4 of 5 Local Caspian Gulls

 

I arrived at Lyle Park in the rain. Rich and Dante had already seen all four of the most regular 1st winter Caspian Gulls, one of which I missed, and recent cold weather seems to have made them more attracted to the bread and fearless in their approach coming close in and giving good views. Below is ‘Lyle’, still my favourite bird on the Thames and present most trips.

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The following bird is the paler regular Casp, very beautifully marked.

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Next up is a murkier bird that I originally had at the O2 in November.

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We crossed the River where the above bird was waiting on the beach. A quick scan through the surrounding gulls and I had a new 1st winter Caspian in my bins.  As the tide was about to engulf the entire beach we climbed the fence to view the birds at the same level.

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This regular Yellow Legged gull was bobbing about off the beach as the tide came in. Also standing with the new casp for comparison.

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Dante and I stopped in on some Islington Waxwings for dessert.

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Cyprus Part two… The Gulls!

Here’s the real reason for my trip.  The photo below was taken at Lady’s mile – a furiously potholed dirt track just south of Limassol with pools to the right and the sea on the left. Birds loaf around the puddles and lagoons but also come to bread on the beach. I did most of my Gulling here and also spent time at Larnaca Sewerage works and a couple of Harbours along the south coast.  I saw many birds and have included ones which are particularly nice looking or came close enough to get decent, useful photos.

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Black heads were in good numbers at Lady’s Mile and scanning through them revealed a few Slender billed gulls.

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The most common large gulls were Armenian.  Quite unremarkable as first years,  overall resembling a small  delicately marked Yellow-Legged Gull but sharing a few more caspian like features like overall whiter underwing more delicate and sometimes silvery replaced scaps and wing coverts.

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Many were quite bleached and worn in the wing.

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The bird below more Yellow-Legged appearance,  but was size and shape of Armenian, and note scapular pattern and propensity to show silver grey.

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The Second winter birds were more contrasy and, like many more easterly taxa often moult a high percentage of wing coverts in their post juv moult so have an almost complete grey mantle by the time they reach this age group.

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Adults are smart.

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Yellow Legged Gulls seemed to be present on the north coast mainly during my stay. I had a few adults and first winters however Caspian Gulls were much more common, with only first winters coming to bread but many adults and a few other aged birds seen in flight around the island and distantly at the Sewerage works.

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Square headed small billed bird above resembling barabensis, and darker bird below, quite unfamiliar in uk context, with same age Armenian,

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Classic bird against the bright blue east med sea rather than our usual muddy waters in the SE.

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This very large billed presumably male bird, below, had beautiful replaced scapulars and median covert pattern giving it a second winter appearance on the water but a closer look reveals the coverts to just be plain grey 2nd gen feathers, Ive seen this in only a few first winter birds birds before. Note first gen tail band also.

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Adults were mainly fly-bys or birds present in the few areas of Military Land where photography was forbidden.

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I saw 2 different Common gulls, both at Lady’s Mile. This bird, with its clean white head and underparts, dark 2nd generation, pale fringed and browner centered scapulars, long primary projection and pink base of bill suggests the Russian sub-species Heinei.

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I was hoping to get some experience with Heuglins gulls. I saw some distant adults which I id’d on size and mantle tone and p10 still growing. I also saw what must have been Fuscus LBBs but again distant and no pics better than this…

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Thanks to Phil Saunders (who spent a good amount of time out there studying Rollers during the summer months) for his help with sites etc.

Cyprus Part One

 

A four day trip over New years with beloved girlfriend was a great way to end 2016 and start 2017. I wanted to be somewhere where nearly all the large gulls are either Caspians or unfamiliar and exciting.

As far as other birds go, I had a few things I wanted to see ; Finsch’s Wheatear, Wall creeper, Cyprus Warbler, Moustached Warbler and most of all Great Black-headed Gull. Unfortunately /amazingly I failed to see any of these birds.

I was going for more of a ‘bins over camera’ approach to passerines and waders but some of the more photogenic and willing subjects were worth a brief blog post.

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Lazy Birding around Paphos headland and other similar habitat revealed a Stonechat or Black Redstart on every perch, Sardinian Warblers in every bush and mixed flocks of Crested and Skylarks (woodlark were noted elsewhere too) One or two Red-Throated pipit calls heard but birds flushed ad unseen among meadow Pipit flocks.

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Greater Sand Plovers seem to be a feature of the headland there, I also had Grey Plover, Whimbrel , common sandpiper and a single Dunlin as well as fly-by Caspian and Armenian Gulls.

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This Blue Rock Thrush darted about near our accommodation in between short bursts of song and performed nicely in the morning light.

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Hen Harriers were seen in a few sites as well as well as Long legged Buzzards were the raptors of note.

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Gulls up next…

2nd Winter Caspian and Tristis Chiff

A few days ago young Dante found a 2nd winter Caspian Gull at Lyle Park. The first of a bunch of new-in Casps to the area recently. Fast forward to this morning, I got to Thames barrier park first thing and as soon as the bread was out the bag a huge 2nd winter Caspian Gull flew very close to where I was throwing from. I assumed it was the same bird as it flew towards the 02. After an hour or so between there and Lyle park (and 3 first winter Casps, none new i think) we headed over the river where Dante picked it up loafing on the beach.

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As the tide was coming in and the birds were very soon to go off on their own accord, we hopped the fence and viewed the bird from ground level. A nice change from the elevated view at O2. Its an enormous Bird and fairly square headed.

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Below – P10 showing a faint Mirror, Not so visible in flight unfortunately.

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Below – a well built 2cy Yellow Legged gull. As we left i’m pretty sure this bird flew over us. Dante also may have had the same bird earlier in the day

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As the tide came in we made a move to Beckton Sewerage works. Yesterday we’d seen a first winter Caspian on one of the roofs near the plant, today however  gulls were pretty thin on the ground but I picked out this Tristis Chiffchaff was amongst around 20 collybita chiffs feeding along the outflow channel. Photos were taken into the dying light and through a chain wire fence but bins dealt with that well enough to see the buff (not yellow) supercillium, rusty ear coverts, buff/white underparts, olive green and yellow tones exclusively present in the Remiges and Retrices, faint wing bar and very black legs.

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I thought I heard it a few times whilst scanning the mobile group of birds but not well enough to be happy. After about 15 minutes I heard it clearly call exactly as it should. Apparently Local Paul Hawkins has seen it also so hopefully it will stick around. I was lucky enough to find a bird early spring 2016 at the waterworks that was in full song and performed nicely for most people who looked for it over a couple of weeks.