Monday, 20 July 2020

Raining Waders and Juv Yellow-legged Gull

The rain during Saturday night and into Sunday morning dropped an unseasonably good number of wading birds into the Axe Valley, particularly to Black Hole Marsh.  Not necessarily a good thing mind, as seeing so many adult Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin so early in the season may indicate some big problems on their breeding grounds. 

It's thought the north west wind and rain brought these exceptional numbers to the UK. It was a UK wide influx.

The star bird was a cracking summer Turnstone, my first of the year on the Axe, although it remained on the far side of the marsh...

Nice to see one in such smart plumage

By the end of Sunday the Dunlin flock had reached 51 birds (all adults) and Black-tailed Godwits for me 55, although 70 were present mid morning (again all adults).  Common Sandpipers were present in good numbers too, c14, but with many young birds in with them there's no worries about their breeding success.  Same can be said for Little Ringed Plovers too, with five juveniles present at dusk (eight today!).

Common Sands galore!

There were also three Lapwing, two Greenshank, one Green Sandpiper and two Med Gulls (ad and juv). Kingfishers have suddenly become 'common' again, as they do at this time of year here, and great to see another young Oystercatcher chick on the marsh after one pair have already got one off...

Odd that both pairs have only had one chick though, it's usually two or three per pair

Have been at work for most of today, but a last gasp check along the Estuary revealed a sight I have been longing, and expecting to see, for about two weeks now!  My first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year, and boy was it worth the wait.  Juv Yellow-legs are so variable in appearance, but every now and then you see an absolutely corker, one that has literally been lifted out of the guide books and put in front of you.  This was one of those...

What is not to love (except for the distance and heat haze!)

In the above image note the long-winged and high chested appearance, very pale ground colour to head neck and belly (Herring's rarely show pale ground colour to underparts, they can often to head), clear dark eye patch and plain dark tertials.

I first found it on the view shown in the following picture, and can't express enough how identifiable it was just on this single view. They can be that obvious I promise...

Facing away behind the right hand of the two sleeping Great Black-backed Gulls

Even on this view we can see jet black tertials and a clear black tail band, dark eye mask and pale head.  Something not often written about juv Yellow-legs is that they just have a very 'contrasty' look to them - pale underparts, brown upperparts, black tertials and tail band and white tail. Juvenile Herring Gulls are very rarely anything other than plain brown - although I must add the caveat that a little later in the season watch out for juv Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls.  Structure is important too, and in the second photo you can see a fairly long pair of legs and an overall bulk and stance I find more reminiscent of Great Black-backed Gull, especially the case when it's a big Yellow-legged like this one.

I really hope this is my first of many, although will be surprised if any are as stunning as this!

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