Saturday, 28 January 2012

That's why birders go to Iceland...

Ok apologies for the cheesey title but I seem to have been putting in quite a bit of effort to see the Gulls that are around this winter. To sum up there have been 3 species of gull reported that are rare in these parts, Glaucous, Iceland and Ring-billed. So far I have only connected with the Glaucous which was superb in it's own right but I was hungry for more.

Anyway I had a fairly disappointing Gull day during the week so I decided to try again today (28th). The weather started off frosty and overcast. I tried the school/library carpark again as the library is open but no school, excellent I thought but no kids = no chips = no gulls. It was very quiet. I tried the old bread trick at the boating pond but again just Herring and Black-headed Gulls.

Adult winter Black-headed Gul

I headed round to the fish factory at the business park to see what I could find and as I turned the corner towards the back of the building immediately locked on to a "white" gull. I just knew I was in luck. I parked the car and made my way over and yes it was just what I had hoped, an Iceland Gull, I had finally connected with one during this white-winged gull invasion to the UK this winter. Another life tick for me and a truely beautiful looking bird. The Glaucous was also present and they were almost side by side which was great for comparing the two. It showed very well but the light was poor for photos. After an hour I moved on after noticed a small group of 5 Bullfinch in one of the trees. I always enjoy seeing Bullfinches.

To Ferry Point now and not long after I pulled up a convoy of 6 cars pulled in all full with birders, a local group perhaps. They all headed for the point whilst I decided to enjoy a walk West towards the river mouth. By the now the weather was perfect, sunny, frosty and calm conditions. Ben Wyvis looking stunning covered in snow against the clear blue sky. The usual suspects were present with a pair of Goldeneye in close to shore giving good views. The hedgerows were full of birds, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, and one of my favourites, the Brambling. There was also Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and a good number of Tree Sparrows. Heading further along the track and all of sudden there was an influx of geese, greylags with a good number of pink-footed giving fairly close fly-by views. Near to the small white building I stopped and scanned the small islands, there was loads of birds around. More Goldeneye, 3 Little Grebes, Lapwing, Teal, Wigeon, many geese, a Cormorant, Redshank, Great Black-backed, Herring and many Common Gulls. I scanned the Common Gulls for the off chance the Ring-billed might in there somewhere but to be honest I would be very hard pushed to pick one out if it was not an Adult with my limited experience. Even in the bird guides, 1st and 2nd winters look the same to me.

I turned and headed back to the car, an excellent day of birding and weather. I then decided with the light the way it was to head back to the fish factory to try and get some better photos. When I arrived there was another birder in my usual parking spot but they left after a short time. The Iceland Gull was still there and was easily picked out. It looked even more stunning in the sunlight and I got some half decent record shots whilst enjoying the bird.

1st-winter Glaucous for comparison
1st-winter Iceland Gull - Larus glaucoides
Bullfinch (for my girlfriend)
So 2 out of 3 gulls and I am very happy to be able to pick these out of a crowd and ID them. Although as I write this the Ring-billed was reported at front of the library / school on the grass at 14.00. I was there just after 14.00 for a quick check and I didn't see anything (don't I feel a bit stupid!).

Anyway coming to the end of January and my list stands at 70 species with 8 life ticks, a very enjoyable first month of the year.

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