Monday 21 March 2016

Glaucous Gull on The Plym - at last!

Friday 18th March and a short walk along the River Tavy at Lopwell Dam on a bright, hazy and cool day was all we were in the mood for - I was still feeling rough from my lurking cold
and David had been sick again overnight with a fever (the third time in the past 3 weeks but still can't pinpoint what is causing it).

At the dam a female mandarin showed briefly along with 3 mute swans, 2 moorhen, mallards, Canada geese and a grey wagtail, while along the river 3 little grebe, shelduck, redshank, a little egret and black headed gulls were noted.

Overhead ravens, jackdaws and buzzards were displaying but there was no sign of anything more unusual, and there were quite a few male pheasents around looking resplendent in the sunshine.

Male Pheasent

Saturday 19th and it was overcast and cold and with low tide in Plymouth at 08:30 I headed off to the River Plym again to look for the elusive glaucous gull. At Marsh Mills there was no activity at the sewage treatment works and no gulls but at the outflow into the main river a male goosander was snorkelling for fish, eventually catching and swallowing a decent sized fish after quite a chase with lots of leaping and splashing about in the shallow water.

Male Goosander

Off Blaxton Meadow I continued watching the goosander as it swam downriver along with 3 little grebes before noticing a large white bird all alone out on the mudflats which I dismissed as a little egret. However when I checked it out with my binoculars I found it was the 1st winter (or 2nd calendar year) glaucous gull, a large, very pale bird which almost appeared to glow in the dull light - finally I had seen it!

 1st Winter Glaucous Gull with Black Headed Gull

Glaucous Gull with Herring Gulls

It eventually flew downriver to join the flock of gulls roosting and preening where I watched it for a while. It appeared almost white but on flapping its wings it showed some patches of the pale coffee colour of immature plumage. A beautiful bird indeed.

Also seen were a greenshank, a common sandpiper, 3 adult and 2 juvenile common gull, redshanks, shelduck and mallards.

Heading home and I decided to have a look around Ford Park Cemetery after chatting to a birder while watching the glaucous gull who had given me some info on where to find the black redstarts. Arriving at the Cemetery and a noisey buzzard was being mobbed by a carrion crow and a sparrowhawk overhead while a second buzzard called from a nearby tree. A raven flew in and landed between the gravestones but was seen off by 2 carrion crows. 2 jays were quietly moving through the trees and a lone redwing was very skittish as it frequently flew up into a pine tree from the ground whenever anybody passed nearby.

I eventually found a pair of black redstarts feeding amongst the graves in the area I was advised to look for them.They just seemed to suddenly appear and they showed very well before moving off and seeming to just melt away but a nice end to the day and a nice end to a very birdy week off work.

 Male Black Redstart

 Male Black Redstart

 Male Black Redstart

 Male Black Redstart

Female Black Redstart

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