Saturday, 14 March 2015

Good gull haul on a dusty tip

I wasn't able to get out last weekend, with the only bird of note being a Little Egret in Barnston, Essex. Therefore, despite a hefty cold that has wiped me out most of the week, I was looking forward to today's tip visit. Bright skies and breezy to start off with, clouding over later as the morning progressed. It's not something that happens too often due to the usual rain in the weather, but with 10 or so days with very little water falling from the heavens, the tip was dry. And with the wind, it was blowing dust around like nobody's business.

The easterly wind also presumably had an impact on an increase in Caspian Gulls present today. A couple of weeks ago we drew a blank, and in my absence last week Steve A only had two. So the six present today was the peak count this year, and brings the tally for winter to over 40 individuals (more than 2013/14 despite a reduced number of visits due to 'tyre pressure'). Today's haul included a slick 3rd-winter, a rather solid-looking, bleached 2nd-winter with reduced P10 mirrors and four 1st-winters of differing sizes and darkness.
Bird 1 - 1st-winter Caspian Gull

Bird 2 - 1st-winter Caspian Gull; a small and rather dark individual

Bird 3 - 2nd-winter Caspian Gull; a bleached and solid looking individual with very small mirrors to P10

Bird 4 - 3rd-winter Caspian Gull

Bird 5 - 1st-winter Caspian Gull

Bird 6 - 1st-winter Caspian Gull
As well as the Caspian Gulls, there was once again a white-winged gull headache present. The bird present in late January and documented here looked much paler and Iceland Gull-like today in the warm early morning light. And having learnt something about looking at features and ignoring the 'feel' of the bird from two weeks ago, then is there actually that much wrong with it being a 2nd-winter Iceland Gull?

One thing is for sure, Steve A and I have drawn the short straw in terms of the Iceland Gulls that have turned up this winter. That's if that's what they both are. Slightly older and more straightforward was an adult Great Black-backed Gull that had been ringed as a chick in southwest Norway in July 1994.
20 year old Great Black-backed Gull JH417 - ringed as a chick at Kjellingen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway on 8th July 1994; its colour ring was attached on 3rd June 2011 and it has been seen subsequently at Dungeness, Kent on 4th March 2012, Hirtshals Havn, Søren Nordbysvej, Nordjylland, Denmark on 24th December 2014 and Boulogne-sur-Mer, France 4th January 2015 as well as each summer on its breeding grounds in southwest Norway.
Good pushes of Lesser Black-backed Gulls this time of year is typical, and amongst the decent number of adults, were a couple of NTGG ringed birds and a couple of intermedius types. A dozen or so adult Med Gulls were back too, with several paired up. Looking forward to next weekend!

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