Sunday, 20 July 2014

Good gulling in Rotherhithe

There really was no need to go anywhere today. Though I did toy with the idea of going to Cavenham to see the Black-winged Stilt family, I quickly sat back down and reviewed all the times I'd moaned about the raucous nature of the species and how little I actually look at them when they're slap bang in front of me abroad. So why bother driving a couple of hours? So I didn't.

But I did head to Crossness to see Ian M, back from Worcestershire for the day and wanting a quick walk around his ex-patch. Good to see him but the birding was suboptimal - 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, 5 Teal and a Common Sandpiper to be precise.

juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Rotherhithe 20th July 2014
Back in Rotherhithe, having done a load of household chores, I headed out to the river and got Karen to whack out a load of bread while I papped the gang. And, in between showers, a nice juvenile Mediterranean Gull showed up off Greenland Pier; the first of the year here. Added to that, there was also a brute of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull bossing the show - along with the usual juvenile still on Greenland Dock along with 6 Common Terns, including 3 juveniles.

juvenile Yellow-legged Gull off Greenland Pier, Rotherhithe 20th July 2014 - different bird to the regular individual (that is still also present today)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

What's the price of bread?

For some reason today, when I lobbed the bread bait out today, the question 'how much bloody cash must I have spent feeding gulls in my life?' went through my mind. I didn't get involved too much to work this out, but I guess it must have strayed into the low treble figures as the years and my autistic traits mount up.

And today the gulling did pay off in local terms. Rainham was a bit gash with tipping away from the foreshore so the tip face couldn't be seen, but a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls were about. No major haul though. Round to Crossness, having navigated the QEII bridge on the first Saturday of the school holidays, and things were better here - a nice juvenile Med Gull (well, 1st-winter strictly speaking as a couple of grey coverts were coming through) plus 3 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls together on the foreshore. Wader action was limited to 4 Common Sandpipers and a Redshank, and 30 or so Swifts that zipped through were evidently heading south. A ringed Great Black-backed Gull on the mud had come from Denmark, where it had been ringed as a chick in June 2012 with this sighting being the first outside of there.
juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Rotherhithe 19th July 2014
Back in Rotherhithe, there was a cracking juvenile Yellow-legged Gull again by the watersports centre on Greenland Dock that was ripe for papping. Also my earliest ever juvenile Common Gull here in London enjoyed the bread I chucked out into the Thames near my flat early evening.
juvenile Common Gull, Rotherhithe 19th July 2014
And while in Waitrose [edit: I don't normally shop here before anyone calls me 'the richest birder in Britain' again], two reduced loaves of bread were purchased - wholemeal (better for the gulls), 32 pence each. Hope the gulls enjoy their feast tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Showy juvenile Yellow-legged Gull in Rotherhithe

Growing up in the Cheshire countryside I was used to Nuthatches, Treecreepers and breeding Spotted Flycatchers in my garden. Here in Rotherhithe, by my flat, it's Egyptian Geese, Ring-necked Parakeet and chuck in a few ducks and gulls too; that's your lot. And since Monday, a really showy juvenile Yellow-legged Gull has taken a liking to the area and of course I've been feeding it some nice wholemeal bread for supper.
juvenile Yellow-legged Gull Rotherhithe, London 9th July 2014
Although we're reaching the time when the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls will be leaving their nests here in London, they're often still dependent on their parents not to mention they look extremely fresh. Besides the tail pattern differences of course, this is quite a slight bird and once again these photos illustrate how the differences in posture and light change a bird's appearance. Photos are comprised from today and Monday.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Gulls and Godwits at Crossness today

Another day locally, and thankfully there seems to be a bit of change each day at the moment. After doing a bit of work in the morning and waiting for Karen to come back from a lunch/brunch thing with her friends, it wasn't til mid afternoon that we headed out. All tactical admittedly, as I knew it was an incoming tide early evening at Crossness.
adult summer Mediterranean Gull, Crossness 6th July 2014
The outfall delivered a second Med Gull in as many days - this time, a nice adult summer. Copious amounts of Black-headed Gulls were checked, with little else of note unfortunately though the feeding Common Terns (including a couple of juveniles) were pretty smart. Also after just a Redshank last weekend, it seems as though wader passage is starting a bit more now as there were 18 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits on the foreshore today, including this orange flagged bird ringed in the Gulf of Morbihan, northwest France.
Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits - including this French ringed bird on the right. Eighteen of them were present on the Thames foreshore this evening
Added to this, there were a couple of other bits that almost made me heave - the 2 hybrid Ruddy x Common Shelducks from yesterday were still about by the jetty, while a couple of Egyptian Geese had ventured onto the Thames foreshore (the first time I'd seen them here - normally they're confined to Southmere).
A vulgar creature plodding around in the mud.
So that's it, another weekend done. Just a couple more until that long summer holiday starts, and I can't wait for another six long weeks of birding.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

London chicks

We're just about through that really slow period. Hence the lack of updates on here last weekend - didn't exactly think people would be interested in last weekend's action of returning Redshanks, a lone Yellow-legged Gull and a couple of Oystercatchers that flew over Rotherhithe.

