Friday, 9 March 2012

Mums Gone to Iceland!

Spent the morning doing a raptor survey which was good fun, apart from the weather deteriorating as we went into the afternoon. Plenty of Red Kites were found which was good to be able to observe at close range with the usual common raptors present too (Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk).

The drive back to York provided the opportunity to call in to Poppleton to check if there was any 'white-winged' gulls present, the area has held several Iceland and Glaucous gulls over the winter but I've been unable to find the time to visit the site thus far.

Excited about the prospect of some good birds we neared the site, only to find the usual fields totally devoid of birds! Gutted!!! We carried on home but as we were nearing York a small flock of gulls caught our eyes, they were following a plough right by the main road. A quick bit of maneuvering got us to a great viewpoint overlooking the field and in no time at all the action started!

The gull flock consisted of mainly Herring Gull, though there was also a number of Black-headed Gulls present. There was a few Common, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls present - but not many really. It didn't take much scanning before we located a very bleached 2nd winter Iceland Gull, followed rapidly by another 2nd winter. A very short while later we found an adult Iceland Gull, followed almost immediately by another adult. Fantastic!

Adult Iceland Gull Chris Gomersall (taken a few weeks back)

These 4 Iceland Gulls generally sat about a bit away from the 'crowd' of gulls however one of the adults did seem to enjoy getting involved in the fracas behind the plough. They were providing excellent views but suddenly everything got up and in amongst the mess of wings Russ picked out a juvenile Iceland Gull in flight which after a bit of a fly-around it too dropped into the field where it showed some subtle features - e.g. it was a fairly pale bird but still had many juvenile feathers on the upperparts and was well barred undertail coverts. This bird didn't really hang around for too long though as the majority of gulls appeared rather flighty at this time but in a short while the 2 adults and 2 2nd winter birds all came back in and continued to show well.

We were aware of a huge flock of large gulls over the tip in the distance and it was apparent that a small proportion of them were coming to the 'usual' fields near Poppleton. We quickly moved location to see if there was any other white-wingers in the area. Unfortunately this flock (containing a much higher percentage of Great Black-backed Gulls with the Herring Gulls) was very tightly packed and they all flew off as we approached! There was no obvious white-wingers in the flock though.

Iceland Gull Photo Chris Gomersall (taken earlier in the winter)

Happy with our haul we decided to get back home but as we were re-passing the ploughed field (this time with far fewer gulls in it) it was immediately obvious there was another Iceland Gull present, it was sat right by the side of the main road! We quickly pulled off the road and it was clear this was a very different juvenile - much darker on the upperparts with a really long primary projection. We only needed our bins for this bird as it was so close but we could see what we presumed to be a distant adult Iceland Gull at the back of the field - if only we'd got our scopes out to double check it!!! Unbeknown to us Chris Gomersall had arrived at the site (out of our view) and was watching the above juvenile Iceland Gull and an adult Glaucous Gull!!! Unfortunately we didn't check it and just assumed it was the Iceland Gull we'd seen earlier!!! We should have known better!!! I think Chris has some photos of the Iceland Gulls and the adult Glaucous Gull from today that I'll post tomorrow.

The above makes me think - How many Iceland/Glaucous Gulls must there be in the area at the minute? The flock we were looking at was a tiny proportion of what was feeding on the tip... Our resident gull expert Ollie also (at the same time we were watching our Iceland gulls) had an Iceland Gull (1st/2nd winter bird) fly through the centre of York! (a bit gutted that I missed an office tick but can't complain really!!)

[Sorry this post was a lot longer than expected! Check back tomorrow for some pictures of today's birds]

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