Friday, 29 July 2011

Turkey in late July...

... is incredibly hot, sweaty and hard work. It appears that by the second half of July, alot of birds (for example Upcher's and Olive-tree Warblers were notable in their absence) have already cleared out. However, I had twenty new WP birds; the highlight a magnificent family of Brown Fish Owls watched at point-blank range for an hour or so. A few photographs below:

Adult Brown Fish Owl (pics 1 & 2), juvenile Pallid Scops Owl, juvenile Iraq Babbler and a gaggle of Armenian Gulls.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Caspian Gull, 22nd July

Had my first Caspian Gull of the summer today; a lovely (near-)adult that appeared for a few minutes on the 'ridge' at Dogsthorpe Tip before all gulls were flushed and it was lost to view once more... hence the rubbish photos below:

Also at 'The Dog' were six Yellow-legged Gulls (adult, 2 third-summers, 3 juveniles) though birds very difficult to view today and I suspect there were plenty more than this. There were also 5 michs in about 500 gulls at Tanholt, including the second-summer below:

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls

I had five juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls in the Peterborough area today (four at Dogsthorpe, one at Tanholt), making it the most common age-class of the day. I guess more and more will appear as the month wears on. The only other michs seen today were the Caspian-like 1st-summer (from last week) again at Dogsthorpe, and an adult at Tanholt.
A couple of juveniles are illustrated in the images below:

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Back on the tip, 12th July

I had an hour spare this afternoon, so headed to my favourite of all birding locations - Dogsthorpe Tip. A fair selection of gulls were present; probably c.500 or so on the tip, but only about half of that on view. Amongst the 'large' were four Yellow-legged Gulls (2 adults, 2 juveniles). Adult:

... and juvenile (note scapular moult already commencing):

However, my highlight of the day (they usually are when they look this good) was this adult Mediterranean Gull, which dropped in with a group of LBBs:

I'll be back on the tip with more time later in the week.

Quail, 11th July

I hear quail most years, either locally or somewhere in the UK when on my travels. Until yesterday evening, I had never seen one in this country - most of the local birds I hear are usually miles away in the middle of agricultural fields, and often after dark. So, spurred on by local reports of at least one Quail singing (and apparently even showing) near Ryhall, I decided to go and check it out last night.

I arrived at around 17:45, and spent a fruitless half an hour listening for birds singing up and down the road. Eventually, a male Quail started singing at around 18:15 in the same spot as one was heard and seen on Saturday evening. I rang Will Bowell to let him know, and he soon joined me. Over the next hour or so, two males were heard singing in the near corner of a pea field. Perhaps spurred on by one another, their song became louder and more regular after 19:15 and, eventually, Will picked up one bird sat out in the field edge singing.

Even abroad I have only seen Quail scurrying or flying for cover. It was a truly wonderful experience to be able to watch this bird singing and feeding just 20 metres away along a furrow, and finally appreciate the fantastic intricacy of their subtly-beautiful plumage. I was even fortunate enough to take a few half-decent images:

A really special moment that will stay with me for a long time...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Straight gullin'

Another day, another visit to Dogsthorpe Tip. Today, I had eight Yellow-legged Gulls on and around the tip, despite only managing to get to check around half the birds present. Six of the eight were 1st-summers; the other two were 4cy/5cy type things - some of these boys can be a bit indeterminable in terms of age, particularly when at distance through a few fences. Here are some first-summers:

Big male

Another classic & v. striking bird

Quite a dirty-looking individual with streaky head


Scapulars almost fully-moulted but shitty-looking coverts and tertials.

And below are some older birds; note the first-summer though in the first shot:

There were very few gulls at Tanholt. Guess most must have been using 'The Dog' as they were actively tipping here.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Booby - an alternate perspective

This fantastic image puts in to perspective how I took the photos below...

