Thursday, 26 February 2015

Rufforth, 12th Feb 2015

Following a blank visit after work the previous week, I arrived early afternoon with a couple of hours free, and started with the large loafing flock by the bypass at Knapton. The first bird to catch the eye amongst the throng of Herrings was a dark-mantled 2cy with fairly plain scaps with simple anchors, and a whitish head with parallel dark bill - some cachinnans genes in there maybe?

A couple of northern argentatus types kept me entertained for a while, and then a striking adult-type gull walked through my scope, immediately ringing Casp bells. Mantle tone was good, the legs were long and colourless, the head small, white and rounded, and the eye looked dark on first impressions. The visible underside of P10 didn't immediately look great, and without a view of the spread wing it was never seen properly, but a narrow black bar across the long white tip, and a tongue peeping out on some views, were all within range. In addition, a broad black band could be seen across both webs of P5. On better views, the iris was seen to be dark yellow-amber, the orbital ring was red, and whilst the bill wasn't particularly long, it was narrow and lacking much of a gonys.

All in all, it looked ok for a Caspian Gull, but the most significant feature was perhaps the orange ring on its left leg: ZV5T. On reading the code, I had a sense of deja vu: orange rings aren't what you expect on a Casp, but that code sounded familiar... a quick Google search and it all came back to me - I'd seen this bird before, at Kirkby-on-Bain landfill site in Lincs in September 2012 as a 2cy! It had been ringed by the North Thames Gull Group at Pitsea in October 2011, as a Caspian Gull. A bit of correspondence with Paul Hawkins and more details emerged - following my sighting in 2012, it was seen a couple of times at Skegness in August 2013, then in November and December 2014 it was at Terschelling, Netherlands, being last recorded there on 30th Dec, only six weeks before appearing at Knapton!

A big flush of the field meant it was time to move to the airfield itself, and whilst masses of gulls milled around above the tip, another huge flock took off from the nearby field and began swirling about overhead. I chance scan upwards immediately produced the recent adult Kumlien's Gull, the neat grey markings on the outer webs of P8-10 visible, and some tiny indistinct grey markings in the outer primary tips too. Surprisingly there were also gulls in the field behind the airfield (it always amazes me how many gulls you get at Rufforth), and after a few minutes the Kumlien's dropped in, one of closest birds too! It's at the more subtle end of the spectrum, but the markings are there!

Endless scans through the thousands of gulls that were dropping in failed to produce much new, but eventually a big smart 2cy Caspian Gull appeared, and then it was time for me to go.

Yet again, given some time, the mighty Rufforth tip produced a fine selection of good gulls, but there are always more out there... this showed up half an hour after I left!

2cy smithsonianus by Tim Jones

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