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.


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