Monday, 30 December 2013

Elsham, 30th Dec 2013

It's been a long time since I enjoyed the sight of throngs of gulls following a familiar tractor on the North Lincs Wolds, and I was beginning to wonder what was happening to all the sh*t. But at dusk yesterday, from my vantage point down in the Ancholme Valley, an unusually large number of gulls headed north along the wolds to roost on the Humber. Dawn saw a vast column of birds streaming south into the wind over the villages of Bonby and Worlaby, and once I was finished I followed them up to a familiar spot - Newland Hill, Elsham. The sight of c5,000 gulls feeding voraciously within yards of the road was a delight to behold, just a shame the rain had arrived.

Within minutes of parking up, a soggy juv Iceland Gull materialised on the front edge of the flock, followed shortly afterwards by a smart 2cy Caspian Gull, the first of two present as a brief 1cy popped up later. The majority of the flock consisted of Herring Gulls, with a high proportion of big, dark argentatus, many stained with mud down their fronts.

The main interest of the day, however, stood out even from these ugly brutes as it hunkered down into the wind and rain at the back of the flock. Thoughts immediately turned to smithsonianus, due to the overall smooth darkness with constrasting pale head, dark mask and heavy pink-based bill. The relative immaturity of the upperparts for a 2cy, with just a handful of grey mantle feathers below the smooth dark shawl, made it look younger than nearby 2cy Herrings. But the greater coverts leapt out at me - a solid block of dark brown feathers with just a little marbling on the inners - wow. Tertials looked ok, with dark muddy bases, and the smooth brown body feathering extended well down onto the belly. But the tail... impossible to see at rest, and when it flew it gave me no notice, so the only photo is as good as useless. Another brief view on the deck and then the flock went up and I lost it into the rain - the tail looked dark, but then they can on 2w Herrings, and I couldn't say whether there was any pale in the outer edge.

Alas I won't be able to look again for a while now, but with a bit of luck the tractor will get back to work in January, and there will be plenty to look at for a month or two into 2014...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Candles, 19-20th Dec 2013

Brief ad Casp in the twilight
An unexpected time window meant I could stop at the tip on the way home from work, but I arrived at the same time as the rain, and within the hour it was sleeting and almost dark! Still, partly as a result of the weather, the gulls were feeding like mad and amongst the melee I soon picked out a gleaming white head with a beady eye. A few wing-stretches and aggressive interactions revealed the tell-tale details, but the bill however was brighter than the recent couple of adult Caspians, suggesting it must be another new individual - that's 4 this month including Jim's bird from 10th.

The next day I had our smallest with me so restricted myself to a short lunchtime vigil by Horsehay Pool with a bag of chips to keep her busy. No Casps this time, but the juv Iceland Gull dropped in for a quick scrub up, despite having been missing from Salop and Belvide for a week. A few interesting grey mantles dropped in too, including a hulking bruiser of a 3w mich, a presumed hybrid HGxLB, and finally a mystery gull with a hint of 3w cach about it...
Big 3w mich

Hybrid type

3w mich? cach? hybrid?

Gallymoor, 18th Dec 2013

Left and right
A jam-packed work schedule in the run up to Christmas meant I could barely afford the bimonthly look at Gallymoor landfill en route between sites, but with a field full of gulls, it would have been rude not to stop. And before I'd even turned off the engine, I'd seen the creamy form of a 2cy Glauc on the edge of the flock - just what I was hoping for. Whilst similar in patchiness to last week's bird just across the Humber, it felt a bit more svelte - a female this time?

It's always worth one more scan though, and after a bit of a flush of birds off the tip, a slinky little 2cy Caspian Gull suddenly appeared. What a cracker!

Candles, 13th Dec 2013

An Iceland, but a big one
With a 4th birthday party to prepare for, my time was limited, but the juv Iceland Gull that had been roosting nightly at Belvide must be feeding on Candles, surely? Priorslee was crap, but the tip was buzzing, and after only 20 minutes or so a smooth creamy white form appeared - the Belvide Iceland. Result.
A trio of michs (ad, nr-ad and 1w) was a decent haul for such a brief visit.

The day before, the briefest of checks of Bagmoor in Lincs produced a mere 200 large gulls (compared to 2,000+ recently!) with a huge 2cy Glauc on the close edge (into the sun unfortunately).

Friday, 6 December 2013

Candles, 6th Dec 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like winter...
cach 1
A couple of hours late afternoon under a bright but grey sky saw me back on the bank, enthralled by a feeding frenzy like it should be. Around 3,000 birds present, roughly 2:1 LBB:HG along with an impressive total of 80+ GBBs, and after the first near-ad mich appeared, the total soon escalated to 8 (3 ads, 2 near-ads, 3w, 2w, 1w). But the main excitement came from 2 stunning ad Caspian Gulls: a slinky thing that was only ever seen stood on a mound behind all the action, and a huge male in the thick of it that was later seen to be green-ringed, suggesting a German/Polish border origin...

green ring
what's darker, a mich or a tatus?!
 Hybrid interest stretched beyond the usual LBxHGs today in the form of a smooth, pale Viking-type that surely has some northern genes in it. Whilst Glauc is supposed to be the pasty parent in these things, it had more than a little Icelandiness to it...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Candles, 15th Nov 2013

R:R8N - my first colour-ringed mich
It's been a while, but things have been quiet on the gulling front, with just a sprinkling of michs locally, despite the sudden appearance of a few Casps and wingers at other Midlands spots. The highlight was a smart 1w mich with white ring R:R8N on the tip on 15th which I have just heard was ringed as a pullus on 5th June at Le Roc, Les Portes-en-Re, Charente Maritime. That's 450 miles due south of Telford.

Let's hope there's a bit more variety around the corner...