Thursday, 3 September 2015

Caspian Gull - Cocker's Dyke, Lancashire - 3rd September 2015

 Having a bit of time off this morning, I thought I'd be productive and learn a bit about Caspian Gulls. Previous to today, I had seen a 2nd winter at Chasewater in December and a moulting 1st Summer/2nd Winter at Ainsdale recently (as you'll probably see below). 2nd calendar year birds really are striking things and I feel fairly comfortable with them. Juveniles really aren't that common yet in the UK (or at least they aren't getting IDd as readily as the older birds).
There has recently been a reliable bird at Cocker's Dyke in north Fylde in Lancs which is a juvenile. I arrived mid-morning at about 08:45, and began searching. It took about 45 minutes before anything other than a Greater Black-back or adult Lesser Black-back appeared in my scope. A group of 5 juvenile gulls appeared which were mainly Lesser Black-backs, but a really pale bird was very striking. Before I could get much on it, it fell asleep making it somewhat more difficult to ID.
It looked good though with really black primaries extending well beyond the tail, black centres to the tertials and clean white tips, faded brown juvenile scapulars and a couple of freshly moulted grey scaps. They were generally fairly clean with a single black line down the centre. The head was generally fairly clean with a slight mask and a streaked shawl to the nape. When it eventually woke up, it had a parallel sided bill, pear-shaped head and a long neck. It walked onto a bit of mud/sand and was incredibly long-legged, 'filled nappy' on the vent which was extremely clean and white.
It took off and revealed 'Venetian blinds' to the inner primaries, black secondary bar contrasting to the pale coverts and a white rump contrasting with the black tail tip. Very educational.






Monday, 31 August 2015

West Lancashire - 30th August 2015

 I couldn't leave it be. I had to return to Ainsdale to see the moulting Caspian Gull. I took Danni with me and, due to it not being right in front of where I parked this time, we had a lovely walk north along the tide line. We came across a large group of roosting gulls and slowly approached them. It took us about 10 minutes of scanning the gulls, before the long billed, white headed immature gull stood out like a sore thumb. The gulls were all wonderfully approachable, which was fantastic, until we noticed that the Caspian was quite badly limping and on closer inspection, it was tangled in what can only be described as kite string. It must've been quite tight on its leg as the right leg was almost limp. Luckily it appears to be able to fly quite happily, so hopefully it can evade danger long enough for the string to come free. A real shame that such a lovely bird (and the rarest bird on the beach...probably) happened to have got tangled in litter.


 The moult seems to be progressing quite nicely with p1-7 fully grown, p8 2/3 grown and p9 about 20% grown and p10 presumably in pin. The outer two secondaries are now fully grown and the third and fourth not far behind. Only two old secondaries seem to remain unmoulted.

 Along with all the roosting gulls, there were probably about 120 Sandwich Terns on the beach, which allowed for great views as they flew too and from the roosting flock, and therefore great photographic opportunities.


Several moulting Sanderling along the beach also made for lovely viewing of such a charismatic wader. I may have to pay homage to them this winter along the Lancashire coast in their winter finery.

 What was nice to see was how the Caspian Gull flew and landed near the burger van on the beach and the owner had noticed it was struggling with the string and after presumably being told about the gull by the visiting birders, was worried and alerted the local beach warden (?) and they were looking in to the possibility of getting the RSPCA in to help it out. Of course, this is just one gull out of probably hundreds along the Lancashire coast that are tangled or injured by rubbish. That is the nature of the beast when you choose to forage on tips and other wonderfully scenic places. Just because this one is rarer, doesn't mean we should target it for help. The real message here is that littering really is an issue. If one 'star' bird out of thousands on that beach can suffer from littering or poor recycling/disposing of waste, you can only imagine how many birds are suffering we don't even notice.
After our nice walk along the beach, we went up to Marshside and had a look through the screen at Sandgrounder's. Checking through the Dunlin flock, I was hopeful of a Little Stint, but it was my Danni who happened to find the juvenile (which was presumably the same as reported the day before) really quite close to the hide. I left my SLR in the car, so had to settle for Digiscoping and with such an active little wader, the above is the best video grab I could muster! Always a pleasure to see though and a nice bird for 270 on the yearlist

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Spurn Point - 26th August 2015


