Tuesday, 11 March 2014

More Larid delights dished up but Chinese remains off the menu...

Somehow managed to get out birding 3 times last week. On Wednesday I was working in Bedford and popped in to Grafham to do the gull roost with Andrew. Adult and juv glauc both showed well and there was what appeared to be a 2nd winter Caspian too, though was rather distant. It was a pleasant evening, and half a dozen goosander and single drake goldeneye were notable, as were a calling chiffchaff and tawny owl.

Friday afternoon saw a little sojourn to the fens via Milton, noting my first brimstone of the year en route. One or two Caspian gulls there was standard fare but another gull was rather interesting. Looked like a 1st winter Caspian from the front but there appears to be black feathering on the inner coverts around the leading edge/ carpal joint and on the scaps.

The best I can come up with is that the bird above is a 2cy Caspian with some odd dark feathers coming through (or a hybrid). It doesn't look like oil or any other kind of soiling and looks too dark to me to be misrepresentative photo artefact, but rather some dark LBBG-like 3rd gen feathering, yet it looks too large, pale and long-legged for a nominate bird. Unfortunately the poor picture quality means a definitive I/D will not be forthcoming!

A bill so dodgy the taxman would have a fit

a proper Caspo
A herring gull with a strange bill aberration provided some interest. Recently described by a well-known group of birders as a new species, the sickle-billed gull. For more info and pics of this form (and some stunning-looking Larids, see http://punkbirder.webs.com/nastygulls.htm)

I headed to Mare Fen where a quick half hour visit produced just 3 grey wags, a Cetti's and 12 little egrets. It was then on to Sutton Gault where a roost of water pipits had been reported. Leaving my car at the bridge by the flood it was a half hour walk to the Gullet but well worth it. At least 55 whooper swans and 12+ corn buntings were present and soon the water pipits started arriving. At one point we had 17 in the air together (most of which joined a flock of corn butnings in the obvious lone oak tree there) but must have had at least 20 birds in total (a new county record was set the previous night with 27 birds). A fine sight to see, and we left as the sun went down and a flyby barn owl bade us farewell. I learned subsequently this roost was first reported in 2002 but has never been as large as it is now.

water pipit roost gathering, Sutton Gault

Oh yes, nearly forgot, the small matter of a wasted 9.5 hours at Hythe on sunday, where a certain pond heron was conspicuous by its absence. My second attempt, too. It was like a summer's day with small torts and brimstones flitting around in the sunshine. A flyover med gull and ad male peregrine provided entertainment, but bird of the day was a lovely firecrest, located on the south side of the valley. Who wants to see an escaped Ardeola anyway?!

Adult male peregrine & sparrowhawk, Hythe

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