gull candidate. Or, maybe it is a very interesting gull just outside of our current knowledge range and so should remain un-identified? One regular contributor on Facebook's WP Gull Group said if he had to chose he would go for Heughlin's Gull. I was concerned about the complete set of fresh primaries, but check this out from the core range of Heughlin's in Russia 




Since 2014, during the summer months, I have been searching through the first-summer  Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Shawell looking for fresh looking black primary feathers. I struck lucky in July 2015 when I spotted a very good contender for a first-summer Baltic Gull at the landfill site. It is still residing with the BBRC and it may well be there for a while, as it would be the first or one of the first non-ringed Baltic Gulls accepted for Britain as far as I know.

The other LBBG sub-species moult their primaries in late autumn and there have been no proven records of either L. f. graellsii or L. f.intermedius that have moulted all their primaries, especially the longest ones, during the summer months. Studies using colour rings have failed to find any second calendar-year graellsii or intermedius having moulted all their primaries by July. Whereas L. f. fuscus generally moult their primaries whilst they are on their wintering grounds and so reappear in northern Europe with a set of new primaries in many cases. 

The criteria for separating first-summer L. f. fuscus (Baltic Gull) from the other sub-species during June, July and possibly August is as follows: (1) all retrices (tail feathers), secondaries and at least eight primaries are second generation (2) the upperparts are plain dark brown, mixed with dark grey to blackish-grey adult-like feathers. In some birds, the dark brown scapulars may have acquired paler fringes due to wear, while in others a faint pat- tern on the (greater) coverts may be visible. Birds that show scapulars and/or wing-coverts with ob- vious markings (cf plate 389) or unusually pale grey adult-type feathers (cf plate 390), however, should not be considered. Full paper HERE.

Heughlin's Gull doesn't yet have a full criteria to help identify extralimital examples.




I am awaiting on comments from Western Palearctic Gulls Group on Facebook. I have discussed it Mars Muusse one of the others of 'Field identification criteria for second calendar-year Baltic Gull' and he was impressed by this gull, but felt that the upperparts were a problem. Mars felt it wise to put it on hold until such time that more is understood about heughlini. There is a possibility that it could be a hybrid between Baltic and Lesser Black-backed Gull, but if so would the hybrid moult in line with Baltic Gull/advanced Heughlin's?







Second Generation Tail Feathers (Retrices)

Open Wing Showing Second Generation Secondaries
Another View of The Second Generation Secondaries (note neat unworn white tips and edges to the secondaries)