Tracking an unringed Caspian Gull through time and space!

If you spend alot of time looking at Caspian gulls ,you start recognising them as you might do people. There are structure and plumage traits and patterns that register and become familiar despite their variability, you can devlop a sense of ‘taste’ with preferences, and opinions can be formed on whether you like a certain ‘type’ of Casp.  Individuals can remind you of other individuals etc.  Its one thing to recognise an regular bird frequenting a site over a period of time but a bizarre thing happened today: I’ve been looking back over Caspian gulls we had on the thames during the winter of 2016/17. Rich B had a 1st winter Caspian gull on the beach at Rotherhithe on the 19th of January 2017, and whilst looking at photos of this bird (taken 19 months previous to today) I somehow remembered a series of photographs taken by Mars Musse from the previous November showing 6/7 differnet Caspian Gulls on the Dutch coast. I recalled one fairly un memorable bird in particular that looked like this bird of rich’s (keep in your mind that i hadnt looked at the dutch images in over a year). I looked it up and its the same bloody bird!

Below is the original photo Mars Musse took in November ’16 on the Dutch Coast


…and here is Rich’s shot of it in Rotherhithe, London ,Jan ’17…


A couple of months wear and some paling to the bill tip are the only differences I can see. The differing angles reveal more of the scapulars in the second pic.

Its bizarre to think that it’s possible to do this and strange that i hadn’t looked at either image for so long yet something registered! Who needs rings eh?

South coast Bank Holiday get away.


Saturday and Sunday were spent birding Beachy Head with Laurence P. The main highlights were the Melodious Warbler he’d found a few days previous, a Turtle Dove that we flushed from the old trapping area (both of these went un-photographed by me) and a Wood Warbler, only seen by Bob the Ringer. There was a good number of migrants over the two days:


…18 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart, c50 Wheatear, 7 Whinchat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher…


…c50 Willow Warbler, c40 Common Whitethroat, c15 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler, c6 Reed Warbler…


… c10 Blackcaps, 2 Tree Pipit, c100 Yellow Wagtail, c50 Barn Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, 1 Swift, 1 Merlin, 6 Sparrowhawk, c12 Common Buzzard,  Short eared Owl


Bank holiday monday morning was spent with Rich B down at the White Cliffs/ Langdon Hole area near Dover. The site is above the port there and is as good a headland as any in my mind. Rich mentioned the attraction from the harbour lights and despite it not being totally heaving with migrants a decent total was achieved in our visit. I think were planning to put some more hours in there over autumn.


Whinchat, Black Redstart, Spotted Fly, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Wheatear, 2 Garden Warblers, 3 Reed Warblers, 30 Lesser Whitethroats, 15 Whitethroats & 5 Willow Warblers.


Mid morning Rich and I headed to Dungeness where a juvenile Caspian Gull at the fishing boats had been reported by David Walker .  A few fellow ‘gull connesuerrs’ have commented on its uglyness and perhaps its from somehwere west of the Polish/German border, but it was a nice bird to watch and tonally very Caspian. There seem to be a few more juv Casps turning up in the south now so roll on September (where were likely to have our first 1cys on the Thames)




I completely forgot to mention the American Black tern, We had a look at that, it was great.




Romania Part 2 – Other bits

A belated post about the other birds I saw during my recent ‘non birding’ holiday to Romania.  When I wasn’t looking at Juvenile Caspian Gulls, my early mornings were spent wandering around a body of freshwater that I just found on Google Maps. Conclusion: Romania is stacked full of birds! I had flocks of Whiskered TernsPygmy CormorantsPurple HeronsLittle Bitterns and Glossy Ibises, plus Golden OriolesTurtle Doves, large numbers of dombrowski Yellow Wagtails, Beeeaters and one or two Redrumped Swallows.





The litter-strewn farmland surrounding our accommodation was also excellent for birding and became my local patch for the week. Isabelline Wheatears, Tawny Pipits, Redbacked and Lesser Grey ShrikeBlackheaded Buntings, many Crested and a single Greater Shorttoed Lark, more Golden Orioles in the woodland where I also had MiddleSpotted Woodpecker and the ‘croak’ and ‘whistle’ calls of Thrush Nightingales were often heard.







Much of the rest of my time was spent doing actual holiday stuff as well as looking at gulls, mentioned in the previous post.  Our final day was spent at the legendary Vadu. The drive down was continually interrupted by me pulling over to look at birds: Blackeared WheatearBlackheaded Wagtails and 18 Redfooted Falcons chasing insects kicked up in the wake of a farmer’s tractor were among the highlights, while the non-birding members of our party (i.e. everyone but me) were entertained by the frequent roadside Bee-eaters and Rollers.







The below Short Toed Eagle was a consalation prize along with a pair of Long-Legged Buzzards at a site which I was sure was the Pied Wheatear site, but I’d buggered up the map and sent us to the wrong place, next time…



Ive missed off a few things through lazyness but as ‘not a birding holidays’ go it was pretty good. Thanks to a group of my best friends for your patience xxx

Romania, Juvenile Caspian Gulls

A holiday with friends to the Black Sea coast in the last week of july, my main focus – spending time with beloved girlfriend and friends… But I hoped I’d find time to see some brand new Caspian gulls. I basically got away with a few mornings and an afternoon of standing around throwing bread and looking deranged and attracting attention from gangs of drunken Romanian teenagers.

Between Mamaia, Constanta and Vadu I saw plenty, there are many more photos than this but i thought i’d just give a range.  Some individuals were incredible, some were abit up and down in terms of looks but but all show how variable they can be. The most constant features were expression, finer fringing to scapulars and coverts, finely patterned greater coverts (with a few execptions) nice dark thumbnail tertials and lightly barred or pure white axilleries, even on most of the darker birds, scroll down and enjoy.















Above, juvenile Yellow-Legged Gull, ringed at Constanta harbour. these birds were generally alot darker with more broad notching to the greater coverts and broader fringing to scapulars etc.

Below are some Adult Caspian Gulls from Vadu beach, most showed a yellowish tinge to the legs but some where dull grey/pink, and a variation in iris tone/darkness






I may go back in winter!!!

More juv Yellow-Legged Gulls, Thames Barrier Park

A slight increase in numbers of Yellow-Legged Gulls on the Thames this week, I had 10+ birds today with 7 of them juveniles. Low tide is around mid morning currently the light is abit gross.




I wanted to include the below more distant shot in this post. Once your eye is in, these birds are easily picked up even at distance with the clean white in the upper tail and even the expression, bill and head shape are all recognisable in this pic, other juveniles (Herring and LBB) all still appear to have a short p10 and some look like their learning to fly! Also noted today were a couple of juvenile YLGs today with 2 or 3 replaced scapulars already.


This nice juvenile Mediterranean Gull tentatively tried to get involved in the bread fight.




There Back! The first Juvenile Yellow-Legged Gulls of 2018


Its something I look forward to from about the end of May – mid summer influx of Yellow-Legged Gulls from the continent and especially the juvenile birds. Despite a gnarly summer cold myself and Dante un-earthed 4 Juvs and 2 second summer birds at Thames Barrier Park earlier on this evening. With the record for the earliest bird on our part of the Thames being the 1st of July (set by RB) these were almost a week late, better late than never.




Two individuals were particularly interested in the bread however the two others made brief appearances only. The below Adult Mediterranean Gull was an added bonus.


I guess you can expect more ylgs over the next month or so but ill try and keep them to a minimum.