Friday, 2 August 2013

Elsham, 30th-31st July 2013

fuscus number 2
With a bit more time on my hands this week, I was able to spend a few hours at the gull field on 30th, with high hopes of getting some better views and photos of last week's fuscus. Gull numbers were lower than last time, but only 40 minutes in, a distinctive set of jet black primaries caught my eye, although the rest of the bird was less familiar. It was small, and a bit messier around the head and breast, whilst the mantle was plainer and the coverts at a very similar state of moult. Closer examination revealed a pale, pointed juvenile P10, but when it flew there didn't seem to be any active primary moult, and the tail looked very fresh, complete with narrow white fringe - another 2cy Baltic Gull!
Having only been on view for 10 minutes, I was keen to see it again, so after a bit of dusk and dawn work, I was back at the field for 7am with good numbers of gulls on the go. Good light and good views meant the totals soon mounted up - at least 13 michs including the same 2 juvs as last week, a handful of Meds including a couple of ringed birds, and then after a couple of hours the Baltic made an appearance, distant again.The distinctive flat, sloping crown and weak bill gave it an odd expression, and in the flat light, a few blacker (3rd-gen?) lower scaps and median coverts stood out. Nice bird.
Whilst watching the Baltic, I suddenly became aware of a distinctive set of scaps and a gleaming white head, and a belting 2cy Caspian Gull stuck its head up for a few seconds. I grabbed a couple of shots, and it was gone, not to be seen again.

2cy cach - never saw more on it than this
Around 11.45 the Baltic Gull made another appearance, slightly closer this time, then disappeared again, and whilst trying to relocate it I picked out the familiar flat crown and bicoloured bill. But then it walked out into the open revealing a few brown marks amongst the otherwise plain mantle, a cleaner white head and a yellowish cast to the bill base. Primaries looked black though, and when it flew closer, the wing could be seen to be entirely 2nd-generation, no juv P10! It landed relatively close, for once, and was seen to be a larger bird with feintly yellow-tinged legs too. The 2nd-gen scaps were a paler grey than might be expected, but a couple of new median coverts and a distinctive new greater covert were much blacker... 2cy Baltic number 3!

fuscus number 3!
It all begs the question - what is going on?! Three excellent candidates in the same field in the space of a week, during which time another turned up not too far away in Lincoln, and a couple of less provable birds in Norfolk too. And under similar climatic conditions as a similar arrival in July 2006...
Coincidentally, the following day (when neither of this week's birds could be found), a large flock of small gulls in a harvested pea field up the road had attracted a handful of LBBs, and this tiny, blackish bird caught the eye. Can't do anything with it, but with such a supporting cast, makes you wonder...

unprovable coincidence...

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