Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Two familiar Casps from Sunday

For some reason (work!), I've just got round to posting about Sunday - a return to form for the Thames after a couple of quiet weeks. Along with Dante and Dave J, I spent a few hours at Thames Barrier Park hurling out the loaves to the thankful larids. I got a message from Dante early on that there were good numbers of gulls about, shortly followed by another message 'I've got X307' and so with that I abandoned Rotherhithe's few gulls and headed to the north side of the river...

German-ringed 1st-winter Caspian Gull X307 Thames Barrier Park, London 19th March 2017 (bird 1)
X307 is a bit of a special bird, in that it was the first Caspian Gull of the season in the Thames Barrier/O2/Rotherhithe area way back on 25th September 2016 when Jamie P spotted it (photos here). Dante saw it at Rainham in October, but since then it has been seen at Amwell, Herts on a couple of occasions but that's it. So nice to have it back in Central London!

There was another treat at Thames Barrier Park on Sunday too, when another really bold and vocal 1st-winter Caspian Gull turned up to the offerings. This bird showed outrageously well, in nice neutral light too and was a new individual for us - number 26 for the season, excluding a couple of potential hybrids. With the obvious primary displaced in its right wing, as well as subtle plumage details, this is 'Creeky' a bird seen a few times just downriver at Creekmouth recently.

1st-winter Caspian Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 19th March 2017 (bird 2) 
Anyway, there were a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls about and some NTGG ringed Herring Gulls but that was about it. However, with the gull season getting ever nearer the end, I'll take a couple of local Caspian Gulls for a Sunday's day of work.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Iceland and Caspian Gulls at Dungeness

Having drawn a blank in Rotherhithe and at Thames Barrier Park, I escaped the capital late morning and headed down to Dungeness. And it was a return to form today. Nice and blustery, no sign of spring so all good on the gull front - loads of birds feeding along the shore in the windy conditions. On arrival, one of the juvenile Iceland Gulls that have spent the winter at The Patch decided to have a sojourn to the fishing boats where it showed nice enough: -
juvenile Iceland Gull Dungeness, Kent 18th March 2017
There was lots of movement throughout the afternoon, and the first of three 1st-winter Caspian Gulls flew by in the direction of the power station not to be seen again: -
1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) Dungeness, Kent 18th March 2017
More cooperative was this bird, with bizarrely pale bill that made it instantly recognisable despite being a 1st-winter: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) Dungeness, Kent 18th March 2017
And even better was this nice looking bird that seemed intent on hanging about the shingle ridge near the end of the concrete road, before heading off to the puddles late on: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 3) Dungeness, Kent 18th March 2017
There were also a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls ringed in northern France and a west country ringed Herring Gull. All very nice and a welcome return after a blank weekend for Casps (and gulls generally) last weekend.
Great Black-backed Gull S35 Dungeness, Kent 18th March 2017

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A weekend of transition

Nobody likes change. I don't, particularly when all my winter gulls seem to be leaving! This weekend was the first in a long while when I didn't see a Caspian Gull, and given the winter we've had, that is saying something. I visited Dungeness yesterday afternoon and despite the offerings from Mick S and Richard S, there wasn't a single Casp to be found. Just a Norwegian ringed adult Great Black-backed Gull and a single, regular 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull. With the sun shining and the sea calm, while I'd been watching the gulls, this male Wheatear had presumably been flying over the English Channel...
male Wheatear Dungeness, Kent 11th March 2017
So the first Wheatear of the year on 11th March signals the start of spring for me. It was one of those moments yesterday, where in the warm evening sun the bird was actively feeding on the shingle, I contemplated where it had wintered and where it was off to. Migration is fantastic - just wish I lived in Texas, Ohio, Hong Kong or Israel rather than London!

