Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Med Gull madness close to home

Living in Rotherhithe does have some perks. Dockside views, less than a minute's walk to the River Thames and a bunch of nice restaurants. And midsummer Mediterranean Gulls...

This year has been really good for the species so far, and after an adult here in Rotherhithe on 6th July, I found the first juvenile here on Sunday evening (15th July) on a post-World Cup Final scan: -
juvenile Mediterranean Gull (bird 1), Rotherhithe, London 15th July 2018
As usual, this bird was on the River Thames by Greenland Pier and loved the loaves that I dished out for it. And given the extended summer we're having, where I've almost forgotten what rain looks and feels like, the light each evening is pretty lovely when looking north. And it was again the case yesterday after work, where I recorded two juveniles for the first time ever here - Sunday's bird and a new bird (bird 2): -
juvenile Mediterranean Gull (bird 2), Rotherhithe, London 16th July 2018
juvenile Mediterranean Gull (bird 1), Rotherhithe, London 16th July 2018
And then to today, having had a hideously busy and sweaty day at work, whacking a couple of loaves out mid evening was just the tonic. Just like yesterday, there were two juvenile Med Gulls, one new (with a metal ring - that was unreadable) and one from the previous day.
juvenile Mediterranean Gull (bird 3), Rotherhithe, London 17th July 2018

juvenile Mediterranean Gull (bird 2), Rotherhithe, London 17th July 2018
So that's three days and three juvenile Mediterranean Gulls. All in the shadows of Canary Wharf and one of the most urban landscapes the UK has to offer...

Friday, 6 July 2018

The gulls are back in London town

I was a bit annoyed about not being around last Sunday to again do the gulls locally. The less said about a visit the Clevedon the better, but let's just say I wasted a day sitting about and walking around a pretty dire town centre to no avail. And for something I'd had to convince myself to go for anyway.

But a few late weeknights with work nonsense have meant I've been unable to check the local gulls as much as I would have liked. Even so, midweek it was noticeable there were a lot more Black-headed Gulls about (they're largely absent from Rotherhithe for the first three weeks of June each year). And then this evening, on the river near by home, I had this lovely adult Mediterranean Gull - the first one I've had in Rotherhithe this year.
adult Mediterranean Gull Rotherhithe, London 6th July 2018
The plan was that I'd find my first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year, as Jamie and Dante had been to Thames Barrier Park this afternoon and seen four, but it wasn't to be. Though I'm hopeful that'll change over the course of the next few days.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The last day of June mission

I had a pleasant day today around the usual sites in southeast London and saw a couple of nice birds - an adult Kittiwake and the continuing Bonaparte's Gull. But I was on a mission, as today was the 30th June. In both 2017 and 2015, I'd found London's first juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls of the year on 1st July and so I was craving a June record. And with the hot weather, I thought there could be a good chance today...

But ultimately, this was a mission that I'd failed - for this year at least. Another June in London goes by without a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull! A pretty insignificant mission to all but three people, but a mission one of us will succeed in sooner or later.

Anyway, it was a good day nonetheless. Having picked up Karen after her overnight flight back from the US, I headed out to the O2 at Greenwich for a couple of hours while she got a couple of hours of sleep. The low tide gathering of gulls had three ringed Great Black-backed Gulls, with two ringed as chicks in Norway in 2017 and another a Pitsea ringed bird. Also there seems to be good numbers of juvenile Black-headed Gulls already getting into London, so perhaps a decent year has been had. But the real surprise for me here was while scanning the river, I noticed a smallish gull flying west at relative height - the dark grey mantle and black-tipped wings told me it was an adult Kittiwake! Beautiful blue skies and an urban backdrop made the experience all very bizarre, and within a couple of minutes it was all over as the Kittiwake headed off west, spiralling and gaining height over Canary Wharf: -
adult Kittiwake Greenwich, London 30th June 2018
After a spot of lunch, I headed out again and coincided a visit at Crossness with high tide. Barry W was about, so the Bonaparte's Gull was quickly located again as it fed actively around the outfall in the early evening sunshine: -
1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull Crossness, London 30th June 2018
It was good to see this bird again after not being able to get down during the week, and with there now being in excess of 500 Black-headed Gulls at the outfall, there is a degree of concentration needed to stay on it for long once you've located it! Not a lot else around though, with bread hurled out in Thamesmead, Woolwich and Greenwich not producing much at all. 

