1st December is officially the first day of winter and the first Iceland Gull of the season has already appeared at Ditchford Gravel Pits. Many birders find gull identification problematic although it need not be so. Help is at hand!
From 13th December, and on various weekends throughout the winter, confirmed Laridophile and gull ID aficionado Martin Elliott will be running gull identification field classes at Stanwick Gravel Pits, using the visitor centre as base. So now you’ve got no excuse …
You wait seven years for one and then three come along together – well, almost. After Neil Hasdell found the first Northants Long-tailed Duck since 2006, at Pitsford Reservoir on 23rd November, it promptly disappeared before another was discovered by Adrian Borley and Nick Parker the following day at Thrapston Gravel Pits, this bird still being present today.
That might have been the end of it if Tony Vials hadn’t run into another on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton Gravel Pits this morning (30th November) and then, bizarrely, Alan Coles found two more on a different part of the same lake during the afternoon.
Tremendous little sea ducks, rarely seen in Northants and seemingly with different behavioural traits. The Thrapston bird kept well away from the bank, preferring to stay in the middle of Town Lake and spend 90% of its time under water. Consequently very difficult to see. The loner in the south-east corner of Mary’s Lake showed well, though distantly, spending more time on the water’s surface than below it, while the two in the south-west corner of the same lake spent an estimated 75% of their time below the surface, although they were reasonably approachable.
Long-tailed Ducks, Earls Barton GP, 30th November 2013 (Mike Alibone). [Click on the cogwheel and change resolution to 720 to watch in HD]
Difficult to age/sex but all likely to be females or first-winters as adult males normally show some degree of pink on the bill. Of the two together, the individual with the whiter face and smaller dark spot on the cheeks possibly a first-winter male.