Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Glaucous Gull

It was blowing a gale today when I stopped off at Shawell on my way to Northampton. Most of the gulls were hunkered  down in a field very close to the village. I stopped briefly and managed to spot a large adult male Caspian Gull amongst them. I didn't hang around, as it was very windy.

I moved to the lagoons where there was only about a 100 gulls on the water and most were mobile due to the wind. I almost left straight the way, but I decided to see if any gulls were on the bank. The gulls were strung out in a line towards the bank and the last one was a mighty juvenile Caspian Gull.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons
Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis)

Since 2013 I have been studying and photographing Yellow-legged Gulls at Portimao, which is in southern Portugal. The fish harbour there attracts many gulls and they are generally quite confiding and allow close approach.

Amongst the gulls are some tricky individuals that don't quite conform to the rules. The first-winters can be very difficult to separate from Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Some of these are not typical of the nominate Larus michahellis michahellis and a few may well be L.m lusitanius, or be closely related.

For anyone with an interest in these gulls I have put together a gallery of images.

CLICK HERE to access the gallery

Yellow-legged Gull

More From Shawell

Since January 1st I have visited Shawell a few times, as I'm sure you've already guessed. No white-winger yet, but there's loads of time.

The gull numbers are building up well. c6000 Black-headed Gulls and well over 3000 Herring Gulls have painted the site pale grey. Amongst these I've pulled out four Caspian Gulls, two second-winters and two adults. A first-winter gull could well be a Caspian, but it may not be from pure stock, so I haven't made my mind up about it yet.

Amongst the Herring Gulls are some obvious eastern birds. The Finnish ringed one is still around and several adults have nice yellow legs, long wings and a Caspian Gull like primary pattern. I see this type every January and speculate that they come from the Baltic area. Colour ringed Herring Gulls ringed in northern Norway confirm that northern argentatus HGs are visiting us in Leicestershire.

Below is a video I took yesterday afternoon during a brief stop off at the lagoons. I was surprised to see iced up areas. The first gull is a stocky second-winter Caspian Gull, then a first-winter argentatus. This should be from northern lands, as it is still in juvenile plumage. They breed later, so the young gulls are behind in their development compared to those born further south.

The second video shows a first-winter Caspian Gull regurgitating its lunch. its a good job it did. Thank goodness we are trying to cut down the amount of plastic bags we use. I took this video just before the end of 2016.

If not already set to HD then change the setting for best results.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Surf Scoter at Rutland Water

On Tuesday an immature scoter was spotted off the dam at Rutland Water. Its identity was revealed when it wing flapped and showed plain brown wings. Velvet Scoters have a white wing panel, so this bird was a first-winter Surf Scoter - a county first!

I was at work most of this week, so I had to wait until this morning to go for it. I thought I'd made a bad decision setting off early as it was very foggy on route. Luckily the fog wasn't too bad near the dam, although it was still very murky.

The Surf Scoter was still associating with a small flock of Tufted Ducks near to the shore about halfway along the dam.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Shawell Again

Since my last update I have visited Shawell a few more times. One of the highlights for me is welcoming back returning colour-ringed gulls. The Herring Gull pictured below returned to Shawell on December 17th. It was ringed in Finland in 2007 and since 2014 it has wintered at Shawell. Today I saw a Herring Gull that was colour-ringed near Kings Lynn. I have seen that one (1Z1B) ever winter since 2012. I also saw German ringed Caspian Gull (XNDJ) again today - that one has also been returning to Shawell regularly since 2014.

Adult Herring Gull (note the yellow legs), Colour-Ringed in Finland C02CN

The A5 Lagoons are a bit hit and miss these days, due to disturbance from various creatures including a man who walks round the edge of the lagoons fairly regularly. I haven't caught up with him for a chat yet, but I will. As a consequence I have been devoting most of my time to watching the gulls at the sand quarry next to Cotesbach Landfill site. The good thing there is that all the gulls have there legs out of the water. As a result I get to read more colour-rings.

There are at least seven Caspian Gulls around at present: three adults, one 4CY, two 3CY, one 2CY and one 1CY. The 1CY was seen by Martin Elliot, but I can see from his photo that I saw it in both September and October.

The 2CY in the video below showed very well this afternoon. The video doesn't do it full justice as the lovely silver grey of the mantle and the median coverts has lost something. Nevertheless it shows how distinctive the body shape is compared to the nearby Herring Gull.