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Bonaparte's Gull Crossness today

Imaginatively titled as it is, it does what is says on the tin. I'd been at the Year 11 Prom last night until 1am dealing with the usual shenanigans, so it wasn't until 10am that I surfaced this morning. I was out the flat within the hour, and headed on the usual southeast London birding (gulling) circuit that I seem to do every weekend day. Thamesmead was the first stop, and the gulls weren't feeling the bread I lobbed out off Princess Alice Way.

So on to Crossness where the tide was on its way out slightly. Still pretty high, and as I walked east towards the outfall it was obvious there were lots of Black-headed Gulls about, considerably more so than last Sunday. There'd been a couple of Med Gulls the last couple of visits, and every visit is seeing an increase in the numbers of juvenile Black-headed Gulls - which are underrated lookers. So it was just one of those days, where I started scanning for something different as I always do. After c.5 minutes, on the water at mid distance, was a gull that took my interest... that immediately screamed only one thing, a 1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull. This time, the dark nape was one of the first things that grabbed me (as well as the small size) before I looked at its thin, black bill.

Always worth getting closer looks, I chucked a couple of slices out and the commotion was enough for it to come in - showing its lovely underwing as it did so. And yes, there is was - another Bonaparte's Gull found! The third one I've found here, and the fifth I've seen at Crossness since finding the first for London as recently as 2012. A mega track record for this site, especially considering we're talking about a North American species in the southeast of England. And bizarrely too, the second Bonaparte's Gull I've found in 2018 after the one at Killybegs in February. It'd be nice to find something different next!

1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull Crossness, London 23rd June 2018
It's always a good day when you see or find something locally here in London's bird abyss, so after an hour or so - having watched it from 12.15pm to 1.10pm - I left for home and an enjoyable brunch with Karen. There was a Little Egret about too, and the first Redshank I'd seen on the Thames for a month or so, so assume the first autumn returner.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Rose-coloured Starling Dungeness

It has been a long while since I saw an adult Rose-coloured Starling. I can't remember the last one I saw but it is over a decade ago. Not that there haven't been ones to see, it just seems that I've got more lackadaisical about things with age. That said, I remember being over the moon with the first one I ever saw, an adult, at Moelfre, Anglesey during the summer of 1994. Then again, I was only 13 at the time so youthful enthusiasm back then was a given.

So roll forward to the last few days, and it seems like we're in for a bit of an influx. There have already been about a dozen turn up in the last week, and reports of good numbers on the continent suggest they're only just arriving here. But given that the London birding was a little predictable, and I'd faffed about on whether to spend a few days up north, an adult at Dungeness was going to be a pleasant diversion from moping around locally.

Jamie P and I met at Crayford, and despite good numbers of gulls, there wasn't much in them today in a brief look. Getting down to Dungeness mid afternoon was easy, with there being delightfully little Bank Holiday traffic. However, seeing the bird in the trapping area was not easy at all - and it took us a couple of hours. We'd just started walking back towards the observatory when I got a message from Andy A saying that it had reappeared. And what a stunner it turned out to be: -
adult Rose-coloured Starling Dungeness, Kent 28th May 2018
Initially sat up on the tops of the bushes, we spent nearly an hour with the bird as it spent a lot of time devouring caterpillars in deep cover. A cracking looking thing, with its mantle glowing in the evening sun.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Late May in London

London birding continues to be hard work, which is par for the course at this time of year. Yesterday was horrific, with a handful of Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows at Crossness the highlight. That was how bad it was, and there didn't seem to be much going on at the outfall so I couldn't even spend time searching through the Black-headed Gulls. At least an afternoon and evening in Essex, at Karen's parents and a wedding, gave some purpose to the day.

