Sunday 21 February 2021

More Meds

I am absolutely LOVING the gluttony of Med Gulls passing through the patch at the moment.  This afternoon out of my office window, nothing more than a modest gathering of gulls included seven of these beauts, one first-winter and six adults...

One of the adults was ringed. Yellow 2P44 looks to have been ringed in the UK, but I am waiting to hear exactly where and when...

Something I would love to know is just how rapid the turnover of Med Gulls currently is?  Yesterday I saw 19, today I saw nine in all - but how many of those nine were in yesterday's 19?  Well I can say that I didn't knowingly see 2P44 yesterday (although didn't see all their legs) and today I didn't see any of yesterday's four full summer plumaged adults or either of the two second-winters.

I suspect it's very rapid and wouldn't at all be surprised if most, if not all of today's birds were different to yesterday's.  And this theory is supported nicely by recent Lesser Black-backed Gull counts, last week I had 87 one day but no more than six the next!  

However rapid it is long may it continue!  Makes February a far more enjoyable month that's for sure :-)

Saturday 20 February 2021

Why Always In Threes?

Gulls have been my main focus since the cold snap ended, with several days of rough weather producing good numbers on the Estuary... happy Steve!

However it's not all been happy or gone to plan, on three occasions to be precise! Last Monday I had naked eye views of what looked all the world to be an adult or near-adult white-winger fly up the Axe Valley with two Herring Gulls.  Size wise an Iceland for me, but it's a record that's not going anywhere unless it's seen again.

Then there was the evening before (14th) when a last ditch scan through the gulls in near darkness revealed an ok-looking first-winter Caspian Gull.  I managed a couple of photos before the whole flock lifted up and most the gulls flew off out to sea.  

Also on the Sunday evening, the gull flock where the probable Caspian was, also hosted at least 13 Med Gulls.  However to get to this flock before it got too dark I drove past an Estuary full of Black-headed Gull flocks.  How many Med's were in with them the mind boggles -  it could have been a really good count.  What was a good count were the 87 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, nicely proving spring gull passage is well underway...

Lots of LBBG's and at least eight Meds in this pic

So many Black-backed of the yellow-legged variety :-)

And this is the best shot I managed of the possible Caspian.  Certainly looks promising but without seeing its spread wing, underwing or tail another record that's sadly going nowhere...

Pale head, narrow bill, grey uppers and dark tertials. Looking ok despite the gloom!

There's also been heaps of Common Gulls about.  Had 710 fly south down the valley in under twenty minutes at dusk on 18th, and tonight over 450 did the same.  Love looking through Common Gull flocks, although Ring-billeds have become so rare nowadays there's still always a chance...

Mostly Common Gulls

Been plenty of Med Gulls too.  On the evening of Sunday 14th when I fluffed the Casp, the thirteen I counted could easily have been 30+ considering how many more small gulls were gathered down river.  On 18th eight Med Gulls flew down river at dusk with the 710 Common Gulls, and tonight I had 19 in an hour from 4:15pm.  The vast majority of them have been adults, with just a sprinkling of second and first-winters. Not that I mind at all because many of the adults are looking so smart now...

Full summer adult Med Gull, with a winter version to the left

So there you go.  Plenty of gulls but no cherry on top, well not quite.  Frustrating. So bloody frustrating.

I will leave you with something a bit more colourful, and you could even say cute?  During a wonderful evening walk around Seaton Wetlands on Thursday, I enjoyed super views of this lovely Roe buck in velvet.  Simple but beautiful. And just for a change, not a gull...

Hoping my gull luck changes soon!

Saturday 13 February 2021

Plenty of Plovers

Not quite as cold in air temperature today, but the freezing easterly wind continued (although with a good degree of south in it now).  The waders have kept coming as well, in fact today saw the most significant increase in Lapwing and Golden Plover numbers.

Flocks of Lapwing were all over the place, with many fields on west facing slopes harbouring huddled groups.  My highest count of Golden Plover for today was 150; I really hate it when a count comes out at a round number, but I literally had one flock of 86 and another of 64! I really enjoyed seeing them up close for a change...

And with this increase came a Ruff, which spent the day opposite Stedcombe Valley.  Thanks for the message Kev...

And now to summarise the best of the last few days. Yesterday a drake Gadwall was with the Wigeon north of Coronation Corner, maybe not a new arrival as it could well be the same bird responsible for sporadic records since 1st Jan...

Four Shovelers (a drake and three females) have been around for a couple of days now, and on Thursday the Greylag Goose flock which has been at seven for months, suddenly numbered nine!  Staying with Thursday, offshore a few Red-throated Divers and a Common Scoter flew west, 12 Dunlin flew east with five Med Gulls loitering.  A Ringed Plover was a new arrival on the Estuary, the first of the year, and at home a Redpoll flew over calling whilst I was in the garden.

All week the Axe has been blessed with incredible numbers of gulls, and I mean really impressive numbers.  But despite all my looking there's been no stand-out highlights...