Today's offer was extremely sedate. Local stuff with Dante produced three Yellow-legged Gulls (two second-winters and a first-winter) at Thames Barrier Park, although a Curlew downriver at 9.30am was a decent record and another sign of early spring. They're pretty typical in London this time of the year, while a couple of Oystercatchers were nice and vocal there too. Back in Rotherhithe, a North Thames ringed Black-headed Gull 2BSV that was about the last couple of weekends (and was in full winter plumage on 25th February) now had a full hood: -
adult Black-headed Gull 2BSV Canada Water 12th March 2017 - ringed at Rainham, London on 2nd March 2013 and seen at Getlini Rubbish Dump, Riga, Latvia on 13th April 2013, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk on 2nd and 18th October 2013 then Getlini Rubbish Dump, Riga, Latvia again on 16th and 17th April 2014 and Cardiff, South Glamorgan on 29th December 2014 before turning up at Canada Water, Rotherhithe on 26th Februart 2017 
So that was that. A pretty bang average weekend predictably, given that winter is fast disappearing and spring is yet to kick off.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A familiar Caspian Gull and a Scandinavian invasion

Another Saturday on the Thames near home, and it was predictably gull packed. The tides this weekend are pretty good, with late morning/midday low tides allowing 6 hours of exposed mud in the Rotherhithe/Greenwich/Thames Barrier area. I started off in Rotherhithe, where on Greenland Dock there was a Rainham ringed Black-headed Gull with a decent history (seen in Latvia three times as well as Glamorgan and Norfolk) while the mud by the Hilton Hotel offered two new Norwegian ringed Black-headed Gulls: -
adult Black-headed Gull Rotherhithe, London 4th March 2017 - ringed as an adult male at Engervannet, Bærum, Norway on 22nd April 2016 and seen at Hovindammen, Oslo, Norway on 25th April 2016
1st-winter Black-headed Gull Rotherhithe, London 4th March 2017 - ringed as a chick at Sognsvann, Oslo, Norway on 12th June 2016
It was then onto Thames Barrier Park, where I joined the usual suspects Dante and Jamie P along with Niall K and Dave J (both here to get some Casp loving). And on cue, a first-winter Caspian Gull turned up and came to the offering of bread. Quite remarkably this was one of the two Caspian Gulls I had last Sunday in Rotherhithe, which was also seen at Beddington yesterday by Josh and David C: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 4th March 2017
There were also three Yellow-legged Gulls there (all regulars, a second-winter and two first-winters). I then headed to the O2 at Greenwich with the crew, and although there were no Caspian Gulls here (which always disappoints young Dante), it had a load of interesting birds including a Norwegian Common Gull, two Danish Great Black-backed Gulls and ten Thames ringed Herring Gulls: -
1st-winter Great Black-backed Gull Greenwich O2, London 4th March 2017 - ringed as a chick at Græsholm, Nordjylland, Denmark on 30th June 2016
1st-winter Great Black-backed Gull Greenwich O2, London 4th March 2017 - ringed as a chick at Græsholm, Nordjylland, Denmark on 26th June 2016, seen at Hirtshals Havn, Nordjylland, Denmark 21st September 2016 and Thames Barrier Park on 5th February 2017
2nd-winter Common Gull Greenwich O2, London 4th March 2017 - ringed as a 1st-winter female in Oslo, Norway on 2nd October 2015
At least three first-winter Yellow-legged Gulls showed well, including this confiding bird which has been seen regularly the last month or so between the O2 and Thames Barrier Park.

1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull Greenwich O2, London 4th March 2017
With increased numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a good push of new Black-headed Gulls (indicated by the new rings), hopefully tomorrow will be just as productive. It'd be nice to get a handful more Caspian Gulls by the time the season is out...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Two Caspian Gulls in Rotherhithe!

In previous winters, I have not really hung around Rotherhithe much apart from the regular token daily looks on Greenland Dock on my way to or from other places. However, this year things have changed a bit and along with the O2 and Thames Barrier Park upping their game, the area within walking distance of my home seems to have become a bit more of a magnet for those beasts from the east - Caspian Gulls. It is readily apparent that if you read this blog, a weekend for me isn't a weekend without my fix of this species and so Sunday was a real treat.

