Saturday, 31 January 2015

Albert Village Lake, 28th Jan 2015

near-adult Caspian

Having recently realised I drive within about 8 miles of this excellent gulling spot most weeks, I decided to take advantage of a relatively early finish at work, and swung in on the off chance. I was greeted by the sight of at least 600 gulls gleaming in the sunshine on the lake, and hanging in the icy wind between there and the tip.

distant adult Caspian

I managed to find a handy gorse bush to nestle in, and on the first scan I picked up 2 adult Caspian Gulls amongst the hordes of LBBs, followed soon after by a dirty 2cy nice and close in. Nearby, a stunning near-adult made an appearance, the classic P10 held high above the water for all to see! A large bird with a large head could have been a big male Casp, but a glimpse of the primaries revealed a small P10 mirror and not much in the way of tongues, suggesting some Herring influence? A third good adult Casp appeared later, followed by a gleaming 2cy which soon took off and flew to the far side of the lake to mess about with the Black-heads, joining a third 2cy! That brought the total to a marvellous 7 Caspian Gulls, outnumbering the 6+ michs! Amazing stuff, reckon I'll be back...

dirty 2cy Caspian

two more 2cy Caspians

apparent ad hybrid Caspian x Herring?

Rufforth & Alne tips, 19th Jan 2015

Flock after flock of large gulls streamed in from roost on arrival, but despite a good drive around, there weren't any in the fields yet. A bit of imagination soon yielded good views of the birds on the tip itself, and immediately a big white gull flew over and away - a leucistic GBB, quite possibly the Norwegian ringed bird seen on and off over the previous months. A good trawl through the birds on the tip, virtually all Herrings, eventually produced a smart ad Glauc.

Just up the road, a short detour took me to Alne tip where c500 gulls harboured a 2cy Caspian Gull, just a shame the views were so poor.

The following day, after filling the hours with Tundra Beans and Little Auks, squeezed in a visit to the impressive North Shields Fish Quay, where the big juv Glauc was loafing on a roof.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Priorslee Lake, 5th Jan 2015

A free hour mid afternoon saw me back at the lake, with c450 large gulls on arrival that later swelled to 1000+ after an influx from the tip. The species composition was fairly typical, roughly 800 LBBs, 200 Herrings and 5 michs (3 ads & 2 2cy), but there were also 72 GBBs, an impressive count. One or two oddities kept the interest going in the absence of anything better, including a 3cy argentatus with big P10 mirrors - said to represent less than 5% according to Gibbins et al.

Finally, the highlight of the day appeared: a superb candidate ad AMERICAN HERRING GULL! Big and gangly with a pale grey mantle similar in tone to nearby argenteus, it was the head and breast streaking that really caught the eye. Seemingly made up of finer, browner markings over the head and neck, the streaks merged into blobs and blotches on the breast sides and across the upper nape, where it resembled the smooth brown colouration of younger smithsonianus. There was a denser patch of streaking around the eye as well, accentuating the staring whitish-yellow iris. The snout was paler, leading into a long and parallel bill with a small gonys, with a pinkish basal 2/3 and yellow tip, the red spot confined to the lower mandible and a black mark running across both. The wings were long with an obvious long white tip to P10, and on some views a sugggestion of a whitish tongue too. The final feature in favour of the ID was the apparent isolated dark mark in the centre of a tertial. Unfortunately however, any clinching details in the primary pattern remained hidden, and I had to leave before I saw it flap or preen (two small children in the car and another needing to be picked up from the cinema!).

So whilst looking the part and ticking several boxes, it will never be possible to confirm the ID.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Telford, December 2014

A handful of opportunities to get out gulling in Shropshire presented themselves during the month, resulting in a few Casps amongst the throng to bring up the year's tally.
On 10th I called in at Priorslee Lake on the way home from work to find a 2cy Caspian Gull and 4 michs (3 ads & 3cy) amongst c800 LBBs including the white leucistic bird.

A brief check of Candles on 19th resulted in c200 large gulls, a good total by recent standards, and one of the first birds I looked at was a stunning 1cy hybrid Caspian Gull. Elsewhere in the flock was an elegant 2cy Caspian Gull.

On 30th I tried Candles and Horsehay but both were deserted, so I headed to Priorslee to find c600 gulls on the ice including a third 2cy Caspian Gull and 4 ad michs. Unfortunately the Casp didn't linger for Dawn & Pete or for Jim, and as turnover dropped off I headed home via Candles again, and amongst only c50 gulls was a stunning 1cy Casp. It immediately walked out of sight, but a few glimpses were all that was needed of such a distinctive individual.