Although I was half expecting it, I was still not prepared for just how poor February has been on the Axe, quite the come down from January!
After the previously blogged-about Water Pipit and Mistle Thrush double tick on 3rd, it took until the 13th for my next year tick - a Blackcap! Had another today, singing which was nice. And it isn't like I have missed much, well except for a gripping drake Red-breasted Merganser which I dipped by about three minutes on 15th! Many thanks to Nick who not only found it, but rapidly u-turned to pick me up!
Sawbill aside it has been really poor on the Axe. However I have always been hoping February would be saved by gulls, as usually the last couple of weeks of this month is when pre-breeding gull passage gets going. Today, it begun...
We had a few days of amazing gull numbers back in mid January, but counts of for example Common and Med Gulls since then have come right down, with Estuary checks revealing a couple of hundred and single figures respectively (at most!). But today, whether it is the date or the return of south westerlies, my counts of these two species were 900+ and 12+! Along with at least 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, as much a sign of spring as a dapper male Wheatear on Beer Head!
|Over 750 Common Gulls in this photo!|
|A lovely late winter gull scene on the Axe. Even though Ring-billed is pratically a mega again I will never stop trying!|
|A closer than usual Med from a couple of days ago|
Today's counts already mentioned were from this morning, so I was keen to get back down the Estuary this afternoon. There were less small gulls present with the tide having risen, but greeting me at Coronation Corner was the Axe's 29th Caspian Gull. A lovely first-winter, and my 106 Patchwork Challenge species of the year...
|Completely messed up the camera settings, but look at that neck!|
|Such a big chesty bird!|
This bird has a really lovely dark and long-winged look to it. This is exactly the view I had when I found it, and was struck by such a striking wing pattern. It is the bird dead centre...
And here is the same photo with some annotations...
|Although just one or two of these features wouldn't make the bird stand out with this view, it is the combination of ALL these features|
And some of the the key bits...
Then annoyingly, after it spent a minute bathing on the water I simply lost it. Am presuming it sneaked off south as no one else saw it by dusk.
Birders looking for it tonight did turn up a brief Little Gull though. Never twitchable so I couldn't react to the news, but hopefully this one stays around allowing me a third chance at Little Gull this year!
Hopefully this flurry of action means February has finally woken up...