Post-breeding dispersal and a few youths during the week has started to speed things up, at least in the gull department. And so today I toured around Rotherhithe - where I found a nicely fledged juvenile Common Tern on Surrey Water; good to see that a pair has again bred in Inner London. Then, the other side of the peninsular I found my first Herring Gull chick locally. Bizarre how the simple things in birding life can please you.
my first ever locally bred Herring Gull chick.
And given that it was a year ago pretty much to the day that this lovely Bonaparte's Gull turned up at the outfall at Crossness, I thought it was worth a check one year later. It wasn't there admittedly, but a juvenile Mediterranean Gull - the first of the year - was quality that I hadn't had for a few weeks. There were also a couple of hideous looking Ruddy Shelduck x Shelduck hybrids that I found in Barking Bay initially, before they flew onto the mud by the outfall. A couple of Yellow-legged Gulls were also present, and it was all nice and enjoyable. Until a heavy rain shower punished me. I'd left my coat in the car...

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer (gull) loving

It's definitely that time of year where if you're not up for a bit of birding boredom, you start looking at flowers and the like. And here in London, it's not exactly full of breeding birds either. I watched a pair of Oystercatchers today and yesterday at Crossness, feeding their single young copious amounts of worms while Shelduck ducklings in their 'nurseries' are always nice enough. So the highlights of a couple of visits to Crossness this weekend - a 3rd-summer Yellow-legged Gull and a Little Egret. Pretty slim pickings.

But, as usual, there is always something to be found amongst London's skanky non-breeding, immature gulls that loaf about places such as Rotherhithe and Crossness at this time of year. Nothing yet in the way of interesting species (but I'm grilling all those Black-headed Gulls at Crossness) but the rings are starting to come in again after a dearth of sightings in April/early May.
Great Black-backed Gull KK2T - photographed in Rotherhithe on 17th June 2012. Looks rather more mature these days...
Along with a handful of locally ringed 1st-summer Herrings Gulls, I saw a 3rd-summer Great Black-backed Gull at Crossness last Sunday. Seems like I've been stalking this bird. LK2T was ringed at Rainham as a 1st-winter on 17th December 2011. I saw it for the first time on the mud off the Hilton Hotel, Rotherhithe on 16th and 17th June 2012, then at Crossness on 7th September 2013... with nobody else having reported it at all. This either shows the lack of observers watching gulls in London (away from places like Rainham and Beddington), or that most people probably have better things to do with their time. Make your own mind up I suppose.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Short-toed Eagle in East Sussex

When I'm abroad and a big bird turns up (a mega, not literally), I'm always relieved when it's a species I've seen before. This was the case a couple of weeks back when Britain's third Short-toed Eagle was found on a Dorset heath. It lingered there for most to see it, while the intervening period saw a case of 'I've seen a Short-toed Eagle', 'no, I've seen a Short-toed Eagle', 'no I've seen a Short-toed Eagle' from East Sussex to Essex to Cambridgeshire. Most of these, inevitably, stink of the proverbial.

Anyway, as it turned out, the bird seen in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex earlier this week had probably remained there all along because early afternoon today, it was still there and news was whacked out...

When news broke, I was not primed to go straight away. Heading in the wrong direction in fact - up the M11 with Karen in the direction of her parents. However, having done what was necessary there, Karen and I were heading back south and around the M25, hitting Ashdown Forest at 5.30pm. This wasn't a place I was too familiar with, and bizarrely the first time I'd ever been to this beautiful part of southern England. Lucking out on pulling into a car park just as a group of birders were zooming off to Long car park, we tagged along, then parked and made our way across the heath to where the bird was perched.
Short-toed Eagle Ashdown Forest, East Sussex 15th June 2014. The same bird as seen previously in Dorset and Hampshire.
A lovely evening twitch to be honest - ended up tracking the bird for an hour or so, watching it rotate its head around almost full circle as it tracked everyone. The bird seemed pretty faithful to the small valley to the west of the Long car park, and as far as heathland habitat goes with a load of reptiles and small birds, I imagine it has once again found a decent place. 
Short-toed Eagle Ashdown Forest, East Sussex 15th June 2014.
Just like last weekend's Spectacled Warbler trip, I'd also seen this species before in Britain - I remember the nervous wait as the first British record of Short-toed Eagle, on Scilly, rose over Great Ganilly before seeing it later on over the boat between St.Mary's and St.Martin's. In certain ways, these 'non-pressure' twitches for species I've seen before are the best. Or perhaps I'm just getting old and hardcore twitching is either a young or a severely autistic man's game!