Rarity Round-up 18th to 24th March 2017

Despite the winds coming from the south-west, the majority of the week remained cold as a North Atlantic low dragged winds down from northern latitudes and these were subsequently replaced by easterlies at the week’s end. Summer migrants continued to arrive, however, with the first Garganey, Osprey, White Wagtail and Northern Wheatear all making an appearance during the period. Despite this, some of our long-staying winter visitors remained, clearly waiting to choose their moment for migration.

The wintering adult Whooper Swan was still present at Sywell CP on 22nd and the Eurasian White-fronted Goose stayed put with Greylags at Pitsford Res all week, while the first Garganeys appeared on 21st – a male and female at Summer Leys LNR – but they had promptly moved on by the following day. Three Red-crested Pochards were still at Thrapston GP on 19th and a solitary drake remained at Earls Barton GP all week, as did the long-staying female Scaup at Stanwick GP and the Long-tailed Duck at Stanford Res, where the water level continues to drop nicely.

Low Water at Stanford Res, 18th March 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Just one wintering Great White Egret lingered at Summer Leys until 21st while Pitsford’s two rare grebes, Slavonian and Red-necked, remained until at least 20th. Aside from belated news of a male Hen Harrier on the edge of the Rowley Estate, north of Croughton on 13th, the only scarce raptor of the week was the first migrant Osprey, over Little Irchester, on 20th.

Sporting an array of coloured bling, an Avocet pitched up at Summer Leys on 24th and remained throughout the day but, like the Garganeys there before it, it had gone by the following day – well, it is spring, after all …

Colour-ringed Avocet, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Colour-ringed Avocet, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2017 (Bob Bullock)

More Black-tailed Godwits duly piled in, with the 18th seeing one at Stanford Res and thirteen over Summer Leys, Ditchford GP hosting two on 20th and the 23rd producing one at Summer Leys and three at Stanwick GP. Jack Snipes continued to be seen at Hollowell Res, where two were still present on 24th.

With the end of March nigh, most wintering gulls have all but melted away and a lingering first-winter Caspian Gull, at Hollowell Res on 18th, may well prove to be the last of the season as it makes way for the migrants, one of which was a second-winter Mediterranean Gull at Stanford Res on the same date. Four days later, on 22nd, four Little Gulls visited Daventry CP and at least seven were at Summer Leys, followed by six at Boddington Res briefly the following day.

Waxwings clinging to the remnants of winter included approximately fifteen in Little Billing on 21st and one in Brackley three days later, on 24th but, pushing north out of Africa came the first of the summer’s Northern Wheatears – a male at Clifford Hill GP on 19th-20th and the first migrant White Wagtails arrived, including singles at Pitsford Res on 21st and 23rd and at Hollowell Res on 24th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up 11th to 17th March 2017

Mild south to south-westerlies coupled with lengthy bouts of unhindered sunshine were largely responsible for Northants hitting its highest temperature (16.2 deg C) of the year so far this week. More summer migrants arrived, with Chiffchaffs widespread by the week’s end – one site hosting at least seventeen on 13th – more Sand Martins and the first Little Ringed Plovers at Stanford Res on 16th, increasing to six there the following day. Stanford is shaping up nicely as the place to watch for wader passage this spring. Maintenance work being carried out on the dam has resulted in a significant drop in the water level there, which is likely to hit an all-time low over the forthcoming weeks.

The wintering adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 13th, as did the Eurasian White-fronted Goose at Pitsford Res, while another was discovered with the Greylag flock at Blatherwycke Lake on the same date. Up to four Red-crested Pochards (three drakes) were still at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR until 14th, the long-staying female Scaup remained at on the main lake at Stanwick GP until at least 13th and, despite the drop in water level, the Long-tailed Duck remained on site at Stanford Res throughout the period. Also at Stanford, the ‘redhead’ Smew was still present on 13th, while two (one drake) were found at Clifford Hill GP’s main lake on 11th, where they remained until 13th.

