Tuesday, 1 February 2011

January Gulls

I realise that I've not posted anything on the blog for a while now and my one reader of this blog was complaining that he'd had to read the previous posting three times so desperate was he for something new so I thought I'd better write something. It's just that apart from my very enjoyable trip to Cornwall I've not gone on any major trips. I check my patch each day but that's written up on the Port Meadow Birding blog but apart from that I've only made a few excursions even within the county. Nevertheless I feel that I probably have enough collectively from the month to warrant another posting.

What shall I write about? Why gulls of course! Recently I confessed to being somewhat of a gull addict but it turns out that Badger (who only last year was trying to talk me out of my blossoming addiction) has got it far worse than I have. He now looks forward during the week to Saturday which he can spend at Appleford GP staring at the brown gulls on the rubbish tip. He even confessed to me that he takes his "Gulls fo Europe, Asia and North America" with him in the car so that he can look up the finer points on the spot! I've been mostly confining my efforts to the Port Meadow roost where at the start of the month I was rewarded with a fine adult Caspian gull.

Normally I try to get a videograb of the underside of the P10 primary but I didn't managed it on this occasion though it did give me a brief flash which looked spot on to me. The same bird (presumably) appeared at Farmoor in the roost the next day where it was photographed in detail by Nic Hallam, showing a perfect underwing.

With finding and adult cachinnans under my belt so early on in the year I was starting to feel much more confident about my gull ID. I even managed to avoid the classic hooded-common-gull-is-a-Franklin's trap when this beasty turned up on the Meadow a few nights later:

Fortunately I was close enough to see this gull for the common gull that it was!

However, I know from experience, whenever I start to feel too cocky, it always means that I'm about to be pulled up short. Usually it's something like making a real howler of a string in front of the county recorder but fortunately I managed to spot for myself that something wasn't right with this one.

A nice cachinnans look to this bird that I found on the meadow....

However the P10 underwing appears to be almost entirely black on one side!

Badger said that he learnt a valuable lesson from Nic Hallam (the "Gull Whisperer") who'd said that "there are some gulls that you've just got to back away from!" and this would appear to be one of them. Some hideous hybrid or an aberrant gull (but which one?). The advice is "Leave it! It's not worth it!".

By way of restoring one's sanity after that quasi Caspian mind f*ck here's a nice straight-forward yellow-legged gull to drool over:

Can't argue about the colour of those legs!

The "Cassaworry" (Badger's joke) came back haunt me some more and I was able to get some better photos

as well as some video footage

Still just as weird even in good light!

I have ventured away from the patch on a few occasions this last month. When my trip to Cornwall was postponed by a day because of work, I had to wait until America woke up before I could do what I needed to do. With a free morning naturally I chose to go gulling and went to Appleford to look for the two white-winged gulls that are currently there. I managed to see the glaucous gull though not the iceland.

A couple of videograbs of the juvenile glaucous gull at Appleford.

By way of light relief for those readers who aren't gull addicts I did also venture to Witney Lake (my first visit) for the Slavonian grebe which has taken up residence there.

Not a gull, but still a nice bird!

To round of the month I spent yesterday evening in the freezing cold with Badger at Radley to try and see the iceland gull which I've still not caught up with. They don't get a very large roost at Radley but there were so few birds that I was reduced to counting every one of them: 21 was the total though admittedly by dusk it had gone up to nearer 100 before some duck shooting on a neighbouring pit scared them all off. Needless to say, there was no sign of the iceland.

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