I had a quick look at Hayes Barton Pig Farm this morning. The weather was really foul, and visibility not great, but this herring gull stood out from the flock on account of its mantle colour, being a shade darker than all accompanying 'argenteus' herring gulls - quite a neutral grey but definitely darker. It was nothing special size-wise but sported heavy head streaking and really large white tips to the primaries. The distance and dampness wouldn't allow any photographs and annoyingly the whole flock was spooked by the sound of an air rifle echoing around the farm. I couldn't pick it up in flight so couldn't get the all-important wing tip detail (see photo in previous post). It was a distinctive individual with extensive black markings on a dull yellow bill and noticeably dark ear covert crescents. The bill colour, coupled with an apparent faint brown wash across the greater coverts, presumably makes it a fourth winter bird?
Hayes Barton is the nearest thing to a landfill site locally, with regards to gulls. I love the place but gull watching is a bit hit and miss with birds remaining airborne for ages if spooked. Most of the gull 'traffic' seems to come from the Otter but there is presumably lots of interchange between there and the Exe. The good thing is that a public footpath bisects the farm allowing you to scope flocks wherever they are on the farm. The photo below was taken last weekend from the entrance to the farm when an adult mediterranean gull was the only bird of note.
Most winters a sizeable chaffinch flock takes advantage of the game-cover crops and that tends to draw in reed buntings and yellowhammers with good numbers of brambling some years. The farm also attracts good-sized flocks of pied wagtails, meadow pipits, stock doves, woodpigeons, starlings and corvids so there's always something to look at. I've also had stuff like crossbill, redpoll and black redstart there. Red-legged partridge numbers are quite high but they're all released for shooting.
A flying visit to Orcombe Point before football yesterday produced 15 dark-bellied brent goose, 7+ turnstone, 1 redshank, 29 curlew, 1+ purple sandpiper, 1 red-throated diver, 1 diver sp (prob black-throat), 1 great northern diver, and 5 shelduck - all Maer Rocks/offshore. The top fields held 14+ snipe, c50+ skylark, 1 meadow pipit and c20/30+ linnet. This morning, first thing, there were 2 female-type eider off Maer Rocks, 2 red-throated diver flew West and 8 dark-bellied brent goose were feeding on the rocks.
Photographing purple sandpipers on slippery Maer Rocks is a bloody risky business - not sure the results are worth it!
Off Mudbank yesterday - 1 ad mediterranean gull, 12+ teal, 27+ redshank, 7+ ringed plover, c200+ pintail, c300+ wigeon, 46+ turnstone and 44+ shelduck.