Friday, 4 September 2015

Eastoft & Albert Village Lake, 7th August 2015

"Can you tell what it is yet..."

Harvest and the subsequent ploughing seemed late on the Humber this year, and numbers of LBBs in the fields had been hard to come by. Finally, things changed however, and after the pleasant sight of 11 michs in a field south of Swinefleet, I came across another 6 by the A161 near Eastoft, along with a snouty adult Caspian Gull. To say the views were disappointing would be an understatement, the heat-haze coming off the freshly turned earth was like treacle, but it was a hell of a bird, and not the same as the one at nearby Goole in late July.
Fortunately the skies were greyer and the haze much reduced in the Midlands, and views of the gulls on Albert Village Lake were much better. I only had an hour as I had to get back home to pack the car for a family camping holiday, but the usual 2cy Caspian Gull was soon located, along with c20 michs. Many of the 2cy LBBs had now almost completed their primary moult, so I was hardly bothering to search for black primaries, instead trying to pick out a 2cy with a pink-based bill, to get better views of the previous week's Baltic.

Amazingly, after twenty minutes, I picked up such a bird: a small 2cy LBB-type with a two-tone, pink-based bill, a whitish head with streaked neck-sides, dark blackish-brown upperparts without much in the way of visible patterning, and those jet-black primaries. So far so good. I rattled off a few shots on my phone, but after less than two minutes, it flew. I tried to stay on it with the video, but unbelievably the phone rang, cutting off the recording! The perils of phone-scoping!
The bird had gone, and I was not much better off than before. I reviewed the video, and a smile crept across my face - it wasn't last week's bird, it was better than last week's bird! Like before, the secondaries and greater coverts showed no signs of moult, and there was a nick in the middle of the trailing edge of the wing resulting from missing feathers. But this bird's nick was bigger: P2 was missing and P1 was nearly 3/4 grown, a dark grey-black feather with a broad white tip, a 3rd-generation primary. So it was slightly ahead of the previous bird (but a week on, so maybe not that much more advanced), but it was what was going on at the other end of the primaries that had made me smile: the 2nd-generation P10 was only half grown, indicating that the juvenile outer primary had only recently been shed, so there were two simultaneous moult-waves going on! Staffelmauser!

montage of videograbs showing the happy news: Staffelmauser!

This moult pattern has never been recorded in (ringed) western LBBs, and indeed it is considered that any 2cy that has shed P1-3 by August can be considered an acceptable fuscus. But does that mean any will get accepted...?!

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