Monday, 14 December 2015

Gull on my Mind

I like gulls.  Or rather, sometimes I like gulls.  It's not so unusual an occasion that I ignore gulls. Especially large flocks of gulls.  More especially if the flocks are of large juvenile gulls.  The thought of searching among all that mottled brown plumage for something of interest... The mind boggles.  It's not to say, that I don't enjoy seeing gulls themselves (with the exception of the 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull which I'm sure was a Herring Gull going through a 'phase'), it's just the idea of finding one, or more for that matter, attempting to.  Daunting stuff.
 Caspian Gulls? Well, there lies a slight difference. It's long been a hope of mine to see a Caspo.  I would even go so far as to scan a flock for a Caspo - given the flock wasn't too big, of course.
Recently, a 1st winter Caspian, had been reported at Wanstead.  So it was, Friday morning, having expanded my limited knowledge of gull identification, I walked the mile or so to Wanstead and prepared to scan gulls.
Honestly? It's not quite so bad.  Sure, I may have seen several YLG's and not realised it, but I was at least pretty certain that I hadn't seen the Caspo for the first half-an-hour of scanning.  And that's something isn't it.  Isn't it?
 Having searched the football fields and the Alex pond, with no luck, we decided for one more look before heading home.  Another scan of one of the fields revealed two or three large juvenile gulls in the flock.  One of which had a suspiciously white head. And were those legs particularly long too? It was hard to tell with the gull having laid down.  But the features looked promising.  It certainly seemed to stand (not literally due to the laying down part) out from the other gulls.
 When eventually it did stand back up it showed that yes, those were particularly long legs, the also long, blackish beak was almost parallel with its' head, and in flight it showed pale underwings - Caspo.

What a beauty!

 I later learnt the white rump, dark subterminal band and shawl were also good pointers... Nope... I have no idea what any of that means either.  In all honesty, picking out a Caspian Gull wasn't quite as hard as I'd imagined.  Even from quite a difference I was fairly positive of the ID.
 You know, maybe, just maybe, juvenile gulls aren't that bad after all...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Birthday Bus Birding

Do you remember last year I turned fifteen? Well, this came as a shock to find out, but this year I'm going to be even older. The cheek of it all.  Tomorrow I turn the ripe old age of sixteen... time to break out the walking stick.
 In keeping with the tradition of the last few years, I celebrated the last few days of being a (variable of course) age by going birding. You may be proud to know that for this year's pre-birthday events, I didn't even twitch. After last year I think not twitching was... umm, wise.  So, just good old - old, stop reminding me - fashioned birding.
On Saturday I headed out with Caleb and Liam  for a day of birding around very windy Sussex. Bus birding to be precise, which constitutes a lot of buses and, well, on this occasion, not a lot of birds.
We started the day shortly after sunrise at Brighton Marina, and saw some large waves and a Rock Pipit.  Exciting times.
 On from there, buses to Hove Lagoon for some distant views of a Great-northern Diver on Southwick Canal.  This was a county tick though, so a nice addition to a list that I don't really keep. Possibly as it would be scarily low if I did.
 Despite the wind's best intentions to  blow us away, Liam managed to find a pair of Common Scoter out on the sea from the beach here, a relatively good bird in Sussex at this time of year.
Back into East Sussex after that, to the Ouse Estuary Project where we had nice views of Kestrel and half a dozen or so Snipe in flight.  The light had begun to fade by this point, so we made our final stop at Newhaven to try and find a Caspian or something else interesting among the gulls coming in to roost.  The wind then decided that shouldn't be possible and reached rather its peak of the day. 'Blowing a Gale', I believe would be a fitting expression.
There was a Shag in the harbour, and with seemingly nothing among the gulls, we called it a day. The weather was not hospitable.
 The journey home took me to an all time personal best, ten buses boarded in a day! It turns out the excitement of buses ran out for me about ten years ago. I think trains to be more bearable a form of public transport.
 We didn't see anything amazing, but still, not an unenjoyable day's birding. At least I didn't dip...
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