And to today, having battled back into London through the intense thunder and lightning flashes, I was awaiting my big reward at Crossness this morning. Predictably, it never came, but I was happy-ish with a distant Sanderling in Barking Bay while an adult summer Mediterranean Gull flew upriver - which I think is the first one I've had here this year. With loads of gulls to search through, I took my time but the reward never came. And so I headed to Crayford, via Thamesmead (where a Buzzard flew high east). I always enjoy the gulls here, whatever the time of year, and today there were loads about. A good flock loafed on the Jolly Farmers waste ground, and among them was this rather large and manky 1st-summer Caspian Gull: -
1st-summer Caspian Gull Crayford, London 27th May 2018
It kept to the back of the flock, and at times had a snooze, but it took off when I was evidently distracted by the ringed gulls, of which there was a Suffolk ringed Herring and a handful of North Thames Gull Group birds. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Expensive misbehaviour

Rule of life - work hard and treat others how you would expect to be treated. Evidently that hadn't been the case one October weekend back in 1994. I'd been grounded for something, who knows what for, but I remember distinctly calling the infamous 0891 700249. For those youths who weren't around in those days, this was the Birdline North West hotline and you were fed the news by the voice of mainly Ted Abraham, and occasionally Alan Davies or John Gregory. All heroes to a 13 year old kid. Anyway, that Saturday evening despite knowing I wasn't going anywhere the next day, I phoned Birdline North West 'just to see what was about'. Well, to cut a long story short, it was carnage - two mega birds had been found that day, a Song Sparrow at Seaforth that was 20 miles from home and the first ever twitchable mainland bird (and the first since 1989 anywhere) and a Greater Yellowlegs on the River Eden in Cumbria (the first fully twitchable one since Minsmere in 1985). Bad times for a naughty boy and despite trying, my generally legendary parents did not budge. I must have done something very poor.

And I was punished with 'Song Sparrow Sunday' as it was known at the time. Scillies emptied out, there were big crowds watching from the mound at Seaforth the next morning and the bird performed admirably for the day. As did the Greater Yellowlegs. By the next weekend, I'd evidently managed to get back into my parents' good books but the Song Sparrow was long gone. My Dad took me up to see the Greater Yellowlegs in Cumbria that showed nicely as it fed in a small channel at Rockcliffe. But 24 years later there hadn't been another Song Sparrow! And before the Seaforth one, they'd largely been a Fair Isle speciality - so being honest, I expected to have to pay top dollar to avenge my misbehaviour of 1994. And sure, that was of course the case with the latest one, turning up predictably on that isolated isle...
Song Sparrow Fair Isle, Shetland May 2018
Fair Isle's 2018 Song Sparrow was trapped and ringed in the plantation originally, and then performed nicely through the comfort of the observatory's window as it came to seed in the garden there. Very nice indeed, and a stark contrast in environment to the mean streets of southeast London. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Terek Sandpiper at Rye

A Terek Sandpiper was found mid-morning yesterday (Saturday) at the very pleasant Rye Harbour NR. For some reason, I really fancied it - not often that I have a desire to see birds I've seen a lot of before. But who would turn their nose up at another Terek? I actually had to look into the archives of my notes to find out how many of them I had seen in Britain previously - the answer being a paltry three (Bowling Green Marsh, Devon in June 1996, Frodsham, Cheshire in April 1999 and then one at Cliffe, Kent in May 2005). So of course I fancied another...

Having had the car serviced in the morning, and then waited for Karen to enjoy her Royal Wedding watching, we headed off from London in a very civilised fashion at 2.30pm and arrived at Rye within a couple of hours. Getting to Rye is one of the most pleasant drives you can do from London to the south coast, and with the sun shining all was good. Then after a 15 minute walk, the Terek Sandpiper was performing really well on the Salt Pool (just north of the Ternery Pool) as it fed along the west end of the lagoon.
Terek Sandpiper Rye Harbour, East Sussex 19th May 2018
Although Terek Sandpipers are a fairly common fixture further east, they're a bit of a unique species that I never tire of seeing. And this was easily the most showy one I'd seen in Britain. The reserve was full of activity too, with the sight and sound of Mediterranean Gulls pretty much constant while Sandwich Terns flew over all the time, and there was even a decent Curlew Sandpiper on the walk to and back from the Terek. And by the time we had finished at Rye, there was one last thing to do... find a nice country pub to punctuate the journey home.
Terek Sandpiper Rye Harbour, East Sussex 19th May 2018

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Caspian Gull at Thamesmead

It has been a couple of weeks since I did a post - last weekend was too hot and sunny for much to be about in all honesty. So I made the most of a very pleasant time with Mum and Dad, seeing some bits like Garden Warbler and Surrey heathland stuff in the process. And then on the Bank Holiday Monday, a trip to Dungeness revealed about four Little Gulls on the RSPB reserve, along with a couple of Great White Egrets on Dengemarsh, and a few Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits moving along the coast. We also managed to get the young lad his first ever Turtle Dove on Romney Marsh, as it purred in the blistering heat.

