Friday 26 February 2021

Glaucous Gull Catch Up

Saturday 20th February was yet again a wet and windy day but I had to get out of the house for a walk and so I headed off to Plymouth Hoe again. It wasn't as wet as the previous days walk but was windier which made viewing difficult at times.

The Purple Sandpiper was again showing very well on the rocks below Rusty Anchor at West Hoe, easily overlooked as it fed on the rocks in the breaking waves of the high tide. 

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

There were 5 Turnstones feeding together on the rocks below the Pier One Cafe and off Duttons Cafe there were 2 Great Northern Divers bobbing around in the rough water with one bird very close in.

Great Northern Diver 

Great Northern Diver 

The Long-tailed Duck was again feeding in The Cattewater and was closer to shore this time but it soon flew off upriver before landing again and remaining distant and mobile, spending little time at the surface.

That evening I noticed a report on the sightings pages of a Glaucous Gull having been seen in The Sound that afternoon, I had been scanning through the Gulls present on my walk in the hope of finding a white-winger but with no luck and so I hoped it would be refound again in the following days. 

Tuesday 23rd February and I decided to visit Wembury for a walk on a grey and windy day with yet more strong winds but at least it was dry. The footpath was even more of a mud bath than usual and I ended up getting filthy but it was worth it as I found myself a 2nd winter(?) Glaucous Gull! Presumably it is the bird seen on Saturday in Plymouth Sound and possibly the bird seen at Stoke Point back in December, a very nice find and my first at Wembury, hopefully I will catch up with it in Plymouth sometime soon.

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

I noticed it first as it flew down onto the rocks where it casually observed the world around it, a lovely pale and large looking bird that appeared to almost glow in the dull light. It was stood on its own and I had some great views looking down on it from the clifftop footpath but it was eventually flushed by a dog walker, flying off towards Plymouth and showing missing primary feathers on both wings as it went.

Glaucous Gull in full camouflage flight mode

A Bar-tailed Godwit was seen feeding out on the rocks nearby with Oystercatchers and at least 3 Curlews, and 2 Little Egrets and 2 male and a female Mallard were also noted. A single Meadow Pipit was found feeding on the rotting seaweed mass along the beach with Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Cirl Buntings were skittish and skulky in the stubble field and surrounding hedgerows and Skylarks were singing overhead. A Buzzard and a male Kestrel flew overhead and it was nice to see 4 Greenfinch singing and songflighting around the gardens of the village on the walk down to the beach.


Heading back to Plymouth and I decided to walk around the River Plym, starting off at Laira Bridge and walking up to Marsh Mills along The Ride before returning downriver along The Embankment.

The tide was high and a single Little Grebe was seen busily diving on the river just upstream from Laira Bridge. At Blaxton Meadow the water was flowing in through the sluice but the water level was very low and there were lots of gulls roosting out on the mud including 2 unringed adult Mediterranean Gulls with one in full summer plumage. 

Mediterranean Gull with Black Headed-gulls

Mediterranean Gulls with Black-headed Gulls 

Redshank, Curlew and a few Dunlin were roosting out on the mud too with Shelduck and a lone Canada Goose. An increase in adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls amongst the roosting Gulls was noticeable too. 

A pair of Goosander were resting on the water of the Plym near the sewage outlet and the only other birds of note were a small flock of roosting Turnstone with a single Dunlin at Blagdons Meadow.

Dunlin with Turnstones

Another wet and windy day on Wednesday 24th February and another Plymouth Hoe walk but there was no sign of any Purple Sandpipers this time. A Great Northern Diver was catching crabs close to shore and diving regularly to avoid the attentions of Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls as it tried to eat them at the surface. The Long-tailed Duck was again found out in The Cattewater but as usual was distant and mobile.

Thursday 25th February was for a change a dry and mostly sunny day with a light breeze and so I decided to visit a site on the outskirts of Plymouth for a walk. The footpath was a complete quagmire in places and I ended up with very wet and very muddy walking boots and trousers but it was worth it.

At the start of my walk I found 9 Cattle Egrets feeding in a field amongst a herd of cows along with a few Little Egrets. Lots of Pheasents were also seen in the fields along with a few Red-legged Partridges and on a flooded field by the river a lone male Teal was seen with Mallards and Shelduck. 

The main interest was overhead though with Ravens and Buzzards seen soaring on the thermals and calling. A Red Kite amongst them was a complete surprise and I watched it for some time as it continually circled around the same area until it drifted off out of sight.

I disturbed a female Sparrowhawk from a hedgerow and watched it flying off and a few minutes later I watched a female Goshawk briefly flying over, a much larger and robust looking bird than the Sparrowhawk. It flew over showing fluffed out white undertail coverts and giving a few gentle flaps of its wings and then gliding before it disappeared into the trees. A few minutes later a flock of  around 20 Woodpigeon scattered out of the trees and I watched the Goshawk flying off over the river and disappearing again into the woodland. Later I had another brief view of a female in the same area causing complete panic amongst the Jackdaws and Carrion Crows feeding in the fields as it buzzed through.

Sparrowhawks were also seen soaring high overhead with 4 together at one point, 2 males with 2 noticeably larger females, but I also saw 2 Goshawks distantly through my telescope, a male and a female displaying with Nightjar-like wing flapping before they drifted off. A Goshawk with fluffed out white undertail coverts was also seen flying over the treetops before briefly perching in a tree, again very distant and unfortunately against the skyline so difficult to pick out any detail. 

An interesting walk and one I shall hopefully be repeating again soon if weather conditions are right as I would love to get some better views of the Goshawks. 

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