I was driving through Newnham, already on my way to the gull roost at Boddington Reservoir, when Gary Pullan – god bless him – phoned me with a message of just two words: “It’s here!” he said. Having visited the site twice yesterday and spent the last two hours of daylight shivering in the falling temperatures without it showing, it was comforting to know the adult Bonaparte’s Gull was there and on view.
While Gary continued to spread the word I stepped up a gear, unashamedly broke the speed limit, and arrived shortly afterward to find just a handful of birders watching it. It was with about two hundred Black-headed Gulls. A cracking little gull (or should I say small gull), the proportions of which can be appreciated when compared with the accompanying Black-headed Gulls, numbers of which had built to well over 1000 by dusk.
It spent most of its time at rest, flying only a short distance on a couple of occasions. It may be something or nothing but most of the time it held its bill in a horizontal, or slightly raised, position compared to the Black-headed Gulls, which (most of the time) held their bills pointing down, below the horizontal. I don’t know if this might be a useful way of picking it out among Black-headed Gulls at a large gathering such as the Boddington roost – this needs testing.
There are about 180 records of this North American species for the UK but they are rare inland and this is the first for Northamptonshire, although the neighbouring counties of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire have had two and three records respectively. Well done Gary for finding it on Thursday and thanks are due to Bob Bullock for the accompanying images – which are better than my digiscoped stills – but I did manage to get the videoscope footage below.