And so to today, waking up to the promise of grey skies and rain - just what you need for birding in London! And with rain forecast from midday, that when I headed out. First stop, aside from the local Rotherhithe spots, was Thamesmead and the river off Princess Alice Way. Typically on arrival, there were no gulls present and just a load of scrotes playing their drill music. However, things changed within a couple of minutes and half a loaf: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull Thamesmead, London 12th May 2018
This is the first Caspian Gull I've had at Thamesmead for ages, as the winter we have had really hasn't been great for them by recent high standards. It was quite a nice one too, and though probably coming from a western population given its propensity to linger around, I wouldn't be labelling this bird with the increasingly used 'German muck' label.

Crossness in the rain was full of promise, but delivered two Wheatears in the paddocks and four Dunlin at the outfall. Swift numbers were well up though compared to last weekend, presumably due to the inclement weather. Nearby at Crayford, there were loads of gulls but nothing too special with the highlight being a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull on the roofs by the recycling centre.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Arctic springtime in London

I'm writing this having just thawed out from a day out and about in London. The biting wind and overcast conditions were a far cry from last weekend's summer weather. However, London usually has more promise with laden skies and rain with this weekend being a fairly satisfying one locally...

I had a good stroll round Crossness yesterday with John A, where there were some moderate highlights with a male Wheatear, a 1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull, 7 Swifts and 2 Swallows topping the bill. Waders were surprisingly absent, with single Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpipers as well as 3 Redshank. A check of Russia Dock Woodland didn't produce the previous day's Spotted Flycatcher that Richard PJ had seen but Blackcaps were belting it out from every patch of cover.
Wheatear Crossness, London 28th April 2018
And then on to today, with a day around London with Dante and Jamie P as it had been a while. The wind was bitter and you could tell the northerly element, which seemed to get worse as the day progressed. Yet starting off at Southmere, Thamesmead early on it was obvious that the hirundines had been having a rough time - about 80 Swallows, 25 House Martins and 5 Sand Martins in all - with many sitting on the railings by the car park (that is now bollarded off to stop pikeys settling again). This was the largest amount of hirundines I'd seen here since May 2014, the day I found a Red-rumped Swallow here but alas it wasn't to be today.
Swallow Southmere, Thamesmead, London 29th April 2018
Nearby at Crossness, it was quiet and dull although a Hobby was a decent enough site as well as having a good opportunity to see what was around wader wise on the paddocks. So with the weather feeling like it was mid-February, it was back to what we know best and a check of Crayford and the area around Viridor and Jolly Farmers.

I'd actually thought that it would be a quick check and move on, as I'd not heard of anything at the site recently. But how wrong could I have been. I could talk you through things as they happened, but I think the totals speak the loudest - this was an excellent gulling session, and I can't remember ever seeing three white-winged gulls together at a London site, let alone in April. A juvenile Glaucous Gull, two Iceland Gulls (a new 2nd-winter (seen at Rainham Marshes previously) and a juvenile that has been around for a while) and at least two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls.
juvenile Glaucous Gull Crayford, London 29th April 2018
The highlight for me, undoubtedly, was the juvenile Glaucous Gull as it was my first here at Crayford. I picked it up initially in flight, but it was a really small bird or at least that's the sense we got when we first saw it in the morning. The 2nd-winter Iceland Gull (seen previously at Rainham by Jonathan W and Shaun H) was a great bird too, with a nice amount of moulted grey on its mantle. While there were at least two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls, with one a bit better than the other piece of presumed German muck.
juvenile Iceland Gull Crayford, London 29th April 2018
2nd-winter Iceland Gull Crayford, London 29th April 2018
We did break our productive gull session up with a couple of hours at Nazeing GP in the Lea Valley. No sign of the Red-rumped Swallow there, but it was fun enough scanning through the large hirundines at least when we were out of the wind. So that was it for another weekend, and onto the working week once again.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Back birding in springtime Britain

I landed back in London last Sunday, and predictably the last week has been manic. Catching up on the things I should have done over the Easter break, trying to fend off any lingering tiredness while fending off the oppressive London heat in what has been the hottest April temperatures here for over half a century. And add to that, I spent until 3pm yesterday (yes, Saturday) in a work thing too so it was jolly nice to be out and about when it finally happened...

