Tuesday 21 May 2013

Dotterels on Lundy, 12th May 2013, and Bonaparte's Gull at Topsham, 13th May 2013

Three years ago we went to Lundy for a day trip with the Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Society and spent the day trudging around Lundy in the mist and wind which didn't lift until we boarded the ferry for the return journey back to Bideford. Despite this I had a great time and fell in love with Lundy and have wanted to return to the island to see it in its full glory. However the trip this year was not to be the year of seeing Lundy again as it was cold, wet, misty and very windy, with the island again swathed in mist the whole day until it was time to leave for the mainland. I guess third time will be the charm.

Despite the weather I had a great day again with the best birds being 2 dotterels feeding in a grassy field near the island shop. I managed to get within 20 metres of the birds but they were surprisingly wary for dotterels, probably due to the appalling visibility from the thick mist, with their white supercilliums being very noticeable in the gloom. Despite the poor views I was very pleased to see them as they are a life tick for me.

A Dotterel in the mists of Lundy

I did three walks around the island during the 7 hours we had on Lundy, the first walk was on arrival when I saw the dotterels before I returned to the pub to dry off and warm up. We headed off to the quarry for the second walk, seeing wheatears, a male mallard and meadow pipits before heading back to the pub for lunch. The third walk saw me heading off to Jennys Cove to see the puffins which showed very well despite the strong winds and rain, at least 30 birds were on show on the grassy cliffs and on the sea below.

 Puffins at Jennys Cove, Lundy
A brief break in the mist at Jennys Cove, Lundy

Heading back to the boat for the trip home the mist cleared and I saw a flyover redpoll, 4 swallows, a pied wagtail and a peregrine before getting back on board. On the walk down the cliff path to the landing stage Lundy cabbages were in flower, an endemic species to the island.

Lundy Cabbage

The ferry trip to and from the island was pretty rough with many people being sea sick. However the wind and waves meant the Manx shearwaters showed amazingly well, totally in their element as they sheared across the wave troughs. Gannets, fulmars and kittiwakes were also seen including a dead adult gannet in the water and best bird was a great skua which took off from the water flashing its white wing patches before it disappeared from view amongst the waves. Another highlight were common dolphins which came in to bow ride the boat on the journey home, probably 4 individuals but they didn't hang around for long and were not particularly showy, giving just brief views only.

Monday 13th May and with the week off work I decided to head off to Topsham for a days birding. Arriving at the hide at Bowling Green Marsh the tide was high and waders were roosting at the back of the Marsh - whimbrel, black tailed godwit (some in winter plumage), dunlin (some in winter plumage), 4 greenshank and 4 bar tailed godwit (1 developing summer plumage). A female ruff was showing very well in front of the hide, feeding near 2 male and 2 female very late staying wigeon.

 Female Ruff with Male Wigeon
Female Ruff

A small group of black headed gulls were roosting in front of the hide when I arrived but just as I had gotten my binoculars out they took to the air. I managed to pick out 2 first summer little gulls amongst them, looking very smart with their black w markings on their upper wings and also looking very tiny against the black headed gulls. However the little gulls headed off out of sight, never to be seen again, but the black headed gulls all resettled back down again. I searched through them, looking for the reported Bonaparte's gull with no luck but I did find 2 common terns, my first of the year.

I then staked out the river by the recreation ground in Topsham where the Bonaparte's gull has often been seen as the tide recedes but after an hour waiting and with no show of the gull I headed off to Exmouth seafront to look for roseate terns that had been showing from here. Unfortunately the tide was way out by the time I arrived and I managed distant views of at least 30 commic terns flying around offshore and resting on the exposed sand banks. I managed to pick out some larger Sandwich terns and I did see a very grey looking commic tern (? an Arctic) and a very white looking commic tern (? a roseate) but with distance, heat haze and variable light conditions I couldn't be sure. A bonus though was a very nice hobby seen flying over Lympstone Village on the way to Exmouth.

Arriving back at Topsham I headed back to the recreation ground where I immediately found the Bonaparte's gull feeding on the exposed mud. It gave some great views, at times being near to a black headed gull allowing good comparison although the black headed was quite aggressive towards it at times, chasing it off if it got too close. The Bonaparte's gull was in smart summer plumage, with a black hood and short, bubble gum pink legs, and is probably the bird I eventually saw at Dawlish Warren last November.

 Bonaparte's Gull with a Black Headed Gull
Bonaparte's Gull

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