Long-tailed Duck, Stanford Res, 12th March 2017 (Alan Boddington)

The clear-out of wintering Great White Egrets continued, with one still at Ravensthorpe Res on 13th and up to two at Summer Leys between 11th and 17th, while Pitsford’s rare grebe duo of Slavonian and Red-necked lingered all week.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 12th March 2017 (Adrian Borley)

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 13th March 2017 (Alan Francis)

The 12th proved itself to be a bit of a ‘godwit day’ with single Black-taileds appearing at Clifford Hill GP, Pitsford Res and Summer Leys while, either side of it, single Jack Snipes were at Stanford Res on 11th and Pitsford Res on 13th.With northward Common Gull passage well under way, less common species were also in evidence in the shape of a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Stanwick GP and an adult at Daventry CP – both on 11th. Single Yellow-legged Gulls visited Stanwick GP on 11th and at Daventry on 12th, while three were found on the latter date at DIRFT 3 (near Lilbourne), this site also hosting a first-winter Caspian Gull on 11th and five (an adult, two first-winters and two second-winters) the following day. A third-winter Caspian Gull also visited Rushton Landfill on 17th.                  No Short-eared Owls have been reported since 13th, when one was near Sulgrave and two were still at Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon and, in contrast to last week, the winter’s Waxwings ebbed away with just three briefly in Wellingborough on 13th and five over Moulton on 15th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Behind DIRFT 3

Where Birding meets Logistics

If you have a sense of adventure, a pioneering spirit and you are willing to risk being hit by an HGV, while getting covered in mud, then read on …

The busy A5, just north of Crick, may not at first sight seem an ideal birding location but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Sandwiched between this major road and the M1 is a 250-hectare wedge of land currently under development by Prologis as an extension to the long-established Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal.

DIRFT 3 represents the third phase in this continually expanding logistics complex, which already includes national distribution centres for Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Royal Mail, as well as those of a number of other well-known retailers and third party logistics operators. The project is a joint venture between Prologis and Rugby Radio Station Limited Partnership, with construction taking place on the former Rugby radio station site, the masts of which have now been removed.I am not a big fan of industrial or housing developments on virgin territory but in this instance, given the location alongside existing industry, it doesn’t strike me as being a big deal and the creation of a 70-hectare nature reserve included as part of the development plan is welcome news, going some way to mitigate the loss of green land to industry. Lilbourne Meadows LNR is a collaborative initiative between Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (WTBCN). Based on the creation of new meanders to the Clifton Brook tributary – a watercourse running east to west across Lilbourne Meadows – a varied wetland habitat will include wet woodland and reed beds, pools and scrapes. The reserve will be located below Lilbourne and behind the industrial site’s northern perimeter landscaping. This new habitat is designed to attract a range of wetland birds and two bird hides are also included in the plan. Excellent!

But back to the here and now. Levelling of the site is well under way and, as a spin-off, some sizeable shallow lagoons and pools have been inadvertently created as a result of standing rain water on the recently created flat earth surfaces. While some of these are inaccessible, deep within the construction site, one area in particular is readily viewable from the A5 – if you don’t mind the proximity of thundering traffic! Parking is also a problem but possible with care in the limited number of narrow pull-ins and lay-bys. This one shallow, though extensive, pool is located immediately to the right (south) one of the entrances to the site, about 1.5 km to the north of the Sainsbury’s DC roundabout. The grassy fields to the north of the entrance are also worth viewing. This roadside area holds hordes of roosting gulls – particularly at the weekend when construction activity is minimal – and many drop in to bathe. Over the past two weeks, it has produced Shelduck, Golden Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Glaucous Gull and, with spring passage now under way, who knows what else might drop in over the coming weeks.

Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, DIRFT 3, 12th March 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Having stumbled across it by accident while driving along the A5, I have visited this site a good number of times over the last month, recognising its potential for gulls in particular, and I’ve been lucky (or persistent) enough to find Glaucous and Caspian Gulls there. Its location is prime for receiving gulls, which roost at nearby Draycote Water (Warwickshire) 13 km to the south-west and feed on Shawell Landfill (Leicestershire) 5 km to the north and it seems logical to assume there is movement between all three sites. I’m hoping the new Lilbourne Meadows LNR will continue to attract them long after DIRFT 3 is completed. As far as both the reserve and the industrial site are concerned there is, as yet, no completion date. The area remains in a constant state of flux and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Watch this space!

Posted in Gulls | 4 Comments

Rarity Round-up 25th February to 10th March 2017

Edging closer toward spring saw rapidly extending daylight hours on both sides of the ‘dark zone’. There was also little in the way of frost and low temperatures, with most of the variations in weather resulting from a series of low pressure systems bringing mild, though wet and blustery conditions from a south-westerly airstream, which turned southerly at the end of the period. The first Sand Martins of the spring were seen at Pitsford Res on 6th and further evidence of northward migration came in the form of a Kittiwake moving over Ravensthorpe Res on 8th.

