Sunday 28 June 2015

A few birds starting to move locally

That's another weekend gone, and there has been a little bit more happening locally here in southeast London. I was trying to summon up ideas to get out into the countryside, but unless you're into flowers and the like, this time of year is best to just put in the hours locally and save up the effort for when things start moving later on.

And there are quite a lot of scruffy looking gulls here at the moment to keep me busy. Week nights have been spent going through them in Rotherhithe, mainly as they chill out on the moored barges by Greenland Quay. And then today and yesterday, I walked around the O2 Arena to the area of mud at the end that's exposed at low tide; yesterday lots of gulls but nothing of interest and then today, very different - 5 Yellow-legged Gulls (near adult, three 2nd-summers and a 1st-summer) plus a couple of NTGG rings and a new scheme too on a Lesser Black-backed Gull that I'm awaiting details on. There were also two Reed Warblers singing in the reeds by Antony Gormley's Quantum Cloud sculpture.

near adult Yellow-legged Gull Greenwich, London 28th June 2015 - same bird in both above photos; note the dark on the primary-coverts, reduced mirrors and dull yellow legs
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull Greenwich, London 28th June 2015
1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull Greenwich, London 28th June 2015
On Friday, I also added a new ringing scheme to Rotherhithe - a yellow ringed 2nd-summer Herring Gull ending in 'B' that'll have been ringed by the East Anglia Gull Group, most likely at Milton Tip near Cambridge (still awaiting details though).
2nd-summer Herring Gull Rotherhithe, London 26th June 2015 - 5V0B, ringed by the East Anglia Gull Group

Sunday 21 June 2015

Always something locally

It has been a relatively quiet week, and having had my fill of Cretzschmar's Bunting on these shores on Orkney a few years ago, local birding was the flavour. And it was quiet, but quiet isn't always a bad thing. Time to relax, soak in those messy looking larids.

Local gulls haven't been too bad, with new birds moving through. Had a peak of 18 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Tuesday in Rotherhithe, whilst three or four Great Black-backed Gulls have been lingering about amongst the knackered looking sub-adult Herring Gulls. An afternoon and early evening at Crossness produced the first juvenile Black-headed Gull (they don't breed there, and they're completely absent from Rotherhithe this time of year) along with a load of Lapwing - presumed failed breeders - and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

All the above sound pretty mundane, and I guess it is. But it's not that bad - everything at Rotherhithe is a walk away, and with the long evenings and work (comparatively) quiet, I'm managing a fair bit of birding time. So here are a few regulars I'm seeing at the moment...
Herring Gull M0KT (1st-summer) - ringed at Pitsea, Essex on 27 September 2014, seen London Bridge on 19 April 2015 and then in Rotherhithe on 10 May 2015, 16 May 2015, 17 May 2015, 6 June 2015, 7 June 2015, 14 June 2015 and 18 June 2015.
Herring Gull M2LT (1st-summer) - ringed at Rainham, London on 2 January 2015, then seen in Rotherhithe on 29 March 2015, 18 June 2015 and today.
Herring Gull X2DT (3rd-summer) - ringed at Rainham, London 16 November 2013 and seen by me at Pitsea, Essex on 1 February 2014 and then at Dungeness, Kent on 14th February 2014 - before turning up in Rotherhithe on 18 June 2015.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Black-eared Wheatear in Hampshire

Some days you wake up and it feels a bit rare. There's no smell, no taste - just a sense. And for some reason, today was like that. Damp, grey and feeling pretty close here in London I headed off out to Crossness mid-morning. Even here in Rotherhithe, there were the first Black-headed Gulls for a couple of weeks moving through plus a Common Gull. So some sense of bird movement.

On the way through Greenwich, I checked my phone and saw Gary Howard's tweet about having just found a Black-eared Wheatear in the New Forest. A brilliant find, and with less individuals that have been twitchable than Cretzschmar's Buntings in the last decade it's a pretty rare bird. Anyway, with a nice meal booked for 9pm it would be a tight turnaround - and having seen a couple before (a long time ago, 1993 and 2002) - I headed to Crossness. There'd been an obvious influx of Black-headed Gulls at the outfall, but nothing with them, and 14 Lapwing and 3 Teal were presumably non-breeders. A 1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull was NTGG ringed, but frustratingly too distant for digits to be read. So essentially the place was quiet, there was a good bird just a couple of hours away but I needed to be back in London late evening in order not to disappoint. So a check of the weather and realising clear skies tonight in Hants (with Black-eared Wheatears notoriously doing one overnight), the decision was made.
male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear Acres Down, Hants 13th June 2015; note the extensive black bib going over the bill, well above the eye and extending towards the upper breast. Upperparts showed little trace of colour, with a buff wash to the breast.
Traffic was like a dream. Arriving at Acres Down, a quick walk from the car park to overlook a sunny field and there is was - a black-and-white beauty. With just a hint of colour on the upper breast, and having commented on the original photos previously, this was an obvious eastern race melanoleuca. Though I was a bit disappointed with the views, as I prefer to be up close and personal to birds these days, it was a smart looking thing. Another reason I was so keen to go was essentially that I'd (probably) not seen this race in Britain. A decent article on the separation of the two races can be found here, though it's not as clear cut as people thought a decade or so ago.

And I managed to get back to London in time for the evening too... so all in all, a very productive day.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Greater Yellowlegs - a long time coming!

There wasn't a cloud in the sky as Karen and I set off to the south coast this morning. All the way down, it was one of those blue Sunday mornings that being up and about was definitely the best choice. Arriving at Titchfield Haven, it took little time to walk to the Suffern Hide and see the target bird parading around in front. Didn't expect it to be quite that easy, and with its gangly build complete with summer flank streaking and vivid yellow legs, I was pretty impressed - a very nice bird and ridiculously, 21 years since my first and only one at Rockcliffe, Cumbria in October 1994 when I was an irritating teenager (and very thankful for my Dad having driven me there).
Greater Yellowlegs Titchfield Haven, Hants 7th June 2015
Though I've seen a couple on the Azores - including one coming in from the Atlantic and landing exhausted on a rocky beach on Flores - as well as a load in the US, you can't beat a good rarity in Britain and Ireland like this. What with Med Gulls flying over and loads of Cetti's Warblers (following the first one ever here!) it was nice to be by the sea and out of a stuffy London.
Herring Gull M0KT Rotherhithe - present on both days this weekend, having been seen here regularly since 10th May and ringed at Pitsea, Essex on 27th September 2014
After a thoroughly pleasant afternoon with my parents, and as always some lovely food, it was back to Rotherhithe where a couple of ringed 1st-summer Herring Gulls were hanging out - one ringed at Rainham this January and seen here late March (but not since) and another regular bird ringed at Pitsea last September and present here since early May.