This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Argentatus Revisited

 Thought it was timely to review this winters Scandinavian Herring Gull sightings at Radipole Lake. First off, this is a rare bird locally and when it comes to 1st-years, we're on a steep learning curve with these things. Every so often, mistakes will be made, but that's what makes learning about the field identification about these things more interesting. Since 1990 I've observed possibly 35+ individuals, although duplication may mean this figure is less. Most of these have been adults or near adults, with 2 3rd-years, 1 2nd-year and 4 1st-years also being observed. Extreme dates have been 31st October and 3rd March. The best year locally was 1995 when I saw about a dozen individuals, all adults or near adults and 1 3rd-year, this was mainly because of Russian fishing factory ships stationed in Weymouth Bay. Since 2000 they have become a lot rarer and I have only encountered 8 since that year, 4 adults and 4 1st-years. One thing that I am aware of is that we are overlooking 1st-years, as this age group should be, in theory, the most common age group locally, as 1st-year gulls tend to move further afield than adults.

This was the first 1st-year Scandinavian Herring Gull I ever saw at Radipole Lake 24th Dec 2011. I was struck by it's distinctiveness and by using a combination of features, the most obvious individuals can be claimed as showing characteristics of this form.

Since then, I have seen odd birds that have shown some, but not all the requisite features and these are either within the range of our own local Herring Gulls or may be intergrades. Obviously, looking more closely at our own local Herring Gulls in order to try and find a Sandinavian bird, as well as looking at many images on the internet and doing some reading up on the subject has been very educational. So, let's look at this winters crop that are all 1st-years.

Image taken on 7th Dec 2013.

This is an oddly marked bird and could be an argentatus, but I do have reservations with a few things about this individual, notably it's tertial and bill pattern and it could conceivably be a Herring x Great Black-backed Gull hybrid as unlikely as that may seem. 

Image taken on 14th Dec 2013.

This was a distinctive bird and it's structure and various plumage features certainly put it in the argentatus camp, though it was a pale individual and had no retained juvenile scapulars. It's not a typical individual, but I consider it to be within the range of variation shown by argentatus.

Image taken on 19th Jan 2014.

This is a classic individual and there can be no doubts about this one.

But then, as part of the learning process....

This bird is thrown into the equation. Photographed on 25th Feb 2012. Note retained juvenile rear scapulars and snouty look to head and bill profile.

Just look at that bloody tail pattern. I have it on good authority that this is an example of a dark variant argentatus. 

It's certainly a scary one and not one I would have sorted out without an expert opinion.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pale-bellied Brents

Pictured below are 2 of the 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese that were at Ferrybridge this afternoon.



And finally, from 12th January, this intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull was with a group of graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Ferrybridge. Kept forgetting to mention it.


It's the bird on the left if you were wondering.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Glauc, And They're Not Seagulls, They're Treegulls.

Started off at Ferrybridge, then took a look at Portland Harbour from a couple of areas, before popping into Radipole and then heading off to West Bexington, before finishing off at Radipole again.

Portland Harbour produced 5 Great Northern Divers, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 4 Slavonian Grebes and a single flock of 19 Black-necked Grebes.

Couldn't pick up anything amongst the gulls at Radipole Lake, whilst a single Marsh Harrier was the only bird of note seen here.

Went over to West Bexington late morning in the hope that the long staying Glaucous Gull would be showing and we turned up just as it started to show well from the car park. Somewhat jammy, as it had been a bit of a bugger to connect with earlier in the morning. In fact, the only time I've managed to see this bird, previous to today, was when I viewed it a mile up the beach from Ferrybridge towards Chesil Cove. Thankfully, cracking views of the beasty today.








And finally, you're thinking, "What the bloody hell is he going on about?"

See, Treegulls, not Seagulls.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Dipper and Scandinavian Herring Gull

Went out to west Dorset, which was full of people rather than birds. Highlight was a Dipper showing well at Lyme Regis.


Sadly, it was in the shade.

This 1st-winter Grey Wagtail was feeding on a profusion of flies on Lyme Regis seafront.

Before going home, popped into Radipole Lake by the visitor centre to see if there were any gulls of interest. Thankfully, there was. First seen by Luke on 5th January and again on 12th, the 2nd-calender year Scandinavian Herring Gull made another appearance.





A typical 2nd-calender year British Herring Gull L.a.argenteus for comparison.

Check out how snouty it looks in this pose. Compare the wing coverts, tertials and tail with the bird above. 


The light was dreadful for the flight shots, but on taking to the air, it's longer winged appearance was immediately apparent, giving it an appearance structurally reminiscent of Great black-backed Gull. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A Nice Little Gull And An Enormous Owl

What a horrible day it was today, with, for the most part, heavy persistent rain. Portland Harbour is providing brilliant birding at the moment, with the highlights being the Black Guillemot, a Long-tailed Duck, several Black-throated Divers, 2 Red-necked Grebes, a few Slavonian Grebes, 18 Black-necked Grebes and a dozen Gannets. A Fulmar was picked up exhausted and taken into care at Ferrybridge. At Radipole, the Glossy Ibis was still in residence in the park and a Little Gull put in an appearance on the lake. The most odd thing of the day was an escaped Great Horned Owl at Wyke Regis.


This 1st-winter Little Gull showed well on the car park at Radipole after initially being located by Bob Ford on Buddleia Lagoon (see below)



3 of today's Black-throated Divers. These were from Hamm Beach. 

Black-throated Diver in flight over Portland Marina. Note the thigh strap, sometimes mooted as one of the features of Pacific Diver, but clearly shown by Black-throated Diver as well. This was one of two flying together.


Some of the Great Northern Divers were giving excellent views. See also below.



The escape Great Horned Owl. What a whopper.