Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Cold weather Caspians

I had a couple of hours spare this afternoon (in between a bank meeting and work), so called in at Dogsthorpe Tip. It was immediately apparent that a shed load of gulls were present: around 1,500 large was the highest figure I've had here this winter.

Anyway, it turned out to be the most productive session I've had of the winter. Clearly the recent cold weather had driven a lot of gulls westwards from the continent - Herring Gull numbers were up massively. Either side of a brief visit to Tanholt Pits, I recorded no less than six Caspian Gulls at Dogsthorpe - two adults, a fourth-winter (different to Saturday's), and three first-winters. Also at The Dog were a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls (adult and 1st-winter), but it seemed a bit bizarre there wasn't a winger anywhere to be seen. Photos of five of the Casps can be seen below; amazingly, the bottom four birds were all seen together on the pit at one point among just a few hundred large gulls!

Bird one: first-winter - can you spot it?

Bird two: a distinctive first-winter with long and extensively-pale bill

Bird three: fourth-winter (near -adult). Note the brownish wash to the coverts and tertials as well as black in bill indicating age; primary pattern also perhaps not quite as developed as in adults

Bird four: adult - classic in all respects

Bird five: a longer-billed and paler-eyed adult than that previous but no less distinctive

The aforementioned brief visit to Tanholt wasn't bad either - this relatively uninspiring little set of gravel pits seems to be doing rather well in this weather. Lots of gulls are currently using the site to loaf in between visits to the adjacent landfill, and can be seen sitting on the ice. Equally, the snow-free back bank of the pit is currently a wader mecca - today there was a Grey Plover, a Sanderling, five Dunlin and a Redshank. Among a couple of hundred large gulls today was this fourth-winter Yellow-legged Gull:

If only it was always like this!

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