Red-footed Booby, S France

Yesterday (5th), day-tripped the adult Red-footed Booby at Lac de Sainte Crox, Alpes-de-Haute Provence, some 100km or so northeast of Marseille. The bird showed wonderfully well (see the photo of it with me swimming behind!), although to us appeared a little ill - for example, it spent alot of time sat about closing its eyes and shaking! However, in-the-hand examinations seem to suggest it was actually in rude health(?!), and it is still there this afternoon.

All the above photos were taken with a point-and-shoot camera only; the image below is digiscoped.

Monday, 4 July 2011


Through a combination of my ever-growing fascination with large gulls, a growing library of images, and a lot of boredom, today I decided to set up a Flikr account to share gull photos in the hope that it can be seen as some kind of reference, at least from a UK perspective, for any gull enthusiasts around the country.

The address is as follows; currently just a few cach's and mich's up but soon to expand:


More Gulls (4/7)

Went back to Peterborough today for the gulls. More tipping meant more gulls today; I would say 500+ on Dogsthorpe Tip and 300+ at Tanholt. Most were on the tips at both locations and difficult to see, though there was some turnover which allowed a decent proportion to be checked.

All in all I had six Yellow-legged Gulls; four (adult, 2nd-summer, 1st-summer & juvenile) at Tanholt and two (adult and 3rd-summer) at Dogsthorpe. The first-summer is shown above.

What did surprise me was that I also had a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull today; this is by far the earliest I've seen round here but it did look like it had just fallen out of the nest, presumably on a nearby warehouse roof somewhere in Peterborough.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

When all else fails...

... look at gulls. If gulls displease you at the best of times, it is probably best to look away now.

For starters, here's a load of Lesser Black-backed Gulls from Dogsthorpe Tip today - pleasant enough you may think, but what follows is very likely to make you violently sick - just a warning.

So, with all my local sites seemingly birdless, this morning suddenly seemed like the time to crack out a first trip of the summer to the Peterborough tips to see what the larids were saying. On arrival at Dogsthorpe, it was clear there was no tipping going on - by midday on a Saturday this is not unusual, but it does mean that, in midsummer, there are generally very few gulls. Sure enough, there were around 50 Leebs, a few immature Geebs and Herrings, but little else. Despite so few gulls being present, there were some pretty abhorrent individuals around. Here's some gruesome action from 'The Dog' today:

3rd-summer Herring Gull - not sure even this poor bastard's mother could love him/her; as well as a pretty gruesome plumage state (bits hanging off all over the place), this ill-looking creature also possesses a disgusting overgrown upper mandible. Don't think this one has much left in the tank...

1st-summer Lesser Black-backed Gull - although not the worst Leeb seen today, this gritty individual has some pretty heavy wear in the wing coverts with plenty of feathers reduced to quills.

After projectile vomiting over half of the flock, I decided to leave and head over to Tanholt Pits to see if anything was there, or on nearby Eye Tip. Turns out they've got a new landfill site taking shape near the pits; today there were about 300 gulls there. Eventually, after a bit of encouragement from myself, some of the flock moved from this hard-to-view area over on to the pits, although most just spiralled off towards Peterborough. Amongst the moulting mess were a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls:

5CY/4th-summer/near-adult/whatever you want to call it

2CY: this individual is quite advanced for a 1st-summer in early July, having already moulted the entirety of its scapulars to show the characterstic mid-grey upperparts of 3rd-generation and older birds. Also note the moulted tertials (though one or two have been retained). A pretty small individual with quite a 'soft' face and slender bill means this little cutie is a female.

Plenty more gull action to come in the next few weeks - you have been warned. Excuse the shit photos, most birds are generally quite distant and severely heat-hazed at this time of year.

Poppy Fields

You don't see many poppy fields these days (not round here, anyway). Yesterday (1st July), I had a 9-mile walk round local villages with the dog. The highlight for me was stumbling across a family of Grey Partridges (two adults and 8 chicks); something of rarity round our parts these days. However, a small, poppy-filled field out the back of Langtoft was also rather impressive.