Wednesday 30 November 2016

Denmark, France, Guernsey, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and Wales

Well, at least the title got you reading! Just come back from a weekend trip to Porto (and Vigo) like I did this time last year. I had a couple of hours on the beach at Matosinhos, near Porto and came up with seven rings, all from different countries. Still awaiting a few details but the following gives you a decent picture...

No white-winged gulls this trip, but if anyone enjoys a combination of gulling and a pleasant city give Porto a go. Here are a collection of united nations Lesser Black-backed Gulls (7 countries) all on the same Portuguese beach on Saturday.
1st-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull - Norwegian. Ringed near Bergen this summer, and present in Portugal since October
adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed in SW Iceland in May 2007, winters each year in Portugal and has been seen back in Iceland during the summer too

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed at Chouet landfill, Guernsey a couple of years ago, this is the first sighting outside of the Channel Islands
1st-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed on a Cardiff rooftop in July, this bird has been about in Portugal since October

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - ringed in Denmark, still awaiting the details...

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - Dutch ringed, still awaiting the details but most likely from the Texel colony

1st-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull - French ringed, details still awaiting (and knowing the majority of French ringing scheme coordinators, it'll be a while!)

Saturday 12 November 2016

Dungeness today - back with the Casps

I must have been to Dungeness over a dozen times since August. Every one of those times I have been, I drew a blank on the real target and love of mine - Caspian Gulls. They were being seen the day before, the day after and it wasn't for the want of trying. But today, in really grim weather, it all changed... and those sweet white-headed beasts from the east returned with a vengeance. Four 1st-winter birds came down to the offerings between mid-morning and dusk, while I sat in my warm, dry car.
Bird 1
Was the first one that came in - present for 15 mins or so mid/late morning: -

Bird 2
Stuck about most of the day - first seen by the fishing boats in the roost there before coming in to the puddles all afternoon: -

Bird 3
Present at the puddles briefly early afternoon. A fairly mucky looking bird: -

Bird 4
Came into the offering mid to late afternoon and stuck about a bit: -

There was also a rather dopey looking 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull present mid to late afternoon: -

All good stuff, and feels nice to be back among the Casps.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Cliff Swallow at Minsmere - some dirty twitching

News broke on Friday night of a Cliff Swallow at Minsmere, Suffolk. With Saturday going to be a day of having just the gulls for company as it now turns all wintry, this swallow sounded like a pleasant diversion. And so to secure some views, an early start from London with Josh and Staines was required.

I'd previously seen a Cliff Swallow hawking over Porthellick, St.Mary's, Scilly on a sunny autumnal day in September 2000, as well as countless birds on most of my US trips. So what was the point in going to Suffolk and sacrificing on all the sleep? I don't know really, but I felt compelled to as soon as the news broke. It was either this, or chance an Eye-browed Thrush much further away in Northumberland. But with the onset of winter, I genuinely felt that as it was a weekend it'd be rude not to eek out the last bit of quality from this autumn. And, up until yesterday, it was going to be the first autumn since 1994 where I hadn't seen an American landbird. Which saddened me.

And so in all its glory, the Cliff Swallow got up with its seven Swallow companions (did check for erythrogaster but still we await our British first) and showed itself well in bushes behind the visitor centre. With over a couple of hundred in the crowd, must admit that none of the usual twitcher bashing was needed; bar the odd person getting in each other's way, the whole event was harmonious and a decent mainland twitch.
Cliff Swallow Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Suffolk 5th November 2016
I couldn't resist going down to Dungeness after the swallow, hopeful that the northerly winds and dropping temperatures would have enticed more gulls in to the beach. But that wasn't to be - there was a distant 1st-winter Caspian Gull on the reserve from Firth Hide but bar a couple of Great White Egrets, a Cattle Egret, a redhead Goosander and an adult Yellow-legged Gull pickings were rather slim. Though I did manage to read a Danish Lesser Black-backed Gull ring after 20 minutes of trying! Success all round.