Saturday, 8 February 2014

Gulls, gulls, gulls...

Really should apologies for leaving you so long with that last post about Herring Gull races. It really was quite cruel. My offering this time is again sadly gulls but more interesting ones you’ll be pleased to hear!

Since well before Christmas, an adult Glaucous Gull has been wandering up and down Chesil beach and has completely ignored Radipole until now! I’d never seen a Glauc at Radipole and it’s been on my most wanted list for a few years so imagine how pleased I was a few days ago to look out of the window and see this beauty flopping around!

And obviously it’s on my Radipole patch list which I really should add up...
The storms which have been giving people plenty to whinge about (completely understandable in some cases) has been sending a few interesting gulls into Radipole. Little Gull tally for the year it getting somewhere near the staggering figure of three of four and Kittiwake is probably approaching half a dozen! This poor fella came in a few days ago and even came to bread though just once when I didn't have the camera to hand!

Will finish up with this ‘interesting’ bird. I’m very sorry but it’s gull races again! This Common Gull really stood out from the crowd. Took a few pictures and like most things, I forgot about it. This morning I noticed the pics on the SD card and had a closer look. I started wondering whether this bird could be of the race heinei which is from Russia I think. It’s a very dark, slightly larger bird and the tail pattern I thought was interesting. In fact I first clocked this bird in flight due to it’s speckled tail pattern. Usually Common Gulls have very white tails with the black band. Some do have spotting but this bird certainly had more than normal. Don’t know whether this race is ID’able in 1st winter plumage and don’t even know what I’d look for really but this bird looked quite different from the norm. Comments would be appreciated and apologies for the dodgy pics!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Argy bargy

I’ll get the nice bits over before moving onto my usual winter topic, gulls! Friday I spent the day trying to boost the girlfriends year list, as things at her work are starting to get somewhat competitive and I can’t just stand by and see her beat. First stop was Portland Harbour where most things were miles away but I persuaded her that she’d seen some Black-throated Divers, Slav Grebe and Black-necked Grebe. She’d already got the Black Guillemot and Great Northern Diver on a visit last week. Then we nipped off to Cheselbourne where the two juv Cranes showed nicely. Last stop was poole harbour where we dipped the Surf Scoter but had a good range of waders plus a nice male Hen Harrier.

A good constructive days birding!

At Radipole things still haven’t changed much, gulls are still pretty much all that’s about of interest...
This morning I noticed lots of these things moving through.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
In the past interesting gulls have often put in an appearance when these guys start appearing and no sooner had I though that this morning, this things appeared.

A rather brutish Yellow-legged Gull, a nice 3rd winter bird.

Almost certainly nothing but this one appeared somewhat darker backed than other I’ve seen. Light was awful and there’s going to be variation so nothing to worry about.
This afternoon I had a repeat visit from the suspected, probable, possible, plausible argentatus Herring Gull from last week. Showed better and managed a range of flight shots. Not particularly sure what to make of them but it’s pretty... and bloody big!

Can’t really add much more to what I said on my last blog post about this bird. But I know the pictures will be of interest to a few people so worth posting... interesting bird!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Off to a flying start!

I said on my last blog of 2013 I was going to have a go at this Patchwork Challenge thing which involves outlining a patch and seeing as many species within the patch as possible in a year. The new year arrived and I still seemed keen on the idea so off I went. Started the year with this nice patch tick!

It arrived over Christmas and thankfully stayed long enough for me to get it on my patch list. Not that this species is unlikely to turn up again sometime during the rest of this year... their getting like bleeding Little Egrets! Which, by the way is also on the patch list...

At the end of new years day I’d accumulated a few birds and spent a good bit of time pondering whether to included our infamous Hooded Merganser?! Jury’s still out! Seems like most locals have been in to tick it for the year so I guess nobody can say too much if I stuck it on my year list?? Including ‘Hoody’, I’m on something like 55 with tons of common stuff still to get. I’m pacing myself...

Locally over Christmas there appears to have been a few good birds about! Including this rather bland looking Guillemot...

Only joking!!!! Cracking bird and glad I caught it before it croaked or whatever it did. Certainly didn’t look at the peak of fitness when I saw it new years eve but then again, after the xmas hols I doubt any of the on looking birders were either.

There’s been a few white winged gulls knocking around locally for a few week or so. I’m desperate for one of the Glaucous Gulls to drop in. An adult came close today and was seen off Weymouth Harbour. This is closest I’ve got so far at Radipole...

A pale Herring Gull.

I’ve managed to get a few other good gulls on the patch list so far including this Little Gull yesterday (and saw it again today).

Cheers Brett Spencer for a lend of the pic!! Mine were dreadful for some reason... ;-)
Also got Kittiwake on the patch list which is a bit mental. Not an annual species at Radipole and only my second in 5 years! Shame it was smothered in oil though

I’ll just finish up with a few shots of this odd Herring Gull from this afternoon. A large looking 1st winter bird with features perhaps consistent with Scandinavian Herring Gull??

Pretty pale inner primaries. Interesting to compare the two wing tips visible in this shot.

And cropped. Firstly the bird in question

And this ‘normal’ Herring Gull.

The fifth primary from last is interesting. Don’t know much about these birds though did see one a few weeks ago which was an interesting experience. I’ll leave it for someone else to comment further on this bird!

And finally (again), this gorgeous Great horned Owl in Wyke Regis. Obviously come across on a ship with all these American Snowy Owls... or possibly not!!!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Ho ho ho... Merry Christmas!