Aside from a couple of hours yesterday evening around Rotherhithe, where Russia Dock Woodland was alive with the sound of Blackcaps but little else, today was my first opportunity to do some springtime birding. It started with an epic fail, because I slept in past the time I could escape my area due to London marathon road closures. So when the roads did finally open mid afternoon, I headed off to Crossness to see what I could see.

It was a pleasure to be out and about in the sunshine, and it was the first time I'd birded Britain under blue skies for what has felt like an eternity. Admittedly, things started off quiet with little in Barking Bay or on the Thames foreshore by the golf centre. However, a roosting godwit near the outfall looked very bright and small, so persevering with it when it finally put its head up was worth it - as it was a lovely summer Bar-tailed Godwit. There were also a dozen lingering Black-tailed Godwits the other side of the outfall, plus a decent number of Common Terns.
Black-tailed Godwit at Crossness, London 22nd April 2018
The paddocks, though, provided the undoubted highlight of the visit - a stunning male Whinchat, that showed well but briefly in the first paddock down from the Thames path: -
male Whinchat at Crossness, London 22nd April 2018
There was also a female Wheatear in the main paddock area, which showed nicely for me and Mick S (who'd seen three in this area the day before): -
Wheatear at Crossness, London 22nd April 2018
And with Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers and a single Lesser Whitethroat singing all in all a very rewarding visit. Cue the deterioration in weather for next week...

Saturday, 21 April 2018

NZ day 1 - Tawharanui and Muriwai

Three weeks ago now, we stepped foot on New Zealand soil for the first time. After arriving early on in the morning, we had a bit of a tortuous time getting our car from Hertz due to understaffing on Easter Sunday, but thereafter it was plain sailing. Target for the day was to stay awake til the evening, so with this in mind what could be better than some fresh air and (reported to Karen as a little) birding. Tawharanui and Muriwai, both north of Auckland, were the places we would visit. First stop though was Warkworth, where we had breakfast in the autumn sunshine and where I saw my first Red-billed Gulls by the river there: -
adult Red-billed Gull Warkworth, North Island 1st April 2018
After this pit stop, it was on to the beautiful Tawharanui Regional Park: -
Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
One of the things you have to quickly get used to in New Zealand is the situation with their endemic birdlife - it is grave, and was graver. Therefore they closely monitor a lot of species, and hence they have an elaborate amount of rings on them. Additionally, and more disconcerting from a moral listing perspective, their most rare birds have been 'translocated' to safe areas i.e. predator free zones. And to be predator free, it often means a fence somewhere... almost Jurassic Park style! But once you get this, you're good to go and enjoy New Zealand's birds which is exactly what I did.
Variable Oystercatcher Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Entering Tawharanui, there was lots of obvious birdlife with Pukekos (Australasian Swamphens) the most prevalent, while Swamp Harriers patrolled the skies. On the lagoon, I saw my first of many New Zealand Paradise Shelducks as well as a handful of Brown Teals, which were the only ones I saw all trip. Add to that a nice showy Variable Oystercatcher and a couple of Caspian Terns, and with the sun beaming down, life was half decent.
drake Brown Teal Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018

New Zealand Paradise Shelduck Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Pukeko (Australasian Swamphen) Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
We then parked up by the beach, and thanks to John B, I walked a short way up the Ecology Trail to be confronted with three absolute beasts from a time gone by - Takahes! Following their rediscovery in the Fiordlands of South Island in 1948, and massive issues with predation, the population has been translocated all over New Zealand to areas that are either islands or are predator free. Even in the original rediscovery area of the Murchison Mountains, the population is supplemented by released birds. They're fascinating to watch as they chew the grass: -
Takahe Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Also in this area, I saw what were to be my only North Island Robin and North Island Saddlebacks of the trip while good numbers of Tui and New Zealand Bellbirds were great to see for the first time.
Tui Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018

