Saturday, 15 February 2014

More Gulls

After my "Not a Glaucous Gull but an Iceland Gull" ID boob in front of the Devon Birding Community I thought a walk at Burrator reservoir would be gull free but I was wrong. It was a sunny day and with it being a Friday it was relatively people, car and cycle free and much more of a pleasure than a weekend visit. There was no sign of the ring-necked duck or goosanders but I did find 3 little grebe and a pair of teal. At the Northern car park a marsh tit was amongst blue, great and coal tits coming to seed put out by a photographer and siskins were heard flying over calling.

However the best bird was a 1st winter little gull, flying over the reservoir with 2 black headed gulls with its smaller size and tern like flight being instantly noticeable. It was harried by the 2 black headed gulls and when it settled briefly on the water it was dive bombed by one of them, flying off to the north of the reservoir and out of sight. It soon returned and while trying to feed it was again harassed by the black heads before it gained height and flew off high north, never to be seen again. It was a total surprise to find a little gull inland on Dartmoor, no doubt blown in by the recent gales and rain, but a very lovely bird to find indeed.

The following day and with another storm hitting the UK a quick walk along Plymouth Hoe was very invigorating despite us getting soaking wet in heavy and squally showers. We kept away from the waters edge but it was amazing to see the waves and spray crashing against the foreshore. I kept an eye out for little gulls which have been reported regularly from Plymouth Hoe in bad weather but without any luck but I did find a bonus gull, a smart adult kittiwake, my first Plymouth record.

Monday 10th and I decided to finally head off to Penzance for the day. With the train line being destroyed at Dawlish due to the recent storms the train timetables have been altered and the website only had 2 trains returning back to Plymouth in the afternoon, at 14:25 and 19:15. I didn't want to stay in Penzance until 7pm as I am sure when it is dark in Penzance no one can here you scream and so it meant I would have to return at 2:30pm, earlier than I would have hoped. I checked the times again at Plymouth station before leaving and checked again on arriving at Penzance station but the same times were being quoted and so I quickly headed off to the coast footpath by the bus station to start my walk to Marazion and back.

I scanned from the bus station sea wall and found a very smart male eider resting on the beach below the wall before swimming off across the bay. A female type black redstart gave a brief flight view amongst the boulders and across the bay one of my target birds, a recently found 1st winter male surf scoter, was showing distantly, spending very little time on the waters surface between dives. I headed off along the coast path to try and get closer views of the surf scoter but with the sun shining brightly  offshore I missed the bird as it had passed by me, reappearing right by the bus station! I thought about walking back to get a better view but decided to carry on to Marazion and try to get better views later on the return walk.

Male Eider in Mounts Bay with Marazion in the back ground

Arriving at Marazion there was a large feeding frenzy of gulls along the surf line but I decided to have a quick look at Marazion Marsh first. As I waited to cross over the busy road I had a distant view of target bird number 2, a bittern perched in the reeds, but by the time I had gotten across the road it had flown and I had a brief flight view as it disappeared over the railway line hedge. I scanned across the Marsh for a while before heading back to the gulls on the beach and despite the occasional scan of the Marsh in between watching the gull flock I never caught another view again which was a shame.

Watching the gulls along the beach I caught up with another one of my target birds, a superb adult glaucous gull looking resplendent in the sunshine and surprisingly easy to pick out amongst the swirling mass of herring, great black backed and black headed gulls. At one point it swooped down to the surf to grab something but got totally wiped out by a wave, disappearing under the water. As it surfaced it looked a little dishevelled and slightly miffed but seemed none the worse for its ordeal. Amongst the gulls I found a few adult lesser black backs, adult and juvenile common gulls and a lone adult kittiwake, but there was no sign of the reported adult Kumleins gull. A female long tailed duck just offshore was a nice bonus though.

 Definitely an Adult Glaucous Gull
Adult Glaucous Gull

Heading back to Penzance and I finally managed to get some nice telescope views of the surf scoter with its distinctive profile and bill pattern and colouring and pale belly when it flapped its wings and raised itself up. Also seen across the bay were at least 10 great northern divers, diving frequently and moving quite large distances underwater during their dives. While watching the scoter and divers I also had some nice views of 2, possibly 3, female type black redstarts amongst the boulders.

Female type Black Redstart

I headed back to the railway station only to find that there was now a train at 15:45, a little annoying as I could have spent more time at Marazion looking for the Kumleins gull and bitterns but never mind. I headed off to the Jubilee Pool where 19 purple sandpipers were roosting with turnstones and offshore a guillemot and 4 great northern divers were seen. I then returned to the bus station and watched the surf scoter for a while before heading back to the railway station to catch the train home.

 Purple Sandpiper
 Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper close-up

Heading home on the train I had the mad notion that I might see a barn owl as dusk descended so I kept an eye out and sure enough between Trerulefoot Roundabout and St.Germans railway station I had a brief flight view of a barn owl flying across a hillside before disappearing over the brow of the hill. I saw a dead barn owl by the roadside at Trerulefoot Roundabout last summer so they are obviously in the area and it was a cracking end to what had been a great days birding.

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