Just thought I’d wish anyone who has time to read my blog a Happy Christmas! This was my only excuse to blog up until this morning. The last few weeks have been quiet and a bit samey as in more Med Gull ring sightings and other gulls etc. The was a brief Ring-billed Gull at Radipole (found by Dave Chown) a couple of weeks ago and had my camera been to hand it would have made a nice post but the camera was safely in the house whilst I was watching the bird. However, this morning I heard back about DNA results of a possible Siberian Chiffchaff that Steve Hales and myself trapped and ringed at Abbotsbury Swannery back last month. There was never much doubt about this bird as it was a cracker but always good to air on the side of caution hence we stuck with the possible or probably theory. Now the results are back we can call it a definite Siberian Chiffchaff cos that’s what it is.

So there we go, another year gone. Next year should be fun as I’m planning on doing a patch year list with the patch being Radipole Lake! Makes sense as I can see the site from my house... So if anyone see’s anything at Radipole which is vaguely interesting at the site please get in touch! I’ll even twitch a Treecreeper or Coal Tit.

Merry Christmas all! I’ll leave you with a pic of a Bearded Tit I took last week. Happy new year as well!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Penguin plus more gulls...

RSPB and RSPCA are often confused with each other. One does conservation and the other rescues animals but this confusion can often lead to some interesting things being brought into the Radipole visitor centre. In the past we’ve had Peregrine, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Buzzard plus an assortment of little birds and tons of pigeons! Thankfully there’s a local lady who’s willing to take on injured wildlife otherwise we’d be really stuck! Today’s surprise was a rather smart Guillemot which was picked up on Weymouth beach. We had one brought in a while ago but that one was identified as a Penguin before we obviously explained the difference! This one felt really skinny so is probably doomed but the RSPCA came along and took it off to their seabird centre up in Somerset. Best of luck mate!!

Gulls weren’t particularly numerous today at Radipole and the morning Med Gull flock was flushed by a Peregrine and didn’t come back. Got a load of ring number yesterday including a different Serbian bird to the one a few weeks ago plus two German birds amongst the usual French birds. Last week got one from Hungary which wasn’t my first from that country but a nice record none-the-less.

Herring Gulls were moving through in numbers today though and included a colour ringed bird from Norfolk.

Also picked up this interesting bird. Noticed this bird had plenty of white in the tip even when the wing was closed. Waited to while to get an open wing shot but got it in the end.

 Certainly not a south coast argenteus. I didn’t think the mantle was particularly darker than the rest of the Herring Gulls around but that wing tip pattern certainly suggests a more northern origin. Nice big white tip to the last primary plus a good size white spot on P9. Also fairly narrow back band on P6 where the back stops. Can I call this one an argentatus??

A good few years ago I went through a weird phase of photographing wing tips of adult Herring Gulls. This was during my gull discovery days when I knew a lot less about gull than what I do now. Got some really interesting wing tips though including this bird.

 Interestingly this bird didn’t have a noticeably darker mantle either but that wing tip is undoubtedly that of an argentatus. Wonder if I’ve been a bit caught up with the whole mantle thing? Might end up going through another phase of wing tip studying... Look out readers!! Hope something more interesting happens soon to stop me!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

They've all come at once!

Mature Yellow-legged Gulls are getting a bit like buses. In four years of gull gauping at Radipole I’ve only ever seen a couple of ‘mature’ birds, as in ones which are older than juv/1st winter. This week, Radipole has had a 3rd winter, 2 sub adults and an adult! Seen three of these birds and Joe Stockwell from up at Portland Obs ventured down and found the adult bird. My last post was going on about the 3rd winter bird so here’s some shots of two sub adult. Talking to Brett Spencer yesterday it could be that this first bird is an advanced 3rd winter judging by the amount of black in the primary coverts. If that’s right then today’s bird is likely to be the same age. These things confuse me easily!

First a bird from Thursday.

Slightly different light. 

Interesting shot comparing mantle colour of Yellow-legged Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

And a wing shot.

And this evenings bird. thought initially it was the same one as the above but quite clearly a different bird!

In case your sick of Gulls here’s a shot of a 1st winter male Marsh Harrier carrying a Snipe away which it had caught in the channel opposite the Radipole visitor centre! Brilliant thing to see happen right in front of you. Way better than a Sparrowhawk catching the friendly garden Robin!

This is a nice sharp shot of my house with a very blurry Marsh Harrier in front of it. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gulls again...

After a brief interlude of passerine ringing, it’s back to gulls. And judging by the success (or lack of it) of my last Clouds Hill session, this blog might resort back to pictures of Med Gulls and ring reading for the foreseeable future. Not trying to put you off or anything....
Springs tides have allowed the water level at Radipole to drop nice and low which always attracts good number of gulls. Constant scanning throughout the day only produced one slight oddity and that was this gorgeous 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull.

Think back to my deep state of confusion regarding a 3rd winter something or other a few weeks ago which I wrongly settled on Yellow-legged Gull. I said back then that if it was actually a  Yellow legger it would have been a lot more obvious. This bird took about 3 seconds to ID and no problems with this fella. It was bloody massive! Only other option would be a Herring x Great black backed Gull... joke...
However the clinging feature of a Yellow-legged Gull is the width of a full extended gape. This bird obliged and opened it’s gob and it measured an impressive 153mm which is well outside the range of Herring Gull.

Had a very pleasant evening watching 350+ Med Gulls fall out of the sky onto Radipole Lake. This happens most evening between 4 and 4:30 and it’s well worth seeing! I’ve had over 500 in the past do this. Much more impressive than watching them fly up and down the fleet though I wouldn't mind seeing the 1000+ currently wintering down there.