Tuesday, 18 December 2012

More Viking Images

A couple of images from today of the Viking Gull labelled as individual 1 in the previous post and still present on the Tyne at Newburn. I think these are slightly better quality and show the pale chevrons on the primaries better.

Also another two colour-ringed Herring Gulls, one that looks like it may have been Fera ringed and another that was ringed up in Aberdeen in the same garden as the last one, trapped as an adult on 21/06/2012 this is the first sighting of this individual. Interesting that two of our 'wintering' Herring Gulls have both come from the Aberdeen area, begins to suggest a pattern.

Update: Orange 1210 was indeed FERA ringed, back in December 2004 at Ellington Lane Landfill Site, Northumberland, a fourth winter at the time that makes it a 12 year old.  Rather surprisingly there have been no sightings of this individual since it was ringed.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Viking Gulls (?), Newburn, December

At least two, possibly three, first calendar year 'Viking Gull' candidates (Glaucous x European Herring Gull) at Newburn on 11th December on the rising tide late morning. All the individuals in the images below seem to me to show some similar characteristics to each other, e.g. long bill, pale primaries, pale tertial centres, short primary projection and a general overall plumage paleness.

Individual 1
A chunky looking gull with a Glaucous-like bill pattern and small eye, an overall creamy hue to the plumage, washed out/pale tertial centres and light brown primaries with fine pale edges. I think I1 seems to have a bit of Glaucous jizz about it too, particularly about the head.

Individual 2 (Top left/Back left)

Another pale-headed bird with long parallel -edged bill, pinkish base visible though not as prominent; again a creamy paler hue to overall plumage and much paler tertial centres and primaries, this time with bolder pale chevrons around the edges of the primaries.

Individual 3

The sun was out by the time I saw this individual and never went back in before all the gulls left for the tip.  Again a fairly long-billed, pale individual though with a much more white base to the plumage, particularly the greater coverts and tertials. I'm less convinced about this one to be honest, opinions?

I've seen individuals with lighter brown primaries with pale edges before, but the first two individuals above do seem to show some Glauc influence/genes.
Compare the individuals in my images with these taken a little later in winter of presumed 2cy Viking Gulls in Iceland by Hans Larsson.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Tis the season for them!

Never having enough time to spend doing more of the things that make me happy, it is time to ring some changes. I have created a new page on the blog called Notebook, my intention is to use this page as just that, my on-line notebook recording what I've seen with very little if any commentary alongside it. I'm hoping that without the need to 'create' a blog post I can add my birding there more frequently albeit in sound-byte size entries.

This may mean less blog entries on the front page as I intend to post only when I have something I think worthwhile. As we head towards a triple dip (am I alone in perking up whenever that phrase is mentioned just in case they're talking birding?) there is an upsurge, nay a groundswell, the sniff of a bit of zeitgeist about the start of 2013 with not one but two interesting competitive 'local birding/patch' style gigs in the offing. They may not be everyone's cup of tea but injecting a little fun, a dose of humour and a bit of additional motivation to get out and stay local are all positives in my book, so in for a penny I've gone for both in the bush, or some such metaphor.

Piemeister Mark Reeder has conjured 'Foot It' from a series of ill-advised tweets claiming all sorts could be achieved from one's front doorstep. Lasting for just 31 days in January and involving a great many mentions of 'there and back' it may yet prove to be more than mere coincidence that it is launched at the same time as The Hobbit and  can count Martin Garner amongst the fellowship.

On a longer time frame a year-long 'Patch Challenge' is also out of the offing and into reality, gathering pace and close to including 100 patches across our fair islands as I write. Who could resist the opportunity to pit your bird-finding skills in a medieval quest against the finest, fairest and gingerest that exist in the land?

Looking back over 2012 my most read post was this one, there seems to be some momentum building at the moment towards some form of campaign on raptor persecution and I have every intention of supporting that in whatever ways are possible. One of my favourite places on the web is Mark Avery's battleground of a blog, this post a week or two back left an impression on me and a mental commitment to do more for the issues I believe are important. As a result I took advantage of the recent BTO marketing campaign and joined as I believe having good science is vital to many of the issues surrounding birds; I've also donated money to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and written to my local MP about the current plans to release 1500 sq miles of green-belt into development.

Enjoy the changes...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Non-birding Weekend

Work and family, were it not for those twin consumers of our time just imagine the birds that would be found. I think I managed about 40 minutes actual birding this weekend, jammed between a daughter and dog walk and the free-range chicken aisle in ASDA. To be fair as the dog walk involved a hike through some riverside woodland (her choice not mine) I did manage to pick up a vocal Marsh Tit, a fly-off Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch so I was kind of birding though doing so at the same time as trying to explain the water cycle to a five year old is disconcerting.

News of a Great Northern Diver on Bothal Pond just a hop, skip and jump down the road yesterday afternoon prompted a stop late morning today to check it it was still around, as there had been no further news. One old-timer local last night suggested it was probably a site first, anyone else know differently? In crisp sunshine the juvenile was quickly located diving frequently around the centre of the pond. Perhaps unused to such a small water body it regularly stayed very flat when on the surface as if attempting to remain unseen. Distance resulted in nothing more than vinyl tequila but it was nice to watch.

Great Northern Diver

At the east end of the pond a small Canada Goose flock, a fragment of the Woodhorn/QEII flock turned out to have at least four of the putative Todd's Canada Geese amongst them. A later phone call from JGS suggested six.
In other news two of my colour-ringed Herring Gulls from Friday were first sightings of individuals ringed in a garden at Peterculter Aberdeen.

T:095 (metal ring GR46003) was ringed as an adult on 17/07/2011 and this is the first location/sighting since. T:260 (metal ring GR46266) was ringed as an adult female on 21/05/2012 and this is the first location/sighting since also.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Yellow-legged Gull, Newburn

More gulling on the River Tyne at Newburn yesterday morning with a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull as reward for standing around in the cold conditions. With several hundred gulls loafing I was a little disappointed not to have found anything else but I'm sure there will be more to come as we head through winter.
Perhaps not the largest and most long-legged individual (a female?) I think this still shows a good primary pattern with large mirror on p10 just visible under p9 and a solid black band on p5. An unstreaked head marked it out immediately from all the argentatus present that still have dirty winter streaking; along with bright bill with extensive gonys reaching the upper mandible and darker yellow-ish iris and red orbital ring (and custard-yellow legs) it was a bit of a stunner amongst the grotty Scots and Scandinavians. Compare with this and this for examples of individuals in similar plumage with similar structure.

Additionally I picked up three colour-ringed Herring Gulls and managed to get all three ring codes, submission via the improved cr website initially suggests two were ringed in north-east Scotland and one by the North Thames gull group, I'll update when I have more details.