Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Spring Caspian Gull Interlude

A deep Arctic blast of cold air in April is not exactly conducive for helping our summer migrants land on our shores and after a circuit of the Flats all I could muster of any note was a single singing Willow Warbler, which must have wished it had planned its Spring journey northwards a week later. However, on the plus side there was a sizeable roost of large Gulls (100+) on the football pitches that had me rubbing my thighs! 

The increase in numbers was unusual because as is typical by the end of March all our wintering Gulls have departed, moving onto their breeding grounds and we're usually left with a small band updateable 1st-year birds - maybe the drop in temperature and strong cold northerly wind had pushed these additional birds away from the Thames?

As I picked my way through the Gulls which 90% were 1st-year (2CY) Herring Gulls I could see the unmistakable clean-white head, contrasting nicely with a shawl of darks streaks on the hind-neck of a 1st-winter Caspian Gull. As is good practice I ticked-off a suite of other features confirming the ID (I didn't want to fall into the trap of ticking a bleached 2CY Herring Gull (not uncommon as we approach Spring/Summer). The bird eventually got booted-off the football pitches (showing a lovely clean underwing and unmarked rump, with a nice deep and even tail-band) and spent a bit of time on Alexandra lake but did the decent thing and stuck around for the rest of the day, allowing most of Team Wanstead to happily tick this bird. 

2CY Caspian Gull
A classic 1st-winter Caspian Gull amongst a mix of 1st-winter Herring Gulls 

This was my one and only Casp at Wanstead this winter and just my 10th Caspian Gull record in over 10 years on the patch which still confirms these birds as scarce visitors despite Wanstead’s geographical proximity to the south-east Gull mecca that is the river Thames.

The Casp was a pleasant distraction but can we now have an 180 degree swing in wind direction and get on with Spring?  

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