Sunday, 1 February 2009

Gull Crazy, and Bloggers Day Out

Thanks to Errol Brown for the first half of this blog title!

Saturday 31st January, Uttoxeter Quarry, 11:50 – 12:50

I think that biohazard sign can be done away with now, although still a little bit of a sore throat at the time of writing. Not much out of the ordinary at Uttoxeter, although 9 Common Gulls were notable.

Coldmeece Pools/Cotes Heath, 13:30 – 16:00

After frustratingly missing out on the first-winter Glaucous Gull at Copmere last week due to my failing health, it was a relief to hear it was still around during the week. Seen at either Coldmeece Pools or Cotes Heath (when not feeding at Swynnerton landfill) during the day. The plan was to get onto the Gull at either site, so not having to wait around for the roost at Copmere.

Plenty of gulls were at Coldmeece on arrival, and eventually I had the good fortune of finding a white-winged gull with a black-tip to a pale bill. Wow, that must be the Glaucous I thought. A text to Nick Pomiankowski soon prompted a reply, as he had also got onto a first-winter Glaucous at Cotes Heath!

At that point alarm bells started ringing, thinking the bird I have here is not right. In fact, the more I looked at it the more I thought this was an Iceland Gull. It didn’t look that big, the rounded-shaped head, the length of the wings beyond the tail. It’s just that bill though, as the first-winter Iceland Gull I saw at Copmere a couple of weeks ago had an all-dark bill. First-winter Glaucous has a black tip to a pale bill.

I’m not scared to ask for help, especially if it ends up with the correct identification. So I scuttled off to Cotes Heath and found Nick. Unfortunately the Glaucous at this site had gone, so we went back to Coldmeece. Thankfully the bird in question was still around and was confirmed as a second-winter Iceland Gull.

However, “an all-dark eye and shades of brown on the primaries, what does that mean for Kumliens?”, asked Nick. Oh eck, where’s Olsen and Larsson when you need it? I was just getting the camera ready when all the gulls took off.

Another check of Cotes Heath saw all the gulls take off there as well, before I could view them. Following that I decided to return to Coldmeece and then wait for the roost at Copmere after all.

Copmere, 16:15 – 17:00

My kind of roost site Copmere, it’s small and the gulls aren't far away! And the first-winter Glaucous Gull was here as well. Hurrah. It also looked completely different to the Coldmeece bird.

On returning home, checking the Gull bible had put my mind at rest. It was definitely a second-winter Iceland Gull, nothing other than that. A second-winter Kumliens Gull (the North American race) is much darker overall.

Sunday 1st February.

A bit of a bloggers day out at various sites in Staffordshire today. Accompanying me were Kay, Max, Stuart the Alrewas Birder, Mr Reg Telescope, and “Bittern-photographer-extraordinaire” Pete Walkden.

Starting at Doxey Marshes. Here were 31 White-Fronted Geese, 11 Goosander, Water Rail, Snipe. No sign of Water Pipit unfortunately, probably hiding down in the strong, icy wind.

Buoyed by my Iceland Gull triumph yesterday, I thought a check of Coldmeece and Cotes Heath would be worth a try. This turned out to be a silly idea, probably because I had brought the Gull bible with me today. There were very few Gulls at Coldmeece. Nick arrived as we were leaving and informed me of nothing at Cotes Heath too. So onto Park Hall.......

Unfortunately Park Hall wasn’t much of an improvement either. No sign of any Long-Eared Owls or Little Owls. Too many people and dogs around I fear. However, there were around 30 Golden Plover and a Raven. At this point Pete had to leave us, while the rest of us drove up to Swallow Moss.

I had been a little concerned whether it would even be worth going up into the moors today. If it’s cold further downhill then you know it will be bloomin’ cold up there! But at least you can just view from inside cars for most of the time. On the way were 3 Red Grouse on the road between The Mermaid and Swallow Moss.

For most of the time all we saw, apart from flurries of snow, was a Snipe. But as it was nearing dark, a cracking male Hen Harrier duly appeared. Quartering the heather before dropping down to roost. Thank goodness for that, a great end to the day with great company.

Well, not quite the end. It appears that as I was driving home, everyone had decided to grip me off. Stuart with a Merlin, and Reg, Max and Kay with a Short-Eared Owl. There’s gratitude for you!

Only joking. I can get up there any time, only 25 minutes from home. As far as I was concerned it was their day at my end of the midlands, in god’s own county.

Speaking of which, I suppose not quite any time. I think this is going to be the last blog for a few weeks. After next weekend I’m then off to India, hooray! It’ll be nice to be somewhere warm.

PS. Bill Frindall, The Bearded Wonder, RIP.


Kay said...

Thanks for a corking day out Richard!

We really enjoyed ourselves, despite the sub-zero conditions and a the odd dip. Tis the company that counts.

The Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl were a great reward at the end of a cold day's birding.

Reg The Birder said...

Yep, great day. Looking forward to writing about it myself tomorrow. Nice to see everyone again.

Alrewas Birder said...

Raw Hide
Formalda Hide
Just some more hides for you mate.