Sunday, 19 February 2012

Stunning Mega makes for Superb day

So there I were at University; studying. And upon a sudden I get a text from a certain 'Stringer' (nickname). "Wales tomorrow then" were his words. My heart sank a little, what could it be? I was just about to sign into BirdGuides when Stringer replied informing me it was a Yellowthroat. I signed in and sure enough there it was posted on the page "Common Yellowthroat", how dare they! Nothing common about them over ere'.

Friday was long but news was still coming through the bird was present and in the afternoon was showing well. Forecast was terrible but that didn't matter. Saturday at 2.15 I departed the house and was on my way to Stevie Dunn's house, arrived around 4.45ish and departed with Stevie, Mike, and Richard picking up Adam on the way. We arrived on site early hours in the hissing rain and no sign of the bird, good time for some catch up with old faces (quite literally; sorry Chris ;) ) and meet some folks I knew for the first time. No sign of the bird by late morning and so back to the car for some shelder and a game of 'Plop Trumps' don't ask! It was a funny as the title of the game suggests. Then off to McDonald's for a spot of lunch, all was going calmly until news was seen again. Straight back on site and after a short wait it pooped out in the bottom of some brambles. Gasps and whispering from the crowds said it all. What a stunner!

(Common Yellowthroat - © Chris Baines)

 (Common Yellowthroat - © Michael Colquhoun)

(Common Yellowthroat - © Michael Colquhoun)

The best view I obtained was when I first saw it, then had a few more glimpse views including seeing the bird in flight. I hadn't cottoned on it was showing nearly constantly from a ditch some 20 yards away; doh! So missed my chance for more prolonged views, but I am not going to moan. I had pretty superb views now and then as it went about its business, a very skulking bird but not seeming all that bothered by the crowds.

We also called in at Cosmeston Lakes County Park just on the outskirts of Cardiff where I had truly excellent views of my first drake Lesser Scaup. It showed superbly well and just rounded off the day nicely. Great company, great birds, great twitch! Thoroughly enjoyable.

(Lesser Scaup - © Michael Colquhoun)

(Common Yellowthroat crowd - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Herring Gull ringing recovery

I have just received some info on one of the four ringed Herring Gulls I had a few weeks ago, this is the 3rd bird I have heard back and I am just waiting for details on the last bird I have not yet received details on. Here are the details for this bird:

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for reporting your sighting of a colour ringed Herring Gull. Herring Gull with orange ring 1346 was ringed on the 10th March 2005 on Ellington road Landfill, near Ashington, Northumberland, (grid-ref NZ2689) as an adult with metal ring Number GN77839. I have received one other sighting of this bird since it was ringed- on the 17th July 2005 in Lossiemouth Estuary, Moray, Scotland  (grids ref NJ2470).
If you have any questions, or any more sightings, please get in touch.
Kind regards,

It hasn't really gone very far but I felt it was still worth sharing, the Pitsea bird remains the most well travelled of the 3 I have recieved detauils back on.

OH! I saw the COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and drake Lesser Scaup in Wales yesterday, more on that to come soon.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Are you sick of winter gulls? If you answered yes then you are not a larusphile. I never get bored of Gulls so on Saturday I headed on down to Hartlepool Headland for another look at the white winged gulls and perhaps get some more improved shots of the Kumlien's, Glaucous, and perhaps Iceland. Sadly no Iceland seen during the hour or so I was there, however the Kumlien's put on a cracking show as did the Glaucous, the lack of any Iceland Gulls was made up by the presence of a fairly stunning 1st winter Little Gull.

 (Glaucous Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Glaucous Gull -  © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Little Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Little Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Kumlien's Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Kumlien's Gull - - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Greyish wash to most of the outer primaries can be seen here even in this fairly distant image.

(Kumlien's Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
The presence of what was once a tail band can be seen here. 