Although on Thursday afternoon this big, dark and very juvenile Herring Gull gave me all the impressions it was probably an argentatus, but at the range it was I couldn't do anything with it...

And finally I was lucky enough to see one the local Otters again on Friday, albeit briefly.  At the back of Bridge Marsh I noticed all the Canada Geese stick their necks up and semi-flush, then an Otter came bounding across the grass and disappeared down into the River Coly!

The temperatures are rising quite rapidly now, it's going to be 9 degrees here tomorrow.  Am hoping the recent movement will keep producing some decent sightings however as birds reorientate.  Be sure to keep checking in here to read all about it.

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Day Two

The raw east wind wind kept blowing all day today and with it came more wading birds.

Half an hour out this morning showed little new, except for a few more snowflakes and the Dunlin flock now numbering 38 (up from 24 the previous day).  

This afternoon Lapwing have been more numerous, and a last ditch look up the valley after work showed a neat little flock of 55 Golden Plover opposite Stedcombe Valley...

These golden beauties were a sure sign birds are reacting to the cold, but so far it's only really waders.  Still waiting for wildfowl to get going properly, although Clive had a couple of Brent Geese in-off today and Teal have been turning up in odd places, with a small flock on the lower Estuary outside my office all afternoon.  The local Wigeon however seem completely unfazed...

I won't lie, I wouldn't mind a diving duck or two out of this cold snap. And a good dumping of snow :-)

Monday 8 February 2021

Time To Turn The Heating On

If only the title was indeed true, because my bank balance would look a lot healthier if it were!  

What has been labelled 'The Beast from the East Two' is currently blasting most of the UK with freezing cold winds and snow.  We've even had a few flakes down here late this afternoon but nothing serious yet (looks like Thursday/Friday may deliver this though?).   And like I'm sure every local patch birder in the country, I'm excited, very very excited.  A decent spell of cold weather can often produce bird movements even more impressive that what spring or autumn delivers.  A good cold snap just shakes things up a bit during the dullest and dreariest months of the year, especially February by which time the winter doldrums have often set in and spring is still too far away.

Of course when the weather becomes too cold it's just plain devastating.  I will never forget the sight of tens and tens of dead Lapwing that I found during the first Beast from the East.  Sickening.  Hopefully this one will not get this bad, and from the forecast it looks like it won't with signs of things warming up from Friday onwards.

So today was day one for us, with parts of the east of the UK and Scotland under a layer of the white stuff, and more falling as I type this.  And over the North Sea wow things are really cold - although the early signs are that many of these birds are escaping it by flying south west into Belgium and France and not west towards us.  Do think this will still give us some oddities though at some stage.  Woodcock are clearly coming west for example - Flamborough in East Yorkshire recorded over 180 a couple of days ago, which is by far their highest ever day count.  A clear sign of birds coming in and only about a month before they'd usually be thinking about heading off east!

A walk along the beach first thing this morning showed a constant northerly/north westerly passage of gulls.  Mostly small ones, and as I could see them coming from miles out, or from around the corner (Dorset) I knew they weren't the local birds.  Mostly Black-headed and Common with the odd Med Gull involved. A couple of Red-throated Divers flew west, but no sign of any wildfowl movement yet.  Although that's wasn't all that surprising, as they are a bit bigger it usually takes a couple of days of cold before they get moving. Most large water bodies are probably still unfrozen too.

The rest of the day I have been at work, but even from there I could see cold weather movement in action.  Namely Dunlin.  

Although we had one or two Dunlin on the Axe at the turn of the year, I haven't seen one for a couple of weeks now.  So when I saw five just outside my window mid morning I knew they were new arrivals.  Ten minutes later there were six.  Thirty minutes later there were nine.  I went for my lunch time walk and when I came back there were now 24...

Just makes me wonder where they have all come from?  Presumably quite a long way away as all the Estuary's along the south coast of UK and in the south west are still unfrozen.   Possibly they have come from Holland, or up the east coast of the UK somewhere?  Just amazing.  And as they arrived in dribs and drabs, there's a good chance most of them have never met each other before! Love it.  Migration, be it cold weather induced or just seasonal, its quite simply mind blowing.

Also noted a few Lapwing flying in-off today, with plenty huddled down in the corners of marsh I can see from work late this afternoon.  No Golden Plover for me but Mike reports a couple this evening near Musbury. 

As expected after what I saw offshore this morning, there's been lots of gulls about all day, although nothing better than a small turn over of Med Gulls.  This one was doing its' best to rock a summer vibe despite the temperature... 

So let's see what tomorrow brings.  It's another work day for me, not that that's necessarily a bad thing considering my incredible office view!  

I'll sign this post off with a picture of one of our wintering Cattle Egrets, which I snapped about a week ago on Bridge Marsh. It's amazing how quickly they've gone from being RARE to being not worthy of a blog post. - well not even a tweet to be honest...