Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A 19 year old Black-headed Gull and another Casp at Crossness

I didn't get round to posting about what I did on Sunday. Mainly because since then, work has taken over and I'm looking forward to the Christmas break come the end of this week. Anyway, I headed off to Crossness where I met up with John A. We had a decent walk around the place, where there were lots of birds - typically nothing too special to start off, with a Greenshank and Common Sandpiper by the outfall, a couple of Little Egrets and Yellow-legged Gulls, and a handful of Meadow Pipits and a Chiffchaff.

The forecast cold weather never really materialised, so there were no thrushes or wildfowl on the move. However, scanning across the gulls on the foreshore on the way back we came across a 1st-winter Caspian Gull; a relatively sturdy, large bird so presumably a male. However, unlike at the tip, viewing distance was an issue for decent shots. And so, happy enough, I headed the short distance to Southmere.

A couple of weeks ago, on 30th November, I'd been there and found a Black-headed Gull with a white ring AVC. With a bit of research, it was a Danish bird and so I emailed Kjeld Pedersen. The bird was still present the Sunday just gone, and so I emailed him again to let him know it was still on Southmere, Thamesmead. Anyway, it transpires that this bird was ringed as an adult in 1997 - so the latest it can have been born was 1995! Amazing stuff, at least 19 years old and still going strong.
Black-headed Gull 'AVC' - ringed in Copenhagen, Denmark as an adult in March 1997; therefore this bird is at least 19 years old.
Remarkably, despite having its ring read over 75 times during its life, it had never ventured out of Denmark - remaining in the Copenhagen area, where it was first ringed (as a female) on 20th March 1997. Interestingly too, there had hardly been any November/December sightings of this bird so perhaps it has previously moved west early winter (just remaining undetected).

Saturday, 13 December 2014

More Caspian Gulls on the last tip visit for 2014

Very similar conditions to last Saturday. A nice, crisp day with good light and lots of gulls making the most of the tip's offering. With less than a handful of hours sleep post-Christmas party, there was nothing like the fresh smell of rubbish to wake me up this morning. Admittedly I wasn't at my best today, so it was good to be able to fall back on Steve A's sharpness! There were a total of three 1st-winter Caspian Gulls located - two seen a couple of times over the morning, while another was more brief.

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) 13th December 2014 - a relatively typical individual with deep brown based greater-coverts, pale underwing and dark centres to the scapulars.

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) 13th December 2014 - present for most of the morning and similar to the bird above, though larger in size and also greater-coverts paler and more barred.
There was also the reappearance of a distinctive bird from late November - presumably a hybrid Herring x Glaucous Gull, and certainly a bird of northern origin.
presumed hybrid Herring x Glaucous Gull 13th December 2014
A couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, an adult and a 2nd-winter, and an adult Med Gull were also present. Lots of Common Gulls present again, presumably frozen out of their usual foraging areas. I spent a lot of the time sifting through the gulls, looking for rings - 32 in total for today, my second highest total of the season. Mainly local birds, but mixed in were individuals from the Isle of Wight and Aberdeenshire, as well as a couple from Suffolk.
2nd-winter Herring Gull (ringed 5D0B) - initially ringed on the Isle of Wight in September 2013, I then saw this bird in March before its return to the tip today

Monday, 8 December 2014

Mediterranean Gull returns locally

I've been popping into Burgess Park a few times over the last month, in the hope that the annually returning Mediterranean Gull would put in an appearance. I've usually seen it by the end of November, but a couple of years ago it turned up into December. So when the first slice of bread was hurled out, the distinctive 'awk' call made me look up and smile... it was back again. For anyone fussed, it's the small lake just off the Old Kent Road; park on Cobourg Road. I got asked 'are you a fed?' yesterday, so do be prepared for Joe Public and/or wannabe gangsters.
adult Mediterranean Gull at Burgess Park, Camberwell, London 7th December 2014
I first found this bird in November 2008, when it was a 2nd-winter, so by my calculations that makes it 7 years old - born in 2007, presumably somewhere a fair way away from London! My only ringed Med Gull seen locally (in Greenwich a couple of years ago) came from Poland and a previous Inner London wintering Med Gull had been ringed in Germany.

On a less pleasant note, the lake at Burgess Park was rife Egyptian Geese - 24 in total, my peak count for the site by a long way. Heinous monsters that look better on the Nile in the sunshine.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A trio of Casps in crisp conditions

I think that cold, clear winter days are my favourite conditions for birding in southeast England. Often with harsher frosts elsewhere, you tend to get the odd cold weather movement down here. And with a decent frost overnight, while trying to scrape the Land Rover, decent numbers of Lapwings were passing overhead.

Steve and I shared the tip today with the NTGG, who managed a couple of big catches ringing a high total of 567 gulls. The gulls for us though started relatively slowly, with just a couple of Med Gulls of note from our first position. It's remarkable what a slight shift in position can do, and it didn't take long for things to start happening, initially with this showy adult Yellow-legged Gull. This was one of three seen, along with a 2nd-winter and 1st-winter.
adult Yellow-legged Gull 6th December 2014
There were a lot fewer gull rings compared to last weekend, suggesting a turnover of birds with the cold weather. Common Gull numbers were up too, often an indicator species as birds only really flood onto the tip when their normal fields are frosted over. About 5 Med Gulls were seen in total, all adults apart from one 1st-winter bird.

