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Sunday, 28 March 2021

More March Magic

After an enjoyable and surprisingly productive Friday, the weekend carried on in similar fashion.  It's been a good weekend indeed!

All I had time for on Saturday was a mid afternoon look along the Estuary, but it proved so rewarding with a stunning example of a first-winter (2cy) Caspian Gull amongst the large numbers of loafing gulls.  The Axe's 24th, my 15th, and quite possibly my personal favourite to date...

The most striking 1w Caspian Gull possible!

White, grey, brown, black.

A snow head white, with long narrow bill and a black bullet hole for an eye

Whiter than white, even under its wings!  That's a similarly aged Herring Gull in front - so so different!


Let me use the next photo to highlight what makes this an absolute stone-wall tick all the boxes Caspian.  Match up the bullet points to the below photo...

Bill noticeably pale with dark tip

  1.  Clean white and sloping fronted head, and breast with slight grey flecking around rear of neck.
  2.  Almost pure grey mantle with little brown - advanced for a 1w bird.
  3.  Coverts (especially Greater) plain and almost solidly dark, with some narrow pale edging/tips.
  4.  All dark tertials with pale tips.
  5.  Narrow and parallel bill mostly pale with a dark tip.
  6.  An overall big and 'beefy' looking bird.
As ever though, yes it's important to study the above points and finer details of the bird, but zoom out and look at just how distinctive overall this bird is.  At this time of year many young Herring Gulls have developed paler heads, some looking pretty damn white, and they never fail to stop me in my tracks when I am scanning through a gull flock. This was something else however, it was literally radiating out like a bright white light!  And when that 'whiteness' is contrasting with such plain brown flight feathers and a clean almost silver-grey mantle - well there's just no mistaking it.  Stunning.  

And then it flew, which allowed me to see even more of the clinching features...

Just as white as its head under there! And look at those dangling long legs

Underwing compared with a similarly aged Herring Gull above and to the right

Best upperwing and uppertail shot I got. Striking tail pattern, and note the solidly dark secondaries with pale tips

Thrilled with this shot, with a second-winter Great Black-backed.  Note the already moulted grey inner primaries and once again those long gangly pale pink legs!


I was absolutely delighted to share this cracker with Phil and Ian, before it took off and appeared to land on Black Hole Marsh. Don't think it was picked up again though.  

Can't tell you how thrilled I am with this bird!  We have been blessed with really good numbers of gulls on the Axe during late winter/early spring this year, more than I can remember seeing before on such a consistent basis.  However they've contained nothing different, and despite all the effort and the fact each time I've checked I thought 'there will be something this time', they've just not been supplying the goods.

Great that that's changed though, with a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on Friday and now this beaut the next day.  A much deserved white-winger next hopefully!?

Now to today, maybe a work day but it's shown some nice birds.  My first Willow Warbler of the year was hurriedly feeding and repeated calling from a ditch by my office late this morning, with a lunch time wander revealing my first two Wheatear of the year, and the Dark-bellied Brent Goose which has been around for a couple of days now...

Not quite a scenic as I was hoping for my first Wheatear of the year!

Dark-bellied Brent Goose showing well on Sheep's Marsh


Then tonight after work, my first two Swallow of the year were feeding with 25+ Sand Martins over Colyford/Bridge Marsh.  

What a fantastic few days, March really has surpassed all expectations!

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