 After starting the week with a lot of surveys, I was allowed a day off. I should really have had a rest as I'm ridiculously tired, but the days leading up to this day off held record counts of Willow Warblers and also very good numbers of Pied Flycatcher at Spurn. In addition there were several Wryneck, Icterine Warblers and a nice Greenish Warbler...It was a no brainer.
After checking my moth trap early doors, I set off and arrived at Canal Scrape at about half 10 and met Liam, who was just about to see a juvenile Red-backed Shrike in Clubley's Field, which was the first bird I saw as I got out the car...not a bad start!
We had a quick brew ready to set off for the point and whilst we did, the bush outside the Warren common room held a male Redstart and 2 Pied Flycatcher.
Getting past the narrows, the first Willow Warblers were seen along with 2 Common Sandpiper. Around the Sheep Field, we saw our first Pied Flycatcher and migrants were certainly obvious with loads of Willow Warblers and a couple of Whitethroat. Just before the lighthouse, I spotted two brown birds flying into a bush, which on reflection were probably Dunnock, and curiosity got the better of me. We walked over and I flushed a brown/grey bird with a long tail and a rufous speckled back. As it was about to land, I was expecting a Shrike to appear in the bins, but it failed to land and started undulating and revealed a yellowy throat and a very skinny body. It just had to be a Wryneck! I managed to get a couple of perched views and was over the moon to finally see a Wryneck in the UK taking me to 362 species BOU.
Heading down to the end of the point, we picked up Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, 3 Wheatear and about 7 Whinchat. Pied Flycatcher numbers probably hit 40 with flocks of up to 6 and Willow Warblers must've hit 80 at least.
Moving back up, we sat next to the heligoland in the potato fields as there was a hive of activity in terms of willow warblers. We gave it a good 15 minutes and saw about 20 Willow Warblers.
A bird suddenly appeared in an Elder which Liam and I instinctively got onto as soon as we saw it. It was startlingly pale and looked almost silver with the naked eye. It was basically white underneath with a clean throat and pale face. It was an obvious supercillium that appeared to get broader behind the eye and a pale green upperbody. As it dipped down to fly, I am positive I noted a wing bar. It looked very good for Greenish, so we waited a good while for it to reappear but frustratingly, it never did. I have never seen Greenish, so I didn't know they could look that pale, otherwise I might've been quicker off the mark with the camera. Would've been a quality bird to end what was a fantastic trip to the point, but oh well....







 On the walk back up from the point, we stopped at Chalk Bank to check any roosting gulls and waders. In amongst the Sanderling and Dunlin, there was a lovely juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and in amongst the gulls was a bird that initially gave us a little confusion. Liam's first thought was 1st summer LBBG due to the paleness of it compared to a standarly dark juvenile. I was instantly struck by the rather chunky bill, white basal colour long legs. I also noticed it had all juvenile scapulars (with the exception of possibly a couple of replaced feathers (was hard to see). It wasn't a 1st summer and I had my suspisions that it was a Yellow-legged Gull. As it took flight, there was a pale window to the inner primaries, fairly white rump and black tail band. It was indeed a fantastic juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. The first I've found in the UK of this age.







(Liam Langley)
(Liam Langley)
(Liam Langley)
After a quick cup of tea post-point, I headed back to Preston, stopping just north of Kilnsea Wetlands to scan a flock of gulls loafing in a newly cultivated field. There were 23 Med Gulls in there, which was a real shock considering there were only about 150 gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Lesser Yellowlegs - Condor Green - 24th August 2015




After Bill Aspin, Tony Disley and Tom Darbyshire had a tantalisingly brief Lesser Yellowlegs at Brockholes last week, I was left feeling a tad deflated and hoped it would turn up somewhere else locally. I tried myself at Alston Wetlands and Grimsargh reservoir several evenings, to no avail.
I was pleased last night then, when it was relocated at Condor Green up near to Glasson.
Danni was still with me after our weekend at Birdfair, so first thing this morning, we headed north and started scanning the creek through the many Redshank. 2 Ruff and a Snipe, were the only obviously different birds amongst the Redshanks, Common Sandpipers and Curlew. We viewed a second time from the layby next to Condor Pool and it wasn't long before I picked up a distant, skinny wader with thin legs, thin bill, long tapering read end, long primary projection, obvious orbital ring and supercillium. It was the Lesserlegs and a lovely bird at that. We got nice views as it fed in the creek, but went out of view after a few minutes.
A nice Lancashire tick and a lifer for Danni

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Caspian Gull - Ainsdale, Lancs - 16th August 2015

 After a slightly quieter night moth trapping, I thought I'd utilise the stunning morning's sun and head over to Ainsdale to try and look for the 2cy Caspian Gull that has been present on and off for a couple of weeks. Arriving on site, it was evident why it has only been present on and off! The place was massive! The sand at low tide is amazingly extensive and the gulls were spread over a vast difference. It was going to be like finding a needle in a hay stack, but luckily the pin managed to find itself on the top of the hay stack! I walked onto the beach and the first flock of 10 gulls I came across held a large pale headed bird. It stood up and revealed a pale chest and belly, streaked neck shawl, 'spotted' mantle, the black on the tertials was very black and the back end was elongated. It was the Casp!
 When it got up and looked alert, it had a really long neck, looked very snouty and had a tapered back and 'filled nappy'-like vent and looked remarkably elegant as it strutted around with model-like long legs.
 Look how smart that looks!
 Showing how snouty, long-necked, slope-backed, pale-headed and leggy it was.
 In flight, it was obviously in a lot of wing-moult: most of the secondaries missing, with the inner 6 still being old, the outermost secondary was growing and the rest were missing.  Primary moult was mostly done with all replaced except p9 and 10 (with p8 still growing). Primary coverts were the same with the outer two being old.






Even with the moult being THIS extensive, it still looked better than any other gull on the beach! Only my second Caspian and a Lancashire tick. It was a fantastic morning and then news came in from the Scillies, but I have been trying to not let that ruin my day! Looking at these photos, it does seem to be working (a little bit...)