Saturday 30 June 2018

The last day of June mission

I had a pleasant day today around the usual sites in southeast London and saw a couple of nice birds - an adult Kittiwake and the continuing Bonaparte's Gull. But I was on a mission, as today was the 30th June. In both 2017 and 2015, I'd found London's first juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls of the year on 1st July and so I was craving a June record. And with the hot weather, I thought there could be a good chance today...

But ultimately, this was a mission that I'd failed - for this year at least. Another June in London goes by without a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull! A pretty insignificant mission to all but three people, but a mission one of us will succeed in sooner or later.

Anyway, it was a good day nonetheless. Having picked up Karen after her overnight flight back from the US, I headed out to the O2 at Greenwich for a couple of hours while she got a couple of hours of sleep. The low tide gathering of gulls had three ringed Great Black-backed Gulls, with two ringed as chicks in Norway in 2017 and another a Pitsea ringed bird. Also there seems to be good numbers of juvenile Black-headed Gulls already getting into London, so perhaps a decent year has been had. But the real surprise for me here was while scanning the river, I noticed a smallish gull flying west at relative height - the dark grey mantle and black-tipped wings told me it was an adult Kittiwake! Beautiful blue skies and an urban backdrop made the experience all very bizarre, and within a couple of minutes it was all over as the Kittiwake headed off west, spiralling and gaining height over Canary Wharf: -
adult Kittiwake Greenwich, London 30th June 2018
After a spot of lunch, I headed out again and coincided a visit at Crossness with high tide. Barry W was about, so the Bonaparte's Gull was quickly located again as it fed actively around the outfall in the early evening sunshine: -
1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull Crossness, London 30th June 2018
It was good to see this bird again after not being able to get down during the week, and with there now being in excess of 500 Black-headed Gulls at the outfall, there is a degree of concentration needed to stay on it for long once you've located it! Not a lot else around though, with bread hurled out in Thamesmead, Woolwich and Greenwich not producing much at all. 

Saturday 23 June 2018

Bonaparte's Gull Crossness today

Imaginatively titled as it is, it does what is says on the tin. I'd been at the Year 11 Prom last night until 1am dealing with the usual shenanigans, so it wasn't until 10am that I surfaced this morning. I was out the flat within the hour, and headed on the usual southeast London birding (gulling) circuit that I seem to do every weekend day. Thamesmead was the first stop, and the gulls weren't feeling the bread I lobbed out off Princess Alice Way.

So on to Crossness where the tide was on its way out slightly. Still pretty high, and as I walked east towards the outfall it was obvious there were lots of Black-headed Gulls about, considerably more so than last Sunday. There'd been a couple of Med Gulls the last couple of visits, and every visit is seeing an increase in the numbers of juvenile Black-headed Gulls - which are underrated lookers. So it was just one of those days, where I started scanning for something different as I always do. After c.5 minutes, on the water at mid distance, was a gull that took my interest... that immediately screamed only one thing, a 1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull. This time, the dark nape was one of the first things that grabbed me (as well as the small size) before I looked at its thin, black bill.

Always worth getting closer looks, I chucked a couple of slices out and the commotion was enough for it to come in - showing its lovely underwing as it did so. And yes, there is was - another Bonaparte's Gull found! The third one I've found here, and the fifth I've seen at Crossness since finding the first for London as recently as 2012. A mega track record for this site, especially considering we're talking about a North American species in the southeast of England. And bizarrely too, the second Bonaparte's Gull I've found in 2018 after the one at Killybegs in February. It'd be nice to find something different next!

1st-summer Bonaparte's Gull Crossness, London 23rd June 2018
It's always a good day when you see or find something locally here in London's bird abyss, so after an hour or so - having watched it from 12.15pm to 1.10pm - I left for home and an enjoyable brunch with Karen. There was a Little Egret about too, and the first Redshank I'd seen on the Thames for a month or so, so assume the first autumn returner.