Saturday 27 January 2018

Ross's Gull - day trip to Zeeland

I am not proud of the way I dithered around last night. On Wednesday and Thursday, a gorgeous 1st-winter Ross's Gull had been showing really well in the harbour of Vlissingen, a small town in the west of The Netherlands and close to the Belgian border. And then yesterday, Friday, it disappeared all day before showing up in the last hour of light. These days I'm someone who only really travels a distance for something I have seen before if I have more than a fighting chance of seeing, so the Friday info put me off to the degree that initially I wasn't going to give it a go.

As I used to do, and realising it now in retrospect, to the likes of Gary B, Ian E, Stu B, Andy V there was a certain youthful, enthusiastic voice in my ear wanting a chance to see a Ross's Gull and telling me not to write a decent weekend showing off. And so, with a little bit of thought and the realisation that it'd probably be another status quo London weekend (yes, I still haven't seen the Horned Lark, I know!), the young lad Dante had talked me into a change of heart. And am I glad that I did....

A quick drive from London to Folkestone, and then the civilised Eurotunnel experience in the early hours, got us to Vlissingen a couple of hours before light this morning. Things weren't looking too great by midday though, and despite continuous searching with just a brief sojourn to a great Turkish bakery punctuating the boredom, it was looking like that late afternoon session of the previous day was perhaps the only chance we were going to get. And then, as if out of nothing, this small Arctic gull came ghosting in and then performed really well at times.
1st-winter Ross's Gull Vlissingen, Zeeland, The Netherlands 27th January 2018
The Ross's Gull initially came in and seemed to want to have a preen and a bathe among the Black-headed Gulls, and it was this type of behaviour that it did for the initial hour or so. Despite a load of bread and popcorn thrown out by us (mainly courtesy of the Mick S and Richard S), it didn't seem too interested though neither were the Black-headed Gulls. And then the Ross's Gull flew up and disappeared back off over the sluice gates and seawall.

1st-winter Ross's Gull Vlissingen, Zeeland, The Netherlands 27th January 2018
That is, until, it returned to the inner harbour about half an hour later and then showed ridiculously well at times - to within just a few metres. A really special bird, and as this was my first ever 1st-winter, it was exactly the experience I'd been banking on. Surrounded by a good humoured Dutch, French and Belgian crowd it was the English contingent that provided the ample amounts of bread and popcorn that the gulls, including the Ross's, were now devouring.
1st-winter Ross's Gull Vlissingen, Zeeland, The Netherlands 27th January 2018
And that was that, because as the light started to fade, it was time we headed back to Le Tunnel Sous La Manche and on to London. Back home before Match of the Day, which shows what is possible in a day with a little bit of effort...

Sunday 21 January 2018

Another grey weekend

As I write this, it feels a bit like groundhog day. Grey skies all weekend, heavy rain with even a bit of snow thrown in this afternoon too. So good weather for gulls. And two stints at Crayford - one on Saturday and one today - were relatively successful.

Saturday's session was void of notable species, no Caspian Gulls and I couldn't locate the Iceland Gull. However, I did manage to read 14 rings in the couple of hours I was there which included a Suffolk-ringed Herring Gull and this Danish-ringed Black-headed Gull: -
Danish ringed Black-headed Gull 'Y22' Crayford, London 20th January 2018
Today was a little more successful, as Jamie, Dante and I spent an hour or two in the freezing, wet conditions looking at Crayford's gulls again. Fewer rings were seen, but this was largely due to less gulls on the wasteground at Jolly Farmers, where the gulls tend to show better and reveal their legs! There was a nice looking first-winter Caspian Gull on the distant roof at the back of the recycling centre, while the juvenile Iceland Gull was present for its third consecutive weekend and showed the best it has done: -
juvenile Iceland Gull Crayford, London 21st January 2018
With not too much movement with the gulls, and a distinct lack of feeling in our toes, we headed to north London and Walthamstow Marshes. On Friday, a Little Bunting had been found here and the bird has been showing on and off here ever since. I'd said to myself that with the weather as poor as it was, I'd be shelving it to another weekend. But when there wasn't too much else to do, and the thought of it only being 10 miles or so from home, that twitching gene kicked in. An hour or so of waiting in the sleet, snow and then rain did eventually pay dividends with some decent scope views, though I managed to mess up any potential shots. It was also nice to hear this Little Bunting calling a handful or so times too. So not a bad weekend given the dismal conditions, though it'd be nice for there to be an excuse to get out of London...

Sunday 14 January 2018

Gulls in the gloom

It is pretty depressing weather here in London at the moment. Every day is matted in cloud. And the winds seem to be swirling around too, with easterlies last week, back to westerlies this week and next week we're meant to get some northerlies. So with no overall weather pattern, it hasn't really given anything to chance to move in any direction! And hence why it feels like a rather poor winter. But, predictably, there are always gulls to look at - though even these guys seem to have deserted all the usual sites and headed to the delights of Crayford and its recycling centre. So that is where I headed today, as well as spending an hour or so there yesterday.
juvenile Iceland Gull Crayford, London 14th January 2018
The result being a reappearance of the juvenile Iceland Gull that I had last Saturday. This time, it did a flyabout around Jolly Farmers mid morning before then being seen at the recycling centre at Viridor itself (Andy L then had it later on the FedEx building).

There was also two nice looking 1st-winter Caspian Gulls, both unringed and both fairly distant. Bring back those views at Thames Barrier Park please!

