Monday, 9 December 2019

Back to Gull School

Sometimes, just sometimes you have to hold your hand up and admit that you got it wrong.

I found this bird loafing around Alexandra Lake on Saturday and quickly came to the conclusion that it was a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull, not an uncommon site on the Flats as there's been a couple of birds seen on and off throughout the Summer/Autumn. I got home, grabbed some lunch and then took my son to see Spurs v Burnley (great game by the way and a contender for goal of the season from Heung-Min Son) - then, that evening after the game I tweeted out the photo below as a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull. Within a couple of minutes I was quickly questioned on it's parallel sided bill (David Darrell-Lambert) who had also copied in most of London's pre-eminent laraphiles and then soon after Rich Bonser chips in with "Casp genes for sure, and bill structure favours it too. Can't see anything on P10 to decipher a mirror or not, while the slight bit of streaking round the eye could point to a bird from the west of the range. But Casp, yeah".

I had to take stock and looked at the photo again in a bit more detail and sure enough, how did I miss that bill! Not just the bill but the bird also looks quite leggy, and structurally it's no way near as bulky as you might except a Michahellis to be. It also has that slimmer more elegant look about it - again, more in keeping with Cachinnans. 

I tried to blame whole episode on my fuzzy head after a Friday evening down the pub, but to be fair I just made a quick assumption without carefully looking at the bird - lesson learnt! On the plus side it's great to see another Caspian Gull at Wanstead and in 2nd-winter plumage - all my previous records are of 1st-winter birds.

Gulls, Wanstead, London
2nd-winter Caspian Gull
The one that almost got away!

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Snaresbrook Caspian Gull

Wanstead failed to deliver anything of note over the weekend and unless we get a really good cold snap, December and the run up to the New Year could result in some fairly mundane local birding - but at least I have the Snaresbrook Caspian Gull on my doorstep to fall back on when the patch is this poor.

The average large Gull lifespan is around 30 years, so considering this adult bird is still a relative youngster (5CY), I could potentially be watching and photographing this bird for another 25 years - I do pity the readers of this blog!

If you've not been to see this bird then I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this part of north-east London, as it's a real entertainer. From the concrete roadside pathway you can watch it regularly harass and steal the bread from the Black-headed Gulls. The Central Line at Snaresbrook is just a 5 minute walk away, so there's no excuses for those London based birders who don't have any transport and with the Eagle Pub and carvery just opposite what better way to finish the visit off than by popping in for quick pint having enjoyed this rather engaging adult Caspian Gull.

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London


Saturday, 23 November 2019

Snaresbrook Caspian Gull - It's Back!

I've been keeping an eye on Eagle Pond (Snaresbrook) for the last couple of weeks (It's just down the road to where I live) in hope that a certain Gull might have returned for another winter - and today I got the result I was after.

The Caspian Gull is back on Eagle Pond and looking smarter than ever.

It's now the 4th year in a row this bird has decided to spend its winter in the area. It was first seen on Wanstead Flats back in December 2015 (in 1st-winter plumage) four years on and now an adult and in its 5th calendar year it was good to catch-up with it again. 

Weather-wise it was't the best day for photography but I did manage to get a few photos and if the bird sticks around as it has in previous years then I've got every opportunity to improve on these.

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Odd Small Gull

A couple of hours on the patch this morning and I was rewarded with a year tick (107) as a calling Yellowhammer circled over the football pitches, it was also good to see my first autumn Woodcock but the most interesting bird of the morning was a rather odd small gull! From a distance and before I picked up any features what stood out was its size - it was small, clearly smaller than the Black-headed Gulls it was associating with on Alexandra Lake.

On closer inspection the bird appeared to be just a small adult winter Black-headed Gull but was lacking the usual dark prominent ear spot. Along with the small round head and dainty bill what also struck me was the birds posture in the water with a high angled rear end, almost as if it was top heavy. I'm fairly confident the bird is just a runty BHG but none the less an intriguing bird.

Adult, Winter Plumage

Adult, Winter Plumage

Flight shot showing a typical Black-headed Gull wing pattern and red legs
Not the best photo but it does show how small the gull is in comparison with the Black-headed Gulls in the background and foreground