It took time, but it did happen, with three Caspian Gulls seen on the tip today. There was a showy 1st-winter bird that remained faithful to a specific area of crap for an hour or so. Quite aggressive, it was seen to chase off intruders as well seen regularly to long call - I'd put the video I took up here if I knew how!

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) 6th December 2014
A second Caspian Gull - a 2nd-winter - appeared, albeit briefly, and papping it before it headed off revealed that it was green-ringed - presumably a bird from eastern Germany; though unfortunately, it seems like it was just a bit too distant for the ring to be read.
2nd-winter Caspian Gull 6th December 2014. A green-ringed bird, but perhaps just a bit too far for the code to be read with any certainty.
As we came off the tip, there was an area of rubbish where a load of gulls were scrounging while it was being compacted, and in this small group was the third Caspian Gull of the day - another 1st-winter. Slightly larger than the showy individual above.

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) 6th December 2014.
Finally, there was a leucistic Herring Gull present too - a bit of a Glaucous Gull imposter, though it seems as though this bird was in fact different to a juvenile Glaucous Gull reported nearby during the week.
leucistic Herring Gull 6th December 2014. Very difficult to age leucistic birds, as I learnt last year as a pale iris doesn't necessarily mean this bird isn't a first-winter.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A handful of Casps and copious amounts of rings

A nice bright day today, and with that for some reason the tip was really busy (which often it isn't in bright conditions). With a good area to view both the loafing gulls and the tip face, there was a fair amount of action and a lot of movement of birds too. It was a heavy day for both decent species, but also my single best day for rings - 38 rings read from 7 different projects! Here's a summary: -
- 5 Caspian Gulls (two adults and three first-winters)
- 3 Yellow-legged Gulls (an adult, a near-adult and a first-winter - the near adult bird was ringed at Rainham last winter and has been to France and Switzerland in between now and then)
- 3 Mediterranean Gulls (two adults and a first-winter)
- a pale-winged first-winter bird, presumably of northern origin with some Glaucous Gull genes
- 38 gull rings with 27 North Thames Gull Group birds, two Dutch-ringed birds and others from Sussex, Suffolk, Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

No puncture either, which made a change compared to the last three weeks! So all in all, a very enjoyable day that ended with a Kingfisher during a short walk around Russia Dock Woodland, Rotherhithe.
1st-winter Caspian Gull 29th November 2014

adult Caspian Gull 29th November 2014 - note the underside to P10

1st-winter Caspian Gull 29th November 2014 (above two photos) - a dusky bird in comparison to the first photo

Yellow-legged Gull 29th November 2014 - ringed (YY5T) at Rainham Tip, London on 22nd Feb 2014 and then seen at Blaringhem, Nord, France on 27th February 2014 before spending time Ile aux oiseaux de Preverenges, Lausanne, Switzerland from 9th April to 1st May 2014
Dutch-ringed Herring Gull 29th November 2014 - ringed by Kees Camphuysen as a breeding adult on Texel, Netherlands on 25th May 2014. Its nest of 3 eggs this year got predated unfortunately.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Third time unlucky

This is the third week in a row I've visited the tip. And for the third week, the day ended with a flat tyre. Obviously tips are hazardous places with bits of metal and the like sticking out of the ground, but given the last couple of years there have only been a three or so punctures in total, this is real bad luck. And before having to leave prematurely, there were actually lots of gulls but unlike last week, the Caspian Gulls didn't really perform. In fact, there was just one first-winter bird today that disappeared behind one of the compactors and couldn't be relocated. Add to that a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull and half a dozen locally ringed gulls, and that was my lot.
one of several locally ringed Herring Gulls from today - ringed by the North Thames Gull Group

Saturday, 15 November 2014

A handful of Casps to kick off the season

It seems that with all those Desert Wheatears last weekend, the winter has now typically set in. And, to be honest, it couldn't come soon enough. The autumn promised a lot with the weather systems in early October, though actually delivered very little except for my bi-annual Eastern Crowned Warbler dip. Gulls are the winter theme, as here in a people saturated southeast England, there isn't really much else to look at that really interests me. I'm fine with that though, as today exemplified.

first-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) 15th November 2014 - a typical, brute of an individual with a nice clean underwing. Greater-coverts a bit frosty but clearly a fine Casp.
A dreary, relatively mild day on the tip kicked off the season. The ringers were about too, and managed a decent catch of birds. The cannon netting didn't really disrupt the flow of the birds too much today, and with a load of dust carts coming in and out, there was plenty of food for the gulls. And loads of gulls too - more than what we were getting on average last winter. So, with cachinnans withdrawal symptoms, today I was back on it with a total of five Caspian Gulls seen - three first-winters, a third-winter and an adult-type. There were also a similar number of Yellow-legged Gulls knocking about, as well as a Med Gull and a couple of leucistic Herring Gulls. Gull rings were limited to just half a dozen locally ringed birds, but it's actually quite tricky to scan for birds and look at their legs!
1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) 15th November 2014. A cute looking, short-billed and rather short-legged individual with rather advanced bare part colouration and feather wear. I guess it may not have pure Caspian lineage.

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 3) 15th November 2014.

3rd-winter Caspian Gull (bird 4) 15th November 2014

adult Caspian Gull (bird 5) 15th November 2014
Already looking forward to next weekend, and the run up to Christmas. At least it's a good excuse not to be able to go shopping on a Saturday.
2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull 15th November 2014