The wintering adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 8th and, first discovered on 15th February, the only remaining Eurasian White-fronted Goose from this winter’s generous hand-out was the one at Pitsford Res until at least 7th.

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Pitsford Res, 2nd March 2017 (Alan Francis)

Two drake Red-crested Pochards also remained at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR until 3rd with one still present on 9th, while two (one drake) were at Thrapston GP on 28th. The long-staying female Scaup remained at on the main lake at Stanwick GP, where it was joined by a drake from 7th to 10th and the wintering Long-tailed Duck remained on site at Stanford Res throughout the period, as did the ‘redhead’ Smew, while another ‘redhead’ was again at Earls Barton GP on 25th and 26th.

As winter turned to spring there was a noticeable easing up on the number of Great White Egrets reported, with just two at Pitsford Res to 26th with one remaining until 2nd, one still at Thrapston GP until 7th, one at Summer Leys from 26th – joined by another on 8th and 9th – one flying east along the Welland Valley at Wakerley on 27th, one still at Ravensthorpe Res on 5th and it, or another, flying over Hollowell Res on 10th and one at Earls Barton GP on 10th. Pitsford’s Slavonian Grebe was still present on 8th, as was the Red-necked Grebe on 7th – the latter having moved north of the causeway during the period.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 1st March 2107 (Stuart Mundy)

While scarce raptors were sadly lacking, a belated report of a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier came from the disused airfield at Grafton Underwood on 24th and scarce waders were limited to single Jack Snipe at Pitsford Res on 26th and Stanford Res on 4th with four at Hollowell Res on 10th.

Things were looking up on the gull front during the period with a Kittiwake flying low north over Ravensthorpe Res on 8th, a Little Gull reported from Clifford Hill GP on 6th and single first-winter Mediterranean Gulls at Pitsford Res roost on 26th and Hollowell Res on 6th, while an adult visited Daventry CP on 28th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 28th February 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Three Yellow-legged Gulls comprised an adult at Rushton Landfill on 25th and single first-winters at Pitsford Res on 26th and Daventry CP on 28th. Caspian Gulls have consistently outnumbered the former species this winter and this trend continued, with Rushton Landfill providing the lion’s share, which included single adults on 25th and 28th, two adults on 1st and an adult plus a first-winter on 4th. Elsewhere, single first-winter Caspians were found at Stanford Res on 1st and at Hollowell Res on 6th with single third-winters at DIRFT 3 (near Lilbourne) on 5th and at Pitsford Res two days later. Stanford Res pulled in another roosting Iceland Gull – this time a juvenile – on 25th but, just like the last one on 2nd February, there was no repeat performance on subsequent dates.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Stanford Res, 25th February 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

More obliging, however, was the juvenile Glaucous Gull which was found at Rushton Landfill on 25th and seen almost daily, either in the roadside field at Storefield Lodge Farm or on the landfill itself, until 4th. This bird was considered to be a different individual to the juvenile present the week before. An adult Glaucous was also discovered roosting with Lesser Black-backed Gulls in heavy rain at DIRFT 3 before flying off east on 5th.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, Rushton Landfill, 25th February 2016 (Mike Alibone)

Up to four Short-eared Owls were still at Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, until at least 1st but this number appeared to have dwindled to just two by 9th. Another was seen in the Brampton Valley on 3rd.

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 24th February 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 1st March 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 2nd March 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 2nd March 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 9th March 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Waxwings were still very much in evidence throughout the period, with cotoneasters in East Hunsbury (Northampton) providing a ready source of food for more than fifty between 25th and 1st. The focus then shifted to Duston, where up to sixty-six were present in the Kent Road/St Crispin Drive area between 4th and 9th.

Waxwing, East Hunsbury, Northampton, 28th February 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Waxwings, Duston, 5th March 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Waxwing, Duston, 5th March 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Elsewhere, two visited Brackley on 26th, two were in Hanging Houghton the following day and a dozen visited a garden in Nassington on 9th. Overshadowed and outnumbered was a single Crossbill idling at Kelmarsh on 4th and the lingering Corn Bunting near Warmington on 26th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Champions of the Flyway 2017

CaptureOn 28th March 2017, Birdwatch magazine and BirdGuides’ team The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners – of which I am a member – will take part in the third Champions of the Flyway bird race, a major international event which is now being staged annually in Eilat, Israel – home of one of the world’s most desirable birding destinations and famous migration spectacles.Last year, nearly thirty teams raced in the event attempting to find, identify and log as many species as possible in an intense 24 hour contest to win the coveted title ‘Champions of the Flyway’. While the racing might be light-hearted, the goal is serious – to raise conservation funding through sponsorship and donations that will help the BirdLife International Partnership tackle the illegal killing of birds in southern and eastern Europe. At least 25 million birds are illegally slaughtered in the Mediterranean every year and some estimates have put this figure much, much higher.

This Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is just one of the millions of illegally killed birds in the Mediterranean basin each year (Photo: BirdLife Cyprus)

This Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is just one of the millions of illegally killed birds in the Mediterranean basin each year (Photo: BirdLife Cyprus)

Although the event commences and finishes in Eilat, it covers a well-defined ‘field of play’ extending north-west to Nizzana in the western Negev Desert on the Egyptian border and north-east along the Jordanian border in the Arava Valley.

Champions of the Flyway Playing Field

Champions of the Flyway Playing Field

Again, this is not just a bird race, but a massive fundraising campaign to support conservation work and the proceeds will be channelled this year into action to prevent the illegal annual slaughter of migrant birds in Greece

In 2015 The Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners (Josh Jones, Alan Tilmouth and myself) won the award ‘Guardians of the Flyway’ for raising the most funds – just over £4,700 – of all the teams entering and in 2016 the team (David Callahan, Mark Avery, Andy Clements and myself) raised a similar amount but we could not compete with the American team which raised $12,000! We would like to better the total in 2017 and the event hopes to raise $70,000 in total.guardians                                                                                          This year the team (Dawn Balmer, Mark Pearson and myself) is looking for individuals and corporate sponsors/donors to support our fundraising efforts. We are nearly halfway toward our minimum target. just-givingIf you care about the perils which are faced by ‘our’ birds as they migrate to and from the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe then please consider visiting our donation page and pledging even a small amount. The link to the Champions site is http://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/  (this gives all details of the scheme), our team’s page is at http://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/birdwatch-birdguides-roadrunners from which there is a ‘Donate’ link to our fundraising page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/COTF17-BWBGroadrunners

More about Champions of the Flyway in my Birding Israel talk at the Northamptonshire Bird Club’s AGM, 1st March, Pitsford Res Fishing Lodge.

Many thanks in anticipation of your kind support!

Posted in Champions of the Flyway | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up 28th January to 24th February 2017

The extended round-up period saw the arrival of more traditional winter fair in the shape of white-winged gulls, scarce grebes and more Waxwings, the largest flock of which exceeded fifty. Wildfowl, too, remained prominent, with long-stayers remaining and a few new ones being thrown into the wetland mix.

Like the first on 5th January, the second record of Bewick’s Swan for 2017 consisted of a small, fly-over flock of four flying east along the Nene Valley on 13th, while the adult Whooper Swan remained at Sywell CP until at least 19th.

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 2nd February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Whooper Swan, Sywell CP, 2nd February 2017 (Alan Francis)

There were more fly-overs to come as eight Pink-footed Geese were seen heading south over Pitsford Res on 17th and the wintering Eurasian White-fronted Geese appearing to break up, with fourteen commuting erratically between riverside locations at Great Doddington and Whiston between 28th and 8th. During, and beyond, this period there were reports of small numbers elsewhere – possibly as a result of the original flock of twenty-four dispersing and remaining local.  In this respect, two visited Wicksteed Park Lake on 28th, six were at Clifford Hill GP on 1st, two remained on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake between 4th and 18th, one was at Pitsford Res between 15th and 19th and a first-winter visited Daventry CP on 20th.

First-winter Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Daventry CP 20th February 2017 (Gary Pullan)

First-winter Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Daventry CP 20th February 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Keeping tabs on escapes which could be future additions to the British List is always worth doing but in the case of the Wood Duck, which turned up at Shelfley’s Lake, Northampton on 14th this could be stretching things a bit as far as this individual is concerned. Nevertheless, this species is always a nice bird to see.

