Monday, 23 November 2015

Bloody Freezing

I was up an about early on Saturday morning due to a insomniac wife crashing and banging about downstairs. Peeling back the curtains to see what the weather was doing I was quite surprised to see that it was snowing. The snow didn't last long but the freezing weather conditions were in for the day.

I started my days adventure at Cotesbach Landfill site, but I was staring into the jaws of a bitter north wind, so I soon retired to the relative shelter of the hedge near to Shawell A5 Lagoons. 

The main highlight was seeing the same small female Caspian Gull that I first saw on November 14th. All of the regular features of a Caspian Gull were on show but in miniature. 

Seeing the pattern of the primary feathers on a Caspian Gull is often quite difficult, which is why good photographs are essential when trying to persuade a records committee that your identification is sound. I was lucky to get a photo of the upperwing of this one which is never easy at Shawell.

As you can see the longest primary on its right wing has a nice white tong on the inner side of the feather and a large white tip. There is still a little black near the tip of P10, but this should disappear as it reaches full adulthood. A few other dark markings on its wing reveal that it isn't quite fully mature.

Sub-adult Female Caspian Gull

Sub-adult Female Caspian Gull

Another highlight this week was the re-sighting of a Herring Gull I first saw in December 2013. It was colour ringed in north-west Norway and as well as visiting Shawell it has also been recorded at Vardo at the very top of Norway. 

Lets hope it warms up a bit for next weekend, but maybe a ''white-winger might just have arrived on the north wind and be heading for Shawell.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Caspian Gull Influx

Judging by the numbers of Caspian Gulls being reported this week there has been a small arrival of these smart looking gulls. Albert Village Lake and Dungeness seem to be the top spots, but I haven't done too badly at Shawell. I have seen six different ones in a week Including the colour-ringed first-winter I saw last Saturday.

Fourth-Winter Caspian Gull, Shawell A5 Lagoons, 14/11/15

The weather has been a bit challenging, but British 'sea-gulling' is not an activity for lightweights. In the video below you'll see the sort of conditions on offer this week - a far cry from the The Algarve in September. I've had it worse so no point moaning on.

As well as the Caspian Gulls it was nice to record another Norwegian colour-ringed Herring Gull. Winter is on its way judging by the number of Herring Gulls arriving and the Great Black-backed Gull count exceeded fifty today.

Below is a video of some of the Caspian Gulls seen. Some were quite distant, so you will need to practice your observation skills.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Caspian Gull Red 10P6

This morning I received a reply from the POLRING website (thank-you) about the colour-ringed first-winter Caspian Gull that was at Shawell on Saturday. They confirmed that the colour-ring reading was correct and that red 10P6 was ringed in a Caspian Gull colony in south-west Poland. It is always comforting to know you are on the right track and there's nothing better than confirming the origins of a bird with a colour-ring. It was ringed on 21/05/15.

First-Winter Caspian Gull Red 10P6

 I would very much like to organise a trip to this area to see the Caspian Gull colony - watch this space eh! This is the second colour-ringed Caspian Gull from this colony that has graced the shores of Shawell A5 Lagoons.

In a straight line its natal island is 799 miles - see below.

The Site of the Caspian Gull Colony Red 10P6 Originates From

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Another Update From Shawell

Apologies for the lack of posts recently,  I have been busy working and trying to catch up with all the paperwork generated by my trip to Portugal.

The highlight at Shawell last month was a female Pintail, which I saw on the October 8th. This is only the second record for my recording area. 

Due to the re-siting of the landfilling area at the Cotesbach LF site, I have struggled to get good views of the gulls. At Shawell A5 Lagoons I have experienced mixed fortunes due to the complete absence of gulls at times. A German colour-ringed Caspian Gull refused to give up the code on its ring despite me seeing it three times. The green German colour rings are not easy to read when the gull is distant.

Most of the Caspian Gulls I've seen recently have most likely been hybrids. The one below was a strange looking beast - Herring Gull body and legs with a Caspian Gull head.

Presumed Caspian Gull x Herring Gull

The next one, an adult, was not quite right. Its primary pattern seemed OK, but not perfect and its jizz was not quite right. 

Presumed Caspian Gull Hybrid

The next one was a giant, which looked OK at times but at other times it looked odd. Of course it may be within normal variation, but I wasn't fully convinced.

First-winter Caspian Gull or Hybrid

Today was a day for ducks, but I braved the rain and set out for Shawell A5 Lagoons. The rain had stopped when I arrived, but only until I had set up my scope. As soon as I started to search through the gulls the rain got worse. As I struggled to set up my umbrella something scared the gulls and most of them flew off. About ten brave Great Black-backed Gulls soon settled back down on the bank between the lagoons and with them was a gull that was not much smaller than its larger cousins. Increasing the magnification on my scope I realised it was a young Caspian Gull. Better still it had a red colour ring, but the ring was almost completely hidden in the grass. The rain had got even heavier so I hunkered down under my umbrella and waited for the gull to move. Eventually it ran towards the shoreline and luckily it paused long enough for me to read 10P6. This is from a Polish ringing scheme and hopefully I will get a reply from them early next week.

First-winter Caspian Gull Red 10P6
First-winter Caspian Gull Red 10P6

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Another Azores Gull

After finding what I considered to be an adult Azores Gull (Larus michahellis atlantis) at the fish harbour in Portimao, Portugal I have been very keen to find another. In 2014 I drew a blank, but during my latest trip to Portimao I scored again.

These are very distinctive gulls, so much so I picked both out with the naked eye. 

Third-winter Azores Gull
Third-winter Azores Gull

The tone of grey is very distinctive on its own, but add the dark hooded effect created by the dense head streaking and you have a very unique looking gull. In addition the short legs and the robust body help to distinguish these gulls from other species. Though I'm not qualified to suggest that Azores Gulls should be treated as a separate species, I do think that from an identification point of view that they have a good claim to be treated as a full species.

The Algarve is a 'melting pot' for Yellow-legged Gulls and a mine field for anyone delving into the subject. Most of the Yellow-legged Gulls around Portimao are of the type we associate with the Mediterranean: large brutes with squarish heads and the typical tone of grey. Amongst them are some that you think hold on a minute that one doesn't look quite right. However, go as far south and west as you can go on the European mainland and things get more difficult. On the harbour wall at Sagres was a whole gang of adult Yellow-legged Gulls that were smaller, less brutish and probably paler than the typical Yellow-legged Gull most of us are familiar with. This for me is an on going challenge.

Below is one of the less typical gulls Yellow-legged Gulls that can be found amongst the ordinary ones. It has a hood that catches the eye, but the grey tone is too pale for an L.m. atlantis

Yellow-legged Gull
Third-winter Azores Gull
Third-winter Azores Gull
Third-winter Azores Gull
Third-winter Azores Gull
For images of the previous Azores Gull click HERE