Sunday 29 October 2023

The Casps keep coming and so does the rain!

Nicely following on from my last but one blog post a brief look at the Estuary gulls eary afternoon on 28th revealed... a first-winter Caspian Gull.

I watched it briefly over and in the water from Coronation Corner, but it slipped off just before Clive arrived.  Thankfully when I changed position I could see it again, it had landed just around the corner up river.  Photos are beyond dreadful but I could see it was a new first-winter Caspian Gull for me.  Not as lumpy as the previous two and more advanced in first-winter plumage, stonking white-head too...

Worst Caspian Gull photo I have ever taken

So although I certainly hadn't seen this bird before, it could have been one of Phil Bentley's birds from the 23rd.  In short it was my third first-winter in a week but possibly not increasing the overall Axe Casp total.  Looks like the total has gone up by another one today though as Tim had a colour-ringed cold toned first-winter from Tower Hide this afternoon.  

It has not just be raining Caspian Gulls here recently, but raining rain too!  A heck of a lot of rain, with the most severe flooding of the autumn in the valley this morning...

Day-break was still a long way off when I took this

As ever the excess water brings out more ducks than we can usually see.  110 Teal, 45 Wigeon and singles of Shoveler and Pintail (a female - poorly pictured below) were on Bridge Marsh this morning.  Just over the road opposite Axmouth FC (site of the sole Axe Dowitcher record!) were 115 Lapwing, 55 Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff, a Green Sandpiper, a Greenshank and five Cattle Egrets.  

Female Pintail


With the strong south westerly wind and overcast skies today I gave the sea some attention too.  My main goal being a Little Gull having missed at least three on patch this year.  Still not my day for one of these, but am hopeful the winds forecasted during the week ahead will do the trick. I did put another previously dipped species for the year to bed though thanks to a message from James Mc who was sea watching from Lyme Regis.  

I actually had just left the sea as a heavy shower moved in and was desperate to check the flood water in the valley, but I'd got as far as Coronation Corner when a WhatsApp flashed up...

"Mega alert RB merg heading your way"

I went straight back to the sea, set my scope up, phoned James and literally as I was saying hello a female Red-breasted Merganser zoomed west through my scope view - at great speed! Eight minutes it took to get from Lyme to Seaton, that's a flight speed of about 40mph! I was expecting it about five minutes later so very nearly missed it. Many thanks James.

Also during my morning seawatch I logged singles of Balearic Shearwater, Great Crested Grebe and Great Northern Diver, 7 Common Scoter, c25 Kittiwake and plenty of Gannets. All flew west except for five of the Scoter and the Balearic.

I went out again mid-afternoon today for a quick sweep of  the remnants of the flood and the Estuary, with a look through the gulls revealing a rather interesting second or third-winter Yellow-legged Gull-type.  Need to do some more digging but thankfully Tim got some excellent pics of it from Tower Hide.  My current thinking is a Yellow-legged Gull from the Atlantic coast (NOT Azorean) although I could so easily be completely wrong - it doesn't even have yellow legs!  Probably another post to follow on this intriguing bird.

For now, batten down the hatches as Storm Ciaran is on its way, and it looks like it is going to be something quite spectacular...

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