Drake Wood Duck, Shelfley's Lake, Northampton, 14th February 2017 (Sarah & Bob Ansell)

Drake Wood Duck, Shelfley’s Lake, Northampton, 14th February 2017 (Sarah & Bob Ansell)

With no more than two at any location, five sites produced Red-crested Pochards, including Earls Barton GP, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR, Thrapston GP and Wicksteed Park Lake, while the long-staying female Scaup remained at on the main lake at Stanwick GP until at least 20th. The two drake Scaup were still at Earls Barton GP on 29th, a drake was at Ditchford GP on 19th and two females visited Daventry CP the following day – all combining to represent a healthier than average showing for this species during the first two months of the year.

Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 16th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 16th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Wicksteed Park Lake, 23rd February (Alan Francis)

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Wicksteed Park Lake, 23rd February (Alan Francis)

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 29th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Drake Scaup, Earls Barton GP, 29th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Stanford’s Long-tailed Duck, now into its ninth week, remained throughout the period and another sea duck – a female Common Scoter – was reported from Sywell CP on 3rd. Smew have been relatively scarce this winter in comparison to recent previous years and a drake seen at Pitsford Res on 30th, 6th and 7th was probably the same individual which visited Ravensthorpe Res on 4th, 5th and 11th. Elsewhere, single ‘redheads’ were seen at Stanford Res on 5th and 10th and at Earls Barton GP from 16th to 18th.

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 6th February 2017 (Clive Bowley)

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 6th February 2017 (Clive Bowley)

Skulking Bitterns were present on the Heronry Lake at Thrapston GP on 5th and 12th and another was seen at Stanwick GP on 6th. Rather more obvious, though, was the period’s crop of Great White Egrets and, while there were no stunningly high single-site totals, this species was on show with up to two almost daily somewhere or other in the county, records coming from Ditchford GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res Ravensthorpe Res, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP.

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 28th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 28th January 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 5th February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Great White Egret, Ravensthorpe Res, 5th February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Upstaging Pitsford’s Slavonian Grebe, which remained until at least 21st, a Red-necked Grebe was found close to the causeway there on 13th, thereafter remaining until the end of the period. The only scarce raptor reported was a Merlin at Pitsford Res on 13th. This species has, so far, been unusually scarce this winter.  Predictably the only scarce waders were single Jack Snipe at Stanford Res on 4th and 10th, two at Barnes Meadow LNR, Northampton on 16th and one at Ditchford GP on 19th.

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 9th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Slavonian Grebe, Pitsford Res, 9th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 13th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 13th February 2017 (Alan Francis)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 13th February 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 13th February 2017 (Bob Bullock)

While gulls are currently enjoying a good deal of renewed adverse media publicity, the demise of their favourite inland habitat, landfill sites, is making them more sought after by local birders. With apparently just one active landfill in Northants the second best option is a local gull roost in fading light … There was a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at the Boddington Res roost on 18th but, as we move into March, more Meds will appear at roosts as they move through the county on passage. Caspian Gulls have also been visiting our roosts, with Pitsford and Boddington attracting adults sporadically throughout the period. Hollowell, Stanford and Daventry have also produced singles during the day but better by far has been the Rushton Landfill site which has produced up to three adults and a first-winter, on and off, throughout. This site has also attracted two different, ‘one-day’ Glaucous Gulls – a fourth-winter on 18th, quickly followed by a juvenile the following day. An adult Iceland Gull visited Stanford Res briefly on 2nd but, apart from these three ‘white-wingers’ along with the recent Glaucous near Chacombe, the winter has been treating Northants rather meanly. A trickle of Yellow-legged Gulls has included singles at Boddington Res, Chacombe, Daventry CP, Pitsford Res, Thrapston GP and, of course, Rushton Landfill, where two were present on 19th.

Up to four Short-eared Owls were still at Neville’s Lodge, near Finedon, until at least 6th and one was at Twywell Hills & Dales on 13th.

Short-eared Owl, Neville's Lodge, Finedon, 28th January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Short-eared Owl, Neville’s Lodge, Finedon, 28th January 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Are birders still looking for them at Finedon or has interest diminished in the wake of the continuing winter Waxwing invasion, which continues to illicit considerable interest from birders and the general public alike? The maximum counts for the nine areas in which they have occurred during the last four weeks are as follows: East Hunsbury, fifty-plus on 23rd; Wootton, forty-five/fifty on 18th; Irthlingborough, forty-one on 7th; Kettering, thirty-eight on 29th; Bush Hill (Northampton), twenty-five on 29th; Boughton Green Road (Northampton), ten on 18th; Oundle, nine/twelve on 13th and Rushton, nine on 6th.

