Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ross's Gull at Bowling Green Marsh

With 2 1st Summer little gulls being reported regularly at Bowling Green Marsh at high tide I had put a visit there on my To Do list but as this year has been a bit of a little gull fest for me already it was low down on the list. However things changed when one of the birds was reidentified as a 1st Summer Ross's gull and a visit to Bowling Green Marsh was moved to the top of my To Do list!

The first chance I had to visit was Monday 2nd June and I had hoped that after the weekend and the initial excitement the hide at the Marsh might have been a bit quieter but on arrival it was packed out. I managed to get a seat right at the back where viewing was very difficult due to the mass of bodies, telescopes and cameras in the way. Overhearing that the gull had flown off 10 minutes earlier I decided to head off to the viewing platform overlooking the River Clyst only to find it was closed due to ongoing repair work of the damage caused by the winter floods and gales. I carried on to The Goatwalk for a quick look but it was high tide and there was not a bird to be seen and so I returned to the hide where things were quieter and I managed to get a seat at the window.

Scanning through the roosting flock of black headed gulls I managed to find my first 2 Mediterranean gulls of the year, both 1st summers but one had a pale head and orange bill with grey upperwings and the other had an almost complete black hood and red bill but with brown feathering amongst its grey upperwings. Also on the Marsh were 3 male tufted ducks, a male teal and a calling male wigeon (most incongruous on a June day in Devon!) with a stock dove and house martin flying around. A flock of roosting black- and bar-tailed godwits at the back of the Marsh had mostly summer plumaged birds.

The gulls and godwits were very restless and eventually someone called the Ross's gull in the gull roost just as a large and brown looking female peregrine flew across the Marsh causing complete panic. The gull flock took to the air and I managed to pick out the Ross's gull as the flock flew off towards the River Clyst with its smaller size, black W across its upper wings, pale head and crucially its black tipped diamond shaped tail being obvious. The gulls eventually returned but there was no further sight of the Ross's gull - not the views I had hoped for but nice to see none the less. I waited around for a while to see if it would return and was very pleased I did as a 1st Summer spoonbill flew in and began to feed - it had an orange coloured spoon but the underside was quite pinky and it lacked the crest and yellow breast ring of an adult - and gave much better views than the 3 I saw on Drakes Island earlier in the year.

The Ross's gull had often been seen from Exton station at low tide and so I caught the train there as the tide went out but after an hours watching there was no sign of it. I did however see a whimbrel and a pair of shelduck with 5 fluffy ducklings while scanning the gulls on the mudflats despite the heat haze. I only hope that the Ross's gull stays a while so I can have another go at getting a better view of it although I had excellent views of the long staying over wintering bird on the River Plym back in 1988.

On the way back to Plymouth I stopped off at Dawlish Warren for an hour for a quick look around and despite the choppy conditions offshore I managed to find a male and 2 female common scoters and a few gannets. At the main pond were 2 juvenile little grebes, maybe the 2 small fledglings I saw a few weeks ago, and 2 reed warblers were heard singing. Many Southern marsh orchids were flowering along with a few blue eyed grass, and a red admiral and an azure damselfly were flitting around.

 Azure Damselfly
Blue Eyed Grass

Thursday 5th June and we had a walk around Stoke Point in glorious sunshine. The walk was as beautiful as always and I managed to see a male Dartford warbler with 2 fledglings feeding amongst the gorse in attendance of a pair of stonechats. Butterflies were on the wing including a wall brown, a female common blue, red admirals and my first painted lady of the year looking very tatty and worn.

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