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 is so would the hybrid moult in line with Baltic Gull?







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)


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Gulls at Last

I have only just started to get good views of the gulls again at Shawell. The tip face had been moved too far away to view and the disturbance from the dog walker has been bad at the lagoons. He is still causing problems, as management haven't caught him yet.

Anyway the last few weeks have been better since the tip area is now closer to the road, but still a little too far away. At least I'm reading some colour-rings again. The bulk of these ringed gulls are intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which may be a surprise as at one time we thought of these dark mantled gulls as winter visitors.

Amongst the horde of LBBG are a few Yellow-legged Gulls including some juveniles and I've had a couple of first-summer Caspian Gulls this week as well - one today and one on Thursday.

First-Summer Caspian Gull

The highlight at present, however, is the gathering of Red Kites. Fifteen were there today including two pristine juveniles.

Juvenile Red Kite

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Red Kites, Gulls and Dragons

At the weekend I did the rounds checking the progress of several breeding birds. The gulls seemed to be doing OK on their new roof at Scudamore Road, Leicester and I am pretty sure that a few pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and one pair of Herring Gulls are nesting at Troon Industrial Estate, Leicester. The young Red Kites I'm keeping an eye on are almost ready to fledge and the young Oystercatchers are growing night and day. Initially the Oystercatchers proved difficult to find, but then all of a sudden one swam out from underneath some vegetation at the side of the lake.

Oystercatcher Chick


At Cotesbach it was great to see that there was still ten Red Kites scavenging for any food they could find on the tip.

Red Kite

There are a couple of new ponds by the landfill site, which didn't take dragonflies long to discover. At least four Emperors were present including this ovipositing female.

Emperor Dragonfly

There were plenty of gulls at the landfill and I managed to read some colour-rings for a change - most were from Norway.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

News From SW Leics

My corner of Leicestershire is often ignored as a birding location. Well things are going quite well this year especially with locally rare breeding birds. At Brascote Pits a pair of Oystercatchers have three chicks and the Shelducks have five well grown ducklings. Neither of these two species breed successfully every year in south-west Leicestershire.

A respectable number of schedule 1 breeding birds have bred in the area this year including the first pair of Red Kites.

I had to travel to deepest darkest Wales to see Red Kites when I was a lad and back then no one expected to one day see one in Leicestershire. Well yesterday I stood enthralled as I watched 14 in the air together in south-west Leicestershire. Eight of them alighted in the same dead tree - how things change!

Red Kite

Whilst I was out yesterday I bumped into Neil Hagley who told me he'd seen some White-letter Hairstreaks at Croft/Huncote. It had been a few years since I last saw White-letter Hairstreaks there, so it was good to know they had survived. Adey Baker and I went to look for them this morning and luck was on our side. Two were nectaring on bramble flowers. The one that I photographed had its head hidden from my position, but at least I got a record shot. From the Huncote end of Croft Quarry you need to park by the metal gates and turn right as you go through the gate. walk uphill and stop just past the double telegraph poles. There is an obvious bramble bush with pinkish flowers and this was where we saw them.

White-letter Hairstreak, Croft Quarry