Waxwings, Kettering, 3rd February 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwings, Kettering, 3rd February 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwing, Kettering, 3rd February 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwing, Kettering, 3rd February 2017 (Mark Tyrrell)

Waxwing, Sywell, 3rd February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Sywell, 3rd February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Sywell, 3rd February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Sywell, 3rd February 2017 (Alan Coles)

Waxwing, Sywell, 4th February 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Waxwing, Sywell, 4th February 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Waxwings, Sywell, 9th February 2017 (Jim Dunkley)

Waxwings, Sywell, 9th February 2017 (Jim Dunkley)

Corn Bunting, Woodford Halse, 19th February 2017 (Ian Dobson)

Corn Bunting, Woodford Halse, 19th February 2017 (Ian Dobson)

Out in the country, away from all the panache and pizzazz, the second and third Corn Buntings of the year were found: one was with Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings near Warmington on 18th-19th and the other visited a feeding station at Woodford Halse on 20th. Good try in both cases but time is fast running out for the discovery of a Pine or a     Little …

Posted in Weekly Reports | 3 Comments

A particularly tricky white-winged gull: revisited

Revisited, reassessed and … right first time!

glaucAfter convincing myself to go against my gut feel and better judgement, it would appear I was wrong in my post-observation photo-based identification assessment of the white-winged 4th winter gull at Rushton last weekend as an Iceland Gull.

Mick Ketley kindly contacted me with a solid argument which supports my initial identification as a Glaucous Gull. Here’s what he says:

As you can imagine, I found your account of great interest and of a very similar situation to what we had at Eye Brook Reservoir (EBR) last month, Saturday 7 January. I thought it strange that you changed your mind when it was put out on recent reports. I feel strongly that you were correct in the first place, that it is a 4th w Glaucous Gull albeit a female, considering its size and bill. Your photos show clearly the following features.
TOP PHOTO: It appears MASSIVE compared to the Common Gull (at its primary tips). It is MUCH LARGER than the adult and juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Is MUCH LARGER than the 1st w Herring Gull (beside the Common Gull) and ‘argenteus’ Herring Gulls at the top of the photo. It appears to closely approach the size of the large Herring Gull (left of centre at the top of the photo). Taking these pro-Glaucous features and size of bill into consideration it seems to be a female Glaucous Gull.
SECOND PHOTO: Similar comparisons.
THIRD PHOTO: Self-explanatory, HUGE beside the Lesser Black-backed Gull.
BOTTOM PHOTO: On its own. I would expect the primary projection to be slightly longer on an Iceland Gull. The position of the eye is up nearer to the forehead, the ratio of eye diameter to bill length is well within 1:5 to 1:7. These are certainly pro-Glaucous features. Some Glaucous Gulls can show a primary projection, while others, especially bolt upright, have a ‘very blunt rear end’.
To date my personal tally of local (i.e. EBR and around the Corby area) Glaucous Gulls is 36 individuals and 49 individual Iceland Gulls. I found a personal guide to sexing Iceland Gulls as follows, although they have a different structure, I found BODY MASS to be helpful, in comparison with large male Common Gull, = female Iceland. And with Lesser Black-backed Gull = male Iceland.
This is not the first time nor the last this situation arises re. white-winged gulls, I’ve known a few. On Saturday 7 January, last month, I spent a lot of time at Rushton a.m. as there were three large concentrations of gulls, nothing special. Then I went to RW and arrived at EBR at 3.00 p.m. just as Andy Mackay, Colin Towe and Chris Lythall located a white-winged gull on the water at the inflow. On its own just like your bird, we all agreed to Iceland Gull, small, extremely pale grey mantle and upper wings (pro-Iceland), low profile and long attenuated rear end, even the ‘small’ bill size. However I did remark that the eye was up nearer the forehead. Then other gulls swam alongside it and alarm bells rang. Even ‘argenteus’ were dwarfed by it and it was matching larger Herring Gulls. If you go onto LROS latest sightings, scroll to the 2 photos dated 7 January, it looks like an Iceland Gull (adult), touch on the photos for the bigger picture, no pun intended, and like yours, seems to be a female Glaucous Gull, compared to other gulls with it. The shade of grey appears darker in the photos, it was extremely pale.

I cannot disagree with Mick. Further research throws up the not infrequent occurrence of Glaucous Gulls with ‘long wings’ and, despite the apparently small bill, this gull retains that mean, Glaucous look …

Posted in Gulls | Leave a comment