North Island Robin Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Karen was relaxing on the beach, and when joining her I was able to locate three or four New Zealand Dotterels which evidently seem to breed in the area, as well as a group of White-fronted Terns and good views of both Red-billed and Kelp Gulls.
White-fronted Tern Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
New Zealand Dotterel Tawharanui, North Island 1st April 2018
Reluctantly having to leave this wonderfully scenic spot, we drove from the Pacific coast to the Tasman Sea where there is a well known colony of Australasian Gannets at Muriwai. And so, after the hour's drive, I spent a pleasant hour with these birds. Though it was on the late side for breeding, there were still some stragglers left with their young: -

Australasian Gannets Muriwai, North Island 1st April 2018
And that was that, with the sun starting to dip a little and fatigue rapidly setting in, we were Auckland bound for a spot of dinner and then a long, much appreciated sleep.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

A long way just for gulls - NZ

I'm currently enjoying a break from Britain, and decided on New Zealand. Yes, it's a fair way away from Britain so you may be wondering why I'm here. Of course there are all the albatrosses, the lovely native Takahes, Keas, kiwis and the like plus mega waders such as Black Stilts and Wrybills. Predictably though, I'm here on a mission for two gulls that you get nowhere else in the world - now that's the reason I've come to New Zealand!

Anyway, there is a lot to be said about this place and with its dramatic and ever changing landscapes, it is hard pushed not to be impressed round most corners. I'd day the North Island is a bit like a sunny, trendy Wales with its rolling hills while the South Island is a mix of Wales, Scotland and then Iceland... so pretty spectacular. Karen and I have come on a fairly whistle stop tour (not unusual!) which has taken in a drive from Auckland right down to Dunedin, with a ferry crossing in between. Seas with albatrosses, vineyards with fine wine, rivers with white water rafting, beaches with penguins, forests with kiwis and mountains with parrots. All done. But for now, I'll leave you with the two reasons for pushing me to come to this wonderful place - Black-billed Gull, the world's most threatened species of gull, and then Red-billed Gull.
adult Black-billed Gull Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand April 2018
adult Red-billed Gull Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand April 2018
Plenty more photos of critters and landscapes to come...

Sunday, 25 March 2018

This weekend's London gulls

This was the last weekend for a while that I'll be able to spend time with the London gulls, and despite the warmer conditions compared to last weekend, there was still an obvious amount of passage. But it was hard going and Saturday was one of those days that are easily forgettable - there were a few rings at Crayford but nothing better than that, Thamesmead provided the realisation that it really was spring as a lot of the wintering Black-headed Gulls had moved off from Southmere, while Creekmouth was slightly better. Here, the darker of the two juvenile Iceland Gulls from last Sunday was still around and one of the Yorkshire ringed Herring Gulls was still about too. A couple of Curlew, an Oystercatcher and a handful of Black-tailed Godwits were on the foreshore as the tide came in late afternoon.
juvenile Iceland Gull Creekmouth, London 24th March 2018
Onto this morning, and I had a good gull session at Crayford with Andy L and Mick S. It's really obvious this time of year to see the Lesser Black-backed Gulls pushing through, though one of the most frustrating things too with these is the distant rings. I had a Dutch bird this morning, as well as one from the northwest (probably Walney), but couldn't do anything with the specifics due to the distance. There was also a yellow-ringed Herring Gull from Yorkshire, that we just about got the code for. It's not like Thames Barrier Park for views! However, average views aside, there were two splendid 1st-winter Caspian Gulls on show this morning - the first bird remaining extremely faithful to the corner of the green building at Viridor recycling centre (much like a couple of birds this winter), while the second was a hulk of a bird showing initially at the recycling centre and then in the flooded fields at Bob Dunn Way.
1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) Crayford, London 25th March 2018

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) Crayford, London 25th March 2018
Common Gull numbers seemed to be down on previous weeks, and try as I might, I couldn't muster the Ring-billed Gull reported across the river at Rainham on Friday. That's probably it for me with the London gulls for a while, so nice to sign off on a weekend with both the good 'uns (a white-winger and the obligatory Casps).

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Sunday 18th March - mega day of London gulling

It isn't often that I use superlatives about birding in the capital, but the Sunday just gone was incredible in a London context...

