The first Caspian Gull of the season appeared on my regular Fulham/Hammersmith stretch of the Thames on Sunday evening. Tides weren't exactly ideal and with low tide well after dusk, mud was only just appearing as I arrived at 17:00 and consequently gull numbers were pretty low, with only about 50 large gulls. That didn't stop this beauty dropping in during a heavy rain shower, and it remained present until I left over an hour later, coming to my offerings and flying past within just 10 metres or so. Not being the biggest bird, it's not the most structurally outstanding Casp you'll see but plumage is pretty nice with a very pale underwing.
Unfortunately the light is never great here in the evenings as you're looking in to the sun, and changeable conditions (showers and low sun) only allowed for half-decent images.
1cy Caspian Gull, Hammersmith, 17 September 2017
Both of the regular 3cy Yellow-legged Gulls were again in residence; their respective plumages have come on quite a bit in recent weeks and one posed nicely during a calm and sunny spell.
It's almost inevitable that I see my first juvenile Caspian Gull of the season in Peterborough around the Birdfair weekend. Here's the 2017 offering, with a strikingly dark tail and mucky underwing but otherwise looking pretty classic.
Juvenile Caspian Gull, Dogsthorpe Tip, Peterborough, 17 August 2017
A real bruiser of a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at my regular gulling spot in Chiswick - comfortably the best views I've had of the species so far this summer, this beast showed no fear as it came to within just a few yards.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Chiswick, 10 August 2017
This 3cy bird is also regular in Fulham at the moment; its plumage is pretty advanced and it likes to sit on the old moorings by The Crabtree pub.
Still a steady turnover of Yellow-legged Gulls on the Thames near me, including this juvenile which obligingly flew around a few times and allowed the opportunity for some half-decent flight shots. The gulls tend to be very lazy near me at low tide, preferring to waddle rather than fly.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Fulham, 7 August 2017
G0UT remains in situ, favouring the river at low tide and then heading to the wetland centre (and presumably elsewhere too) as the water rises.
Unless I go to the wetland centre, the mid-summer period totally lacks in decent birding opportunities in West London. Apart from the gulls, of course.
The first juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls have started to appear. Each session on 'my' stretch of the Thames between Craven Cottage, Fulham, and Chiswick Pier produces up to five michahellis, usually always involving a different selection of birds. I've had at least three different juveniles over the past couple of weeks, although most of the birds seen have been 2cy and 3cy, with the one or two older birds thrown in for good measure.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Fulham, 23 July 2017
2cy Herring (left) and 2cy Yellow-legged Gulls, Fulham, 23 July 2017
You don't really expect to see Caspian Gulls in July but I've been fortunate enough to be blessed with two scraggy first-summers on the river near me over the past two weeks. The first was a bird I've not seen before, German-ringed 'X307' - this bird having been noted regularly in East London since it was first seen by Jamie Partridge at Thames Barrier Park on 25 September 2016 (here are a couple of nice photos of it taken by Rich in March). It's from a mixed (predominately Caspian) colony on the Polish border but to me this bird doesn't obviously stand out as a bird of mixed heritage, I thought it looked fine as a first-winter and still think the same looking at it now.
2cy Caspian Gull 'X307', Fulham, 21 July 2017
The second bird, first seen just two days after X307's appearance, was a more familiar face - 'G0UT', a Thames-ringed Casp that first visited this stretch of the Thames back in late March, a few days after it was ringed at Pitsea. Here are a few pics of it from back then. I'd say this one is a bit less impressive than X307, showing a few more hints that Herring Gull might be mixed in somewhere down the line. A few images from recent visits below, it seems pretty regular at the moment so here's hoping it hangs around here for a while.
And a few bits of 'interest':
4cy Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull, 29 July
Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull, 29 July. This species must breed somewhere along this stretch of the Thames - I see at least one pair of adults throughout the year and two youngsters present last week were very fresh. There are usually a few immatures hanging around as well.
With a handful of lingering immatures mincing around throughout the spring and early summer, I guess it's fair to say that Yellow-legged Gulls have never actually left London. However, the annual mid-summer build-up of michahellis is now well underway and my first visit to the Thames for a couple of months revealed a handful of these entertaining birds. Curiously, none were juveniles - in fact most were 3cy.
Black-headed Gulls are also coming back in numbers - no Med yet though.
And, as always, it's worth keeping an eye out for rings. Here's a North Thames Gull Group bird that I'd not seen before.
Mike Weedon scored heavily with an adult Caspian Tern at Baston & Langtoft Pits, my old stomping ground during my teenage years. Though a regular vagrant to Britain, it's an undeniably impressive species and, with a clear afternoon on the cards, I couldn't resist twitching it.
By the time I arrived it had been missing for the best part of 45 minutes but, after a nervous wait, was picked up fishing over some of the more mature pits in the middle of the (private) complex. Views were initially distant but it then had the decency to perform a close fly-by as it headed back to its favoured roosting spot on the new wader scrape on the north side of the pits - this fantastic site has been producing great birds for a couple of years now, and finally it's had its first true rarity.
Incidentally the bird bears a red ring, identifying it as the individual seen previously in Carmarthenshire and Northamptonshire. The red ring seems to suggest it's Swedish, though I'm not sure if anyone has managed to read the ring fully yet. It'll be interesting to see where it pops up next, assuming it doesn't hang around at BLGP.
A few grab shots below - hurriedly taken using sub-optimal settings and against a grey sky, and not really in focus. But you can tell what it is!