Monday 30 October 2023

Caspian Gull & Yellow-legged Gull type (or is it?)

Some rather enjoyable Sunday gulling!

Not something I necessarily foresaw myself writing when I first got into birds over 20 years ago, but this year I've easily spent more time scouring gulls than any other group of birds. With the dodgy weather I thought I'd chance a visit to Tower Hide between deliveries, and aimed for low tide. However, with all the floodwater the river was pretty full, hardly any mud, and essentially no gulls; they were on nearby fields instead. As the tide was coming in, the water level gradually dropped (floodwater clearing made a much bigger difference than the incoming tide!) and gulls did start to trickle in.

A gorgeous 1st winter Caspian Gull was amongst the first 30 big gulls to drop in. Quite large, between Herring Gull and GBBG in size, and also ringed. This hung around for a while but was reluctant to flap, which became frustrating as more gulls were coming in which I wanted to check, but I also didn't want to miss getting the Casp in flight. Sure enough there was indeed another interesting gull as soon as the Casp had departed, then the cycle continued where I wanted to check more gulls but not take my eye off of this new bird!

Ringed as a chick in Netherlands on 19th May 2023, ta to Steve for chasing up the ring info

The 2nd bird then. The dark mantle and general heft instantly caught my attention, heavy bill too. My general feeling was 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull, but I've not previously seen YLG ages other than adult (only 2), 1st winter (a few) and juv (somewhere between 20-30), so it would be a new age for me. About 45 mins in watching this bird Steve rang to say he was on an interesting gull, and it turned out to be exactly what I'd already been looking at. He mentioned that the leg colour was odd for 3w YLG (this bird was clearly pink) and we both noted the interesting head streaking, which at times looked quite restricted and other times more extensive. It took some waiting but it performed superbly right in front of Tower Hide so there's a heap of pics to come. I'll just add a couple here for the time being, I'm in the middle of work really (yes, at 01:30 am). The bird to me looks (I mean visually not genetically) sorta halfway between YLG and Azorean, and Steve suggests that it may be a YLG from the Atlantic coast, but not Azorean, but not currently sure. I've sent it to another couple of gullers and there's also a shout for argentatus Herring Gull. More digging needed, and certainly an interesting bird. I've got pics of just about every aspect of it. Eye-ball included.

Friday 29 September 2023

Barred Warbler - what a week on patch!

Monday: HUGE display of Northern Lights visible UK-wide

Tuesday: 2 Glossy Ibis briefly visit BHM 

Thursday: Caspian Gull on the estuary

Friday: Barred Warbler (found by Tim Clark).

I couldn't get to Colyford Common until 17:30 ish, and got frustrating views of its rear end disappearing into the bushes not long after I arrived. 18:05 and I got a superb view of it, quite fortunate though as my position a bit further away from the hedge was the only spot where it was possible to see amongst the branches, and if my bins weren't already pointing at that exact spot, I'd likely have missed it. I quickly said to the others to stand in front of me so they could see it but as is often the case with warblers, it was only in that spot for 5 secs or so, and it then melted away into the bush not to be seen again before I left at 19:00.

Not a bad week. Couple days left too, in which I hope to escape work for a couple of hours...

Caspian Gull

It finally happened. I've checked the gulls countless times recently trying to pick out something decent, and have done okay with a few YLGs, but this afternoon had a much nicer prize in store. A stunning Caspian Gull. I've not seen many, but instantly this bird jumped out at me as 'Casp' despite being mostly hidden in the gull flock. Closer inspection had me a little more conservative as the bill looked dinky at times, but otherwise it felt good to me. I popped a quick message to Steve Waite as he's our most experienced Casp-er here and he wasn't completely convinced it was pure either based on the BOC (back of camera) pics I sent. I couldn't send much as I didn't want to lose the bird, or miss the chance at some pics which might be needed to clinch it later. 

Anyway, it was one, and the rest is history. Really nice looking bird too! 

Thursday 28 September 2023

2 Glossy Ibises - Black Hole Marsh

My evening visits to BHM/Coly Marshes are getting a little more difficult now with the nights rapidly drawing in, but they are still proving fruitful. Tuesday evening yielded 2 Glossy Ibises not long before sunset (although it was already pretty dark as it was cloudy). I'm surprised these pics came out OK, the conditions and settings were pretty hideous with ISO up at 25,600 at times!

Their visit was rather brief; they soon flew off over the river and out of sight, but I was glad that Steve, Ian and Tim C managed to dash down in time to see them (but only just for the latter 2 gents)!

Tuesday 26 September 2023

NORTHERN LIGHTS dancing over the River Axe

I have a heap of bird stuff to catch up with on here, and had a couple of Glossy Ibis put in a brief appearance at Black Hole Marsh tonight too! This post has to be about the Northern Lights though. The huge solar activity in 2023 continues; this is the 5th time I've seen aurora locally this year, and 3 of those displays were extreme.

It was raining when I headed out, and activity had died down significantly but I had to chance it. Bloody good job I did too because at 02:50am on Monday September 25th, this happened...

Sunday 24 September 2023

Great Shearwater

This was stressful. It was stressful at the time because I finished work late on a day when the sea was extremely busy with locally rare birds in parts of Devon. It was stressful again today when a memory card problem has meant that I've lost ALL of the semi-decent pics of this bird, as well as of a stonking adult YLG at point blank from Saturday evening, landed, preening, in flight, the lot. Non-retrievable unless I cough up hundreds of £££, and even then it's only a chance (Sony is very destructive with files, in a way unlike any other camera manufacturer). Absolutely gutted.

2 pics, as fortunately I ran out of space on the first card, and those few images were safe. I had much, much better though, including action shots of it getting harassed by gulls, and of it sat on the sea. I need something rarer ASAP to make me feel better...

Thanks and congrats to Steve for finding the Great Shearwater!

Other recent finds from me which I'll cover in a post when poss:

Sept 10th - Pectoral Sandpiper on BHM

Sept 17th - YLG from Tower Hide, 11+ Ruff on BHM a big increase for that evening

Sept 23rd - YLG (adult, only my 2nd) from Tower Hide

Sept 24th - YLG from Tower Hide

General - we've had 1 to 2 Little Stints and a Curlew Sand around for a while now.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Avocets breed at Black Hole Marsh

Well the news is out! We had a pair of Avocets prospecting an island on BHM in May, and mating regularly. Come the start of June, they were taking it in turns to sit on the nest, one more than the other, so I figured all being well we'd get chicks somewhere between 24th and 27th. Sure enough, the first 2 hatched on 26th, and a 3rd on 27th! An adult did go and sit on the nest again after the 3rd hatched, so perhaps there's another yet to come, time will tell.