Saturday 22 March 2014

Sibe Chiff, Possible Caspian Gull and Glauc Up Close

The siberian chiffchaff was at the back of the garden again today. I've not seen it for over a week but it's good to know it's still around. A male blackcap was singing in scrub at the back of the garden too and I scoped a very black lesser black-backed gull on the river, that was presumably an 'intermedius' type. Keen to get a better look I nipped down to Mudbank but it had disappeared. I did however pick up a gull that had me scratching my head. It had the classic wing pattern of a caspian gull with wholly dark, white-tipped median coverts, and pale-tipped dark-based greater coverts producing a striking double wing bar effect. Unfortunately the light wasn't great and the bird was a good way out on the mud so my photos are predictably dreadful. The tertials were spot on for caspian (though worn so not that much help) and the nape was nicely spotted. The mantle was good too being a nice neutral grey, contrasting with the wing coverts and exhibiting some small dark 'spots'. However there were some not so classic features such as a little too much blotching on the flanks and belly, a shortish bill and shortish legs. I couldn't get any underwing detail and the tail didn't look great. In fact the rump, uppertail coverts and tail base were quite heavily marked with small crescents. In short, I can't claim it as a caspian, but I wouldn't completely rule it out!
Also on the river today several red-breasted mergansers, still 3 pale-bellied brent geese and small numbers of dark-bellied brent geese.

The mystery gull - a small 'grotty' caspian, a hybrid or just a very peculiar herring?

With both kids at parties this afternoon, I had a bit of time to bird. I concentrated on the river but was a bit taken aback to literally almost bump in to the glaucous gull on Exmouth Quay! It's a really nice bird and with a decent camera I could probably have got some award-winning shots. It appears to be a first-winter but the bill has acquired a nice pink tip more indicative of second winter. Hmmm. From a distance it looks all white but the finely brown-stippled immature plumage is still visible close-up. Lovely!

This juvenile shag allowed close approach on Exmouth Fish Quay.

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