1st-winter Caspian Gulls Crayford, London 14th January 2018
Two Yellow-legged Gulls were around too, with an adult on the warehouse roofs, and a 1st-winter pecking about at the recycling centre.
1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull Crayford, London 14th January 2018
A total of twenty rings were read over the two days - all Herring and Black-headed Gulls and, with the exception of a Sussex ringed Herring, all were North Thames Gull Group birds.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Sunday at Dungeness

A lot of people seem to have had a day at Dungeness on their New Year's menu. And with a few bits and bobs around, me, Dante, Josh and Niall K headed down there on Sunday. Being honest, it was a nice day with some good stuff seen in cold and extremely windy conditions. With Niall in tow, and a Dublin lad who doesn't see too many Casps, it was predictable that we'd start with the most showy and predictable Caspian Gull of this winter, a lovely 1st-winter that is regular at the fishing boats: -
1st-winter Caspian Gull Dungeness, Kent 7th January 2018
Moving on from there to The Patch, there was a swarm of gulls. Before we'd even got to the seawatching hide the juvenile Glaucous Gull was coasting over the power station before heading back towards the sea. With the conditions, there were a lot of birds about and in addition to the Glauc, the second-winter Iceland Gulls was picked up too. And an interesting adult Mediterranean x Black-headed Gull hybrid too. All nice stuff, but never that close and always looking into the light which is the case with The Patch on morning visits (unless overcast).

Heading onto the reserve, gull numbers were low. Perhaps they were all out feeding, taking advantage of the windy conditions, or it may just have been a bit too exposed. Four figure numbers of Cormorants were about on the island from Makepeace Hide while an assortment of wildfowl was decent enough - two Smew (a redhead and Dante's first white nun), a small flock of Goosander while a female ***** **** provided the young lad with an obligatory lifer.

Back at the fishing boats with Mick and Richard, conditions were a bit vile in the afternoon. Despite there being loads of gulls! Heavy spray due to high tide and strong winds meant there was no way any gulls were able to land on the beach. And so we had to settle for this lovely white-underwinged second-winter Caspian Gull, which admittedly didn't show the classic P10 mirrors: -
2nd-winter Caspian Gull Dungeness, Kent 7th January 2018
Anyway, after a while we settled for that as our lot. Ten species of gull for the day and some pleasant enough wildfowl. Dungeness is always a decent day out, but I do often feel like I should be in London looking at birds that nobody else has looked at.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Iceland Gull at Crayford

Had a few hours out and about locally today. Firstly around Rotherhithe, where the gulls were quiet and then, fourth trip this winter to Burgess Park in Peckham - once again no sign of the previously wintering Mediterranean Gull there, which I originally found back in 2008, so assume it's now no longer with us. Sad times. But anyway, to blow the cobwebs off after a return to school midweek, I headed to Crayford to spend a couple of hours with the gulls there. And within 15 minutes, I'd found a nice juvenile Iceland Gull at the back of the flock.
juvenile Iceland Gull Crayford, London 6th January 2018
In typical 21st century style, I watched it for a few seconds, got some shots with the camera and then started taking some BOC (back of camera) shots with my phone. Turned around, and all the birds had flown off. That'll teach me for being a slave to the technology, as it didn't come back! But there were a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls (a second-winter and first-winter), as well as this adult Caspian-type Gull that Andy L found: -
adult Caspian Gull (or hybrid) Crayford, London 6th January 2018
Looks ok for an adult Caspian Gull, but there is a little bit too much of a dark underside to P10 for my liking, though perhaps this is the posture too. It never did fly, or at least when it did I was reading the rings of the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls which included this adult Mediterranean Gull (2E50) that had been ringed at Pitsea back in 2013.
adult Mediterranean Gull 2E50 Crayford, London 6th January 2018
So that was that, back to a warm flat and a relaxing Saturday evening.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Crayford Casps 2nd January 2018 - and Casps here a decade ago

I spent the period between Christmas and New Year in much warmer, brighter climes so it was a real back to London feel when I headed out with Dante for the morning on Tuesday 2nd January. While I'd been away, London's gulls had been rather average with the exception of one site - the area around Crayford's recycling centre. A few Caspian Gulls had been recorded here, especially on the wasteground at Jolly Farmers (named after a now defunct pub). A grim place in a number of ways, but the gulls have previously and evidently still do love it...

We spent about three hours here, recording in total at a push two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls - one a fairly non-descript, smallish bird that was fine in every respect while a second bird probably had a bit of Herring in it if I'm entirely honest with myself - wide open greater-coverts particularly grim.
1st-winter Caspian Gull Crayford, London 2nd January 2018

1st-winter Caspian Gull (or hybrid) Crayford, London 2nd January 2018
There was also a large 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull as well as a handful of gull rings, all from the North Thames Gull Group (ringed at either Rainham or Pitsea).

The area was probably where I first got involved in earnest with Caspian Gulls, and during the winter of 2006/2007 I spent loads of hours here with Andy L really getting to grips with them. Particularly at Littlebrook Lake, a small pool that had been created during the construction of a housing estate. Interesting to look at some of these photos now (see below), and despite the poor quality by the then trusty Samsung NV3 digiscoping days, it is easy to see these birds were pure eastern beasts! Were we missing the 'German muck' birds back in those days, or have they just become more prevalent with the westward expansion of the species? Who knows. Probably both. Anyway, enjoy these poor images: -
1st-winter Caspian Gull Littlebrook Lake, Dartford December 2006

1st-winter Caspian Gull Littlebrook Lake, Dartford December 2006

2nd-winter Caspian Gull Dartford Marshes December 2006

2nd-winter Caspian Gull Littlebrook Lake, Dartford December 2006