Thursday, 20 July 2017

juvenile Caspian Gulls in Romania - a belated post

Late July last year (2016) I headed out to Romania and never got round to posting my images. I have a feeling it was because as soon as I got back, I headed straight out to Namibia. Essentially it was a post-school break up trip to see a few juvenile Caspian Gulls, but given the amount of general birdlife about, it was just a nice break if I'm honest - Red-footed Falcons, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes. So just in time for this year's influx of eastern yutes into the UK, here is a reminder of what they look like - slick, dark based tertials with that typical 'thumbnail', medium brown upperparts with delicate pale edgings, nice dark based greater-coverts, barrel-chested, pale/lightly barred underwing and nice slim, long legs. Enjoy the shots...
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juvenile Caspian Gulls Mamaia/Vadu, Romania July 2016
I enjoyed it so much that, you never know, I might even go again at some point!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Yellow-legged Gulls have arrived in London

July starts to feel slightly autumnal. The Black-headed Gulls have been piling through this week, including quite a few juveniles, and there seems to be generally a lot more gulls in London by the day. I managed to squeeze in an hour or so at the O2 on Thursday evening, where there were four Yellow-legged Gulls which included this pretty nice looking juvenile: -

juvenile Yellow-legged Gull Greenwich O2, London 6th July 2017
Meanwhile back in Rotherhithe the same afternoon, there was a first-summer on the River Thames and an adult on Greenland Dock that showed quite nicely too: -
adult Yellow-legged Gull Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, London 6th July 2017
Having managed to get myself out of bed yesterday morning, I just caught a bit of mud on the rising tide in Rotherhithe and managed two second-summers by the Hilton Hotel: -

second-summer Yellow-legged Gulls Rotherhithe, London 8th July 2017
While today, I headed to Thames Barrier Park with Jamie and Dante, and it seemed that the Yellow-legged Gull summer party was now in full flow with a total of 13 birds - 4 juveniles, 5 first-summers, a second-summer, two near-adults and an adult! Really enjoyable midsummer gulling just a few miles from home. 

juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls (above 6 photos) Thames Barrier Park, London 9th July 2017

1st-summer Yellow-legged Gulls (above 3 photos) Thames Barrier Park, London 9th July 2017
near-adult Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 9th July 2017
second-summer Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 9th July 2017
And back in Rotherhithe, the same adult Yellow-legged Gull was on Greenland Dock again. So that is that, another weekend gone and just two more weeks of school left.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The new season kicks off in style

It seems like a long while since I have had a decent day on the Thames. But today did eventually materialise into a decent haul, despite the first few hours being as quiet as the last few weeks. I'd decided to give the O2 and Thames Barrier Park a thorough going over during the low tide period today, particularly with a 1.50pm low tide which is about as ideal as it gets. Starting off at Thames Barrier Park, things were quiet with just a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull and it was the same at the O2 - a single second-summer Yellow-legged Gull (plus the regular Lesser Black-backed Gull ringed in Bristol in 1997).
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull O2 Greenwich, London 1st July 2017
So that was that, and it even got to the stage where I phoned up Alan C to ask him how the Bee-eaters were showing and also completely put Dante S off coming to join me as it was so quiet. So it was back on the tube one stop to Canning Town, then two stops down on the DLR back to Thames Barrier Park. And look what I then found: -

juvenile Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 1st July 2017
This is my equal earliest ever juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, on the same date as I saw my first in 2015. I had kind of been hoping for one this weekend, especially with the flock that hit Dungeness during the week. And so with the first juvenile large gull predictably this species, it is now officially the start of the new gull watching season! Then with the next loaf of bread, in came the first Caspian Gull from last season - X307 - which is a German-ringed bird from the Grabendorfer See colony. Now looking worse for wear plumage wise, although some nice new primaries evident, it has always and still is one of the more marginal birds: -

1st-summer Caspian Gull X307 Thames Barrier Park, London 1st July 2017
There were also a sprinkling of Yellow-legged Gulls about, probably five in total, with all but one being second-summers: -

2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gulls Thames Barrier Park, London 1st July 2017
And then back at Rotherhithe, on the dock next to my flat, there was a nice close encounter with another second-summer Yellow-legged Gull: -
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, London 1st July 2017
Three more weeks of school left, and the summer holidays can't come soon enough.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Recent update from the Thames

It has been a long time since I did an update, mainly because despite being out and about at weekends and checking the Rotherhithe gulls occasionally during the week, the typical late May and June big city birding (and working) has taken its toll. Very, very slow despite continuing to spend money on the loaves. I have had a few mild highlights during the period to punctuate the birding boredom, but predictably it has been a little quiet.

I guess the highlights though would be a rather diminutive 1st-summer Caspian Gull that spent a couple of hours on the mud by the O2 in Greenwich on 30th May and a brief juvenile Iceland Gull with Jamie P at Thames Barrier Park on 4th June - he got the shots as he was, as usual, quicker off the mark than me!
1st-summer Caspian Gull Greenwich O2, London 30th May 2017
Yellow-legged Gulls have been about in Greenwich and Thames Barrier Park on a relatively regular basis, with the numbers starting to creep up and new individuals coming and going with a bit of passage. Mainly first and particularly second-summers: -
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 29th May 2017
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 29th May 2017
2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 4th June 2017
1st-summer Yellow-legged Gull Thames Barrier Park, London 24th June 2017
Other than that, not a lot to say really apart from the rings continued a little bit including the following: -
adult Lesser Black-backed Gull 'VU' Greenwich 1st June 2017 - ringed in Bristol in 1997
1st-summer Herring Gull '659' Rotherhithe 11th June 2017 - ringed in Portland Harbour, Dorset 11th August 2016
Looking forward to July which will kick off with juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls soon enough...

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Elegant Tern in Sussex today

Back in the summer of 1999, I remember heading over to Lady's Island Lake in County Wexford for the second Elegant Tern for Britain and Ireland (following the first, in Northern Island in 1981). This bird showed nicely in the colony there, displaying everything you'd expect in the species with a whacking carrot bill and white rump. In those days there was still a large element of incredulity that such a Pacific coast species could turn up (with such regularity) over here.

And so the pattern went on, and it was a crazy case of going to see any 'orange-billed tern showing features of Elegant' at that time - just because you didn't know which one was going to look better than the previous! But in essence, they all looked pretty damn good and the likelihood is that the five Elegant Terns I've seen previously relate to less than five individual birds - saw further singles, following the Lady's Island bird in July 1999, at Dawlish in July 2002, Porthmadog a few days after that, then singles in Dorset in May 2005 and a bird at Beale Strand, Kerry in September 2013 (the same place as I saw the Royal Tern last summer). At the same time, in France, they'd managed to ring three of these type of terns (see here for more detail) which culminated in DNA testing they were in fact Elegant Terns.

When one of these French birds turned up last week (Bird C in the article), it was therefore time to make a move for it once it had settled in the tern colony at Church Norton, Pagham harbour. The sixth one I've seen, but knowing this bird is an Elegant Tern DNA wise means that's the job done as it were - can't get better than that, though the views were rather sub-optimal in the heat haze: -
Elegant Tern Church Norton, West Sussex 11th June 2017
You can't have everything, and being just a couple of hours from London, it made for a pleasant morning out with John A. Loads of nice Med Gulls too, which is always a bonus.

Managed to get a bit closer to Elegant Terns a couple of months ago as they roosted outside my hotel in Arica, Chile so rude not to post a couple of shots here: -

Elegant Terns Arica, Chile April 2017