Tuesday, 28 February 2023

2023 - February Birding - still about the Gulls

Caspian Gull - as well as the fun in identifying individuals, more fun can be had when one wears a colour-ring. The photos below are of 2nd calendar year with yellow colour-ring P:YA9 present on the Thames shore near Rainham Marshes RSPB, London on Saturday 11 February 2023. The origins of a ringed bird can point to its identity in terms of potential hybridisation when mixed species colonies are found.

From local feedback received, and from a look on the internet, all pointed to it being ringed in Poland. With thanks for the help in tracing its origins and also for a quick turnaround from submitting the colour-ring details to receiving its life history. It was ringed in a Caspian Gull Colony (Pullus) at Jeziórko, Grębów, Poland in June 2022. Between ringing and the sighting reported above it was seen in Belgium (Ostend, November 2022), and then in the UK (Cambridgeshire, December 2022 and at Abberton Reservoir, Essex in January 2023).

As well as this Caspian Gull sporting a yellow colour-ring, it was distinctive as the left-hand side of the face appeared to be stained or showing an injury. This can be seen in some of the above photos and also in the video footage taken - please click here.

At low tide the Thames shore can hold many gulls in terms of numbers and variety as they move between the river and the landfill. This visit saw the numbers dominated by Black-headed Gulls leading to several colour-ringed adults being picked out. Locally ringed (Pitsea, Essex) birds with their yellow rings included 2HA2, 2TLB and 2SRT, and life histories reveal over the years they winter on or around this area and further east along the Thames Estuary. White EA2A has origins in the Netherlands. With thanks to all for feeding back on their life histories.

A sleeping adult Mediterranean Gull tried to hide amongst the Black-headed Gulls but its black head, as opposed to the chocolate-brown of the misnamed Black-headed Gulls, gave it away. 

Not all about the gulls, this scalloped marked winter Ruff gave good views probing the muddy shore.

More average photos uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'. Please enjoy.

Sunday, 12 February 2023

2023 - January Birding

The new year opened on a similar theme to the end of the old, Caspian Gulls, but down in London. The superb returning adult Caspian Gull that winters at Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook eventually flew in mid morning on a cold Sunday (15th). It showed well dominating other gulls which comprised mainly of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls. A very smart gull.

The following Saturday a 1st Winter Caspian Gull joined other gulls resting on the Thames shore below the landfill near Rainham Marshes RSPB and allowed brief views.

Nearby Rainham Marshes RSPB held Marsh Harriers, a selection of wintering Ducks and Avocets. A small group of overwintering Black-tailed Godwits (20) along the Thames shore held the colour-ringed bird on the 21st. It was present in the same area back in October 2022. With thanks to all for feedback on its life history - it was ringed in October 2020 on The Swale, Kent and has been seen wintering around The Thames Estuary and noted at The Wash as well as in Iceland.

Later in the month twitched the drake Lesser Scaup at Staines Reservoir near Heathrow Airport. Whilst it was distant in the south-west corner of the South Basin, the light and general conditions were good for viewing and it was quite active for the first hour or so. Then it and its Pochard friends all went to sleep, as if a switch had been thrown. The 'record' photos are not great.

Up to 6 Black-necked Grebes were on show at Staines Reservoir, singles on both the North and South Basin, with a group of 4 on the North Basin that eventually came close to the causeway. A nice variety of ducks including Goldeneye plus 2 or 3 Red Kites in the area added to the mix.

The month ended with a visit to Erith Pier on the Thames (more or less opposite Rainham Marshes) on a Sunday afternoon rising tide, disappointing for large gulls but an adult Mediterranean Gull gaining its summer hood was nice to see.

Also, it has been good to see and report colour-ringed gulls on the Thames shore over the years, and the Black-headed Gull with yellow ring shown below is indicative of a locally ringed bird (Rainham/Pitsea landfills), looking forward to receiving its life history.

More average photos uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'. Please enjoy.

Saturday, 14 January 2023

Xmas birding - a good time to 'cach.' up

Headed back home for the Christmas period via Norfolk where the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler (one day I'll get used to calling it Hume's Warbler) showed well after a patient way as it circuited the pool near to Brancaster's Beach Road. The characteristic green-grey plumage stood out on midwinter's day. Nice to hear it's Wagtail-like call, not too dissimilar to that of Yellow-browed but more disyllabic. A glance on the marshes where a Great White Egret patrolled a ditch, ok so Great Egret is now the naming convention, but Egret or Heron, that's for another day. Along the coast the sky was covered with skeins of Pink-footed Geese, a sign of approaching and driving past Holkham on the way to Warham Greens where Brent Geese were the common goose.

The saltmarsh at Warham Greens near Stiffkey played host, and not for the first time, to a wintering Pallid Harrier. Mid-afternoon and this immature could be found quartering the marsh almost in constant view with a ringtail Hen Harrier, joined on occasion by another and a cream crown Marsh Harrier. Viewing it alongside a Hen Harrier, although at distance, was a cracking experience for comparison of these two ringtails as both the structure and the distinctive markings of this rare visitor to these shores could be seen. The Pallid was slender and the orange underparts glowed despite the overcast conditions. Camera on the wrong settings but managed a brief video of it as it came closer. Peregrine flew over the shoreline, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a couple of Red Kites noted in the area. A couple of Great White Egrets present here as well as Little Egrets dotted about the marsh which hosted wintering ducks and the Brent Geese. No Barn Owl towards dusk but one against the setting sun near Fakenham was nice.

Warham Greens, Norfolk

The South Yorkshire moorlands were either draped in low cloud or fog, battered with wind and rain or on the rare calmest of days the low winter sun made birding difficult. Nevertheless, the magic was still there and spring is just around the corner. Crossbill flew over one site where they had been noticeably absent over the last couple of years.

Winter birding back home used to have the promise of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls dropping into roost at one of the local hot spots or gliding over a tip. The loss of tipping is good in some respects but less so for gull watchers. White-winged Gulls becoming almost mythical, perhaps later into winter now better, and also Caspian Gulls are a fair bet at an inland roost or daytime feeding location. One such location being the factory rooftops and the River Don along Effingham Street near the centre of Sheffield, with nearby weirs for bathing. This site hosted this large Caspian Gull between Christmas and New Year, presumably roosting at Orgreave.

Caspian Gull

The site also attracted a colour ringed Herring Gull on one visit, rung as an adult near York in 2017 (Y:H54) - with thanks to the ringing group for feedback online.

Herring Gull (Y:H54)

Old Moor RSPB, Barnsley looked good, the opening up of 'Green Lane' has promise and hopefully birds on the Mere will not be spooked. Goosander and Goldeneye present with a Marsh Harrier and Buzzard noted late in the year. One late afternoon visit saw a small-ish Caspian Gull join the roost on the Wader Scrape then Mere.

Soon be time for Ring Ouzels and Wheatears on the Moorland edge with potential for a northbound Great Grey Shrike passing through the area, and dreams of a Rough-legged Buzzard doing likewise. But has the latter gone the way of inland 'Glaucs' to near mythical status?

More average photos uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'. Please enjoy.