There was snow on my car as I set out from my Rotherhithe home early in the morning. I met up with Jamie P and Dante in the Multiplex cinema car park in Beckton shortly after 8am, where we then did the rather dull walk along the River Roding to Creekmouth, an area of mud bordered by a waste recycling centre and a massive flood defence structure. The first decent bird of the day was a juvenile Iceland Gull that Dante located on the river by the flood structure. With a couple of slices, it was with us: -

juvenile Iceland Gull Creekmouth, London 18th March 2018
Walking up towards the outfall, the settling ponds on the right were full of gulls too and included two yellow ringed 2nd-winter Herring Gulls with a code 'Y:...' which will have been ringed at Rufforth tip in the last year or so.
Yorkshire-ringed 2nd-winter Herring Gull Creekmouth, London 18th March 2018
Up at the outfall, it was pretty peaky weather wise but as usual the gulls were loving it. Remarkably, I was scanning through a group and found another juvenile Iceland Gull - distinctly different from the paler bird above: -
juvenile Iceland Gull (bird 2) Creekmouth, London 18th March 2018
Jamie ran back to make doubly sure it was a different bird, and found the original bird still present. While he was doing that, I picked up a 2nd-winter Caspian Gull bathing in the Thames. Even though it's a year on, and so much changes plumage wise, I do wonder whether this is 'Creeky', a 1st-winter that lingered here for a lot of last winter. Anyway, enough of speculating, as this bird came a bit closer and then headed up the Roding and into the melee by the warehouses where we saw it on our way back. Not a classic bird, with a whiff of German in it, but nice enough: -
2nd-winter Caspian Gull Creekmouth, London 18th March 2018
Out at the outfall, there were also four Yellow-legged Gulls on and off, which included an adult, a third-winter and two first-winters. All very nice, and the first time for a while that I've seen more than one at any London site. As we headed back along the footpath, a Mediterranean Gull flew into the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls present while Jamie picked up a different second-winter Caspian Gull - a really neat looking, spindly legged bird with a large P10 mirror - while Dante's third-winter Casp in the same area felt rather more German...

2nd-winter Caspian Gull Creekmouth, London 18th July 2018
And so that was that with Creekmouth - easily the best visit I've had there and it just shows what London can produce with a bit of weather and diligence. We headed east from here, and after a quick Tesco pit stop, poked our noses in at Rainham to see if we could do a quick job on the White-fronted Geese. We couldn't find them, though there were 3 Ringed Plover and an Avocet in Aveley Bay. We decided against a visitor centre riverwatch and so headed south over the Dartford Crossing, and within minutes had pulled up in Crayford.

There were good numbers of gulls milling around the area, and the first stop was the wasteground at Jolly Farmers. This is a nice area to get close to gulls and get some rings, and so that was my plan. Andy L pulled up, and just as he had done so I picked up an adult Iceland Gull - and shouted as such, as this was believe it or not my first ever adult white-winged gull in London! And it was Dante's first adult ever too, so the four of us got to work with a papping session.

adult-type Kumlien's Gull Crayford, London 18th March 2018
Mick S turned up a short while later, and asked whether it had a bit of grey in its primaries - which got us looking at things a bit more deeply, and it did indeed seem that was the case. And so, when it flew, we were all onto it which revealed fairly obvious dark subterminal bands to P8 and P9. An adult Kumlien's Gull it was! Which was pretty good stuff here in southeast England; and to my knowledge I seem to think this is the first Kumlien's in the southeast this winter...
adult-type Kumlien's Gull Crayford, London 18th March 2018
After twenty or so minutes, the Kumlien's Gull took off and headed towards the recycling centre. Where despite looking we were unable to relocate it though three adult Mediterranean Gulls were present, including a pair. However in need of having to do the weekly shop, I had to head back to Rotherhithe though a quick stop at Southmere revealed this Danish-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull: -
adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Southmere, Thamesmead, London 18th March 2018 - ringed as a chick on Langli, Varde, Denmark on 3rd July 2010; I saw it in Thamesmead on 4th February 2012 and it was seen at Rymer, Suffolk on 27th February 2016, as well as now back on Langli as a breeding adult.
So in summary, it was a pretty good day of London's gulls - possibly the best with an adult-type Kumlien's Gull, two juvenile Iceland Gulls, three Caspian Gulls, four Yellow-legged Gulls and four Mediterranean Gulls. Remarkable what a bit of searching in good old London town produces.