With early morning low tides, I had arranged to meet Dante S at the O2 having checked the area of mud off the Hilton Hotel in Rotherhithe. However, that plan really didn't get off the ground because when I rolled up at Pageant Crescent there was this guy smiling back at me: -
1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) Rotherhithe, London 26th February 2017
And then if that wasn't enough, a few minutes later, a second 1st-winter Caspian Gull turned up on the mud: -
1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 2) Rotherhithe, London 26th February 2017
Now given that I have only ever seen three Caspian Gulls (plus last week's German hybrid) in Rotherhithe, I was fairly happy with things as they stood. I headed to Canada Water to pick Dante up, and where there was a new German-ringed Black-headed Gull along with a Thames ringed bird there too.
Black-headed Gull X0V8 Canada Water, London 26th February 2017. Ringed as an adult on Riether Werder Island, NE Germany on 20th May 2016 in one of Germany's largest Black-headed Gull colonies (c.9,000 pairs)
Back on the Thames, the first of the morning's Caspian Gulls continued to show well and it was nice for somebody else to see share a Rotherhithe Casp: -

1st-winter Caspian Gull (bird 1) Rotherhithe, London 26th February 2017
That is until some inconsiderate tourists decided to spoil the party by running down onto the foreshore. That was that for the day, and with the tide coming in and me venting my frustrations at them, it was time to call it quits and be happy with the two really local Casps.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Caspian Gull X309 Dungeness today

Another Saturday, another yellow-ringed German gull. Jamie P and I started off the day in London. My first visit was Rotherhithe where there was a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull by the Hilton Hotel early morning though Thames Barrier Park (like last weekend) was poor with just a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls. On our journey out of London, Jamie P and I made brief stops at Thamesmead and Dartford which only produced an adult summer Mediterranean Gull along Bob Dunn Way, before unsurprisingly ending up at Dungeness early afternoon.

Having only just missed a Caspian Gull at the fish hut, it was time to head down to the fishing boats for the afternoon. Very quickly, a Caspian Gull was picked up along the beach, and we tried to approach it. For some reason or another, things began rather frustratingly with this first-winter bird being a bit skittish and spending a lot of time on the water without too much interest in the bread. However, when it got up from the water when we'd approached a bit closer, it was another yellow-ringed bird! This time, it was X309 and had been ringed as a chick at Grabendorfer See, Brandenburg on 6th June 2016 before being seen at Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France on 6th December 2016.

1st-winter Caspian Gull X309 Dungeness, Kent 25th February 2017
There seem to have been a lot more of these German birds about this year - whether it is because there have been 90 more ringed in 2016 to 2015 (370 vs 280) or just because last year's young have dispersed further west this year, who knows. Anyway, X309 was a really nice bird and without doubt the best of the three German birds I've seen this year!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Blame the Germans!

On Saturday, I ventured out a very short distance from my home and stumbled upon a yellow-ringed gull in Rotherhithe. It was obviously a Caspian-type Gull, and therefore worthy of some bread baiting - and I knew by its code X007 that it was from that dreaded German colony. In fact, this is our fourth German 'Caspian Gull' in Central London this winter and they're all on a sliding scale of not exactly classic, whether it be the scapular pattern, tertials, greater-coverts or structure. And this lad was no exception: -

hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull X007 Rotherhithe, London 18th February 2017
It was initially on the beach by the Hilton Hotel and then moved a few hundred yards east to Durand's Wharf where Richard Page-Jones managed to catch up with it too. In flight, it fitted the Caspian bill in several respects with an even black-banded tail and uppertail coverts just about fine for the species; as was the typical nape streaking contrasting with the pale head. I could also pick it up on call, very guttural and Caspian-like (though it never did the albatross posture). However, the bill itself was relatively short while the underwing coverts were fairly dark and intricately barred. On the deck, the second generation scapulars had fairly argenteus-like anchors while the greater-coverts were nicely notched with no obvious dark bases. So all in all, this is a really obvious Caspian x Herring Gull hybrid: -

hybrid Caspian x Herring Gull X007 Rotherhithe, London 18th February 2017
It was ringed as a chick at Laussig to the northeast of Leipzig, Germany on 7th June 2016 and then seen in The Netherlands at Katwijk on 31st August 2016, Zantmotor on 16th September 2016 and then again at Katwijk on 5th October 2016 before being seen at Crayford Marshes, Kent on 23rd January 2017.

On another note, this was the 25th Caspian-type Gull Jamie, Dante and I have had in the three mile zone from Rotherhithe east to Thames Barrier Park since late September. Pretty special to have these beasts from the east essentially on my doorstep these days; a sure sign of westward expansion, reaping the rewards of less tip action and a couple of extra pairs of eyes searching. With the exception of Dungeness, this has probably been the best area for Casps in Britain this winter!