Monday, 13 March 2017

Early spring promise

The mild conditions of recent days have generated a rush of summer migrants, many of which are arriving days (even weeks) earlier than usual.

I had my first Chiffchaff of the year singing at Lonsdale Road Reservoir, Barnes, at sunrise on Friday morning - this quickly followed by the regular 2cy Caspian Gull frequenting the playing fields at Dukes Meadows. I still look at this bird sometimes and shudder a bit, as structurally I think it looks quite Herring-like at times. I guess it's probably from Germany.

It looks fine here, but sometimes this bird takes on an appearance quite unremarkable for cachinnans. I've never seen/heard it calling.

Plenty of gulls have been on the move in recent days - the warm conditions of Saturday and Monday in particular were good for observing visible migration, with Black-heads almost streaming east at times. Not a single bloody Med Gull, though. The wait for one on my patch goes on. A few gull rings included the usual NTGG birds, red-ringed 2cy Herring 'J+H' from Peter Rock's scheme in Bristol, yellow-ringed 3cy Herring 'Y.161' (from Rufforth, N Yorks), and the following two:

 Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull white 'A8CF', Fulham, 11 March 2017 - from Sussex but awaiting details on when it was ringed

3cy Common Gull green 'J88Z', Chiswick, 12 March 2017 
Ringed as a 1cy female at Stavanger, Norway, on 16.11.15 and still in the city environs in Feb 2016, this is the first sighting of it since (and the first away from SW Norway)

There have also been up to three 2cy Yellow-legged Gulls knocking about recently, all familiar birds from recent weeks, but no new Caspian Gulls in recent days.

2cy Yellow-legged Gull, Fulham, 11 March 2017. I first saw this bird at Beddington on 3 March.

Sunday was a real red-letter day. Murky conditions produced a fall of early-spring migrants at the WWT including a pristine pair of Garganey, a Sand Martin, three singing Chiffchaffs and a smart male Northern Wheatear. Meadow Pipit was notable, too. On a sunnier Monday, I had a Common Sandpiper on the river at Fulham.

Monday, 6 March 2017

A mixed weekend

A foray to the wetland centre on Saturday revealed 50 species, with a handful of notable sightings: a winter-plumaged Water Pipit, two Reed Buntings, two male Stonechats a couple of Mandarins in with the captive birds, still two pairs of Pintail, best views yet of the 2cy Yellow-legged Gull with aberrant bill and one of the Peregrines showed fairly well as it drifted over.

2cy Yellow-legged Gull - the regular bird with aberrant bill

Male European Stonechat

The river held comfortably the highest number of Herring Gulls that I've recorded here so far - around 350. Unfortunately nothing could be found among them and the party was ended prematurely when a Common Buzzard went low south-west, flushing them all.

I decided to stay in on Sunday morning in order to get some work done. Bad decision - before I knew it, David Campbell was doing damage at the wetland centre with Iceland and Caspian Gulls. I spent the rest of the afternoon working the river, dodging the at times biblical rain showers, and saw little more than the usual two Yellow-legged Gulls - the aberrant bird was observed on the river for the first time near Hammersmith Bridge while the regular bird at Chiswick Eyot was showing well.

Yellow-legged Gull, Chiswick Eyot, 5 March 2017

A visit to Beddington Monday morning was productive with six Caspian Gulls (four 2cy and two 3cy), including the pallid, yellow-ringed 'X319', which was seen on the Thames in East London by Rich et al on numerous occasions before it became regular at Beddington.

Confiding 2cy Caspian Gull at Beddington, 6 March 2017

A quick check of the gulls along the Thames between Fulham and Chiswick in the afternoon produced very little, aside continuing Dutch Black-headed Gull 'EE5T' and a German Common Gull, 'ALJJ'. This bird was ringed as pullus on Heligoland in summer 2015 and mine is the first sighting of it since!

3cy Common Gull 'ALJJ', Fulham, 6 March 2017

Friday, 3 March 2017

Good gulling at Beddington

Thanks to a kind invite from David Campbell, I went to spent a few hours sifting through the gulls at Beddington. It was my first visit there since April 2007, the day after the Glaucous-winged Gull was seen, and it's fair to say the site has changed somewhat - not least the construction of a hideous incinerator that is set to be a massive and permanent blot on the skyline.

The morning produced nine species of gull - the usual five plus:
  • 2cy Caspian Gull: also seen at Rotherhithe by Rich Bonser on 26 February [and then by several observers at Thames Barrier Park on 4 March]
  • 2cy Glaucous Gull
  • 2cy Iceland Gull: regular bird that has been around all winter (I saw it on the Thames in Hammersmith in early December)
  • Five Yellow-legged Gulls (2 ads, 5cy, 2 2cy): one of these has been seen regularly by Rich, Dante, Jamie et al on the Thames in East London. Curious how they move round, and fascinating that they're being tracked so closely this winter.
2cy Caspian Gull - almost as big as a heron

Dumpy 2cy Glaucous

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Regular Yellow-legged Gull at Chiswick

This 2cy Yellow-legged Gull has been regular at Chiswick Eyot in recent days. It's quite a distinctive bird with heavily marked scapulars and worn flight feathers - the primaries are quite bleached, for example. Covert moult has commenced, as is evident in the pics below.

2cy Yellow-legged Gull, Chiswick Eyot

A large and aggressive bird, here it is pictured bullying a 2cy Herring Gull

I've also had up to three at the Wetlands Centre lately, so they appear to be on the move. This presumably ties in with Lesser Black-backed Gull migration, which also seems to be well underway. Small pulses of birds have been passing through my stretch of the Thames and I had blue-ringed 2cy V.JZ4 last week, which is apparently from Denmark (awaiting details on that one).