Sadly Uni work is almost certainly going to stop most play, probably only manage to get out once a week for next few weeks. So if you don't hear from me for a while that's why.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ringed Gull Recovery - Aberdeen & Essex

I had 4 colour ringed Herring Gulls at Rainton Meadows DWT yesterday, I have already had 2 speedy replies to two of the birds I submitted, here are details below:

The first gull is perhaps not as exciting as the second bird, it had a YELLOW ring with T081 written on it. Here are the detials for that bird:

The bird was 'whoosh netted' in the ringers garden in Petercultre in Aberdeen last summer
GR23891 - T:081 - Peterculter, Aberdeen - 14/07/2011 - Adult ringed today
GR23891 - T:081 - Girdleness, Aberdeen - 06/08/2011 - Sighting -  Raymon Duncan
GR23891 - T:081 - Rainton Meadows, Durham - 06/02/2012 - Sighting – Andrew Kinghorn

What has been learned from the ringing of the Gulls in aberdeen is that this bird is the fifth to be wintering on the East Coast of England.


This bird is perhaps more interesting, all will become clear why, here are the ringing details of the Herring Gull that has been rang as part of the North Thames Gull Group, the bird had the following ring: ORANGE with MJ3T written on it:

Ring Number: GN86948
Age: 10
Ringing Date: 09 Jan 2010
Location: Pitsea Landfill Site, Essex
Sighted again: 06 Feb 2012
Location of Sighting: Rainton Meadows NR, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham
Movement: 390km NNW
Interval: 2 years 28 days!

So what's so interesting about the latter bird? Well it was rang on a tip that regularly gets good numbers of Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls. In addition to this the tip has had possible Thayer's Gull and the UK's first (perhaps, depending on what you think of it) Slaty-backed Gull! I do wonder if the rather stunning Yellow-legged Gull I can not seem to see is actually from Pitsea as well, just a thought and can never really be proven.

Pictures of the (possible?) Slaty-backed Gull.
Pictures of the (probable) Thayer's Gull.

All very interesting in my opinion.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 6 February 2012

White-fronted Greenland Tundra Goose

Now that would be a hybrid to behold! Today (Monday) I managed to get out for a few hours and down to Rainton Meadows DWT in the hope of seeing the Tundra Bean Goose, Greenland White-fronted Goose, 5 Eurasian White-fronted Geese, and the single Pink-footed Goose that are currently hanging around with the local Greylag and Canada Geese. Birds remained distant and so no photos from me, thankfully John Bridges has some stock photos of the same birds which again he kindly allowed me to use on my blog. I've added some comments under each image so if anyone is interested they can have a look at those, nothing much else at Rainton today other than 4 colour ringed Herring Gulls, details back from two already revealing that one was from Aberdeen and another the Thames area!

(Pink-footed Goose - © John Bridges)
Species does exactly what it says on the tin; has pink legs. A small goose generally speaking and also a fairly narrow band across the bill as can be seen here in this shot.

(From left: Greenland White-fronted Goose, Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, 2 Eurasian White-fronted Geese - © John Bridges)
Very instructive shot and shows all birds present and the variations that they can show. Will go over more detail later on in post but large orange triangular shaped bill is obvious on this Greenland here compared to the Eurasian birds. The Tundra Bean Goose has a much heavier set bill than all the White-fronts and generally looks out of place in this shot; it appears larger in the body, bill, and head regions. 

(2 Eurasian White-fronted Geese and Tundra Bean Goose - © John Bridges)
Nice shot showing the pink bills of the Eurasian White-fronted Geese which immediately separates the birds from Greenland individuals. Tundra Bean Goose here shows the nice thick set neck, bulky dark head, and obviously large bill with heavy base and nice obvious orange band around bill. In Taiga Bean Geese the bill is predominately orange lacking the banded orange effect shown here by this Tundra. 

(Greenland White-fronted Goose - © John Bridges)
Compare this bird to the Eurasian White-fronts above. The obvious features separating the two races are; the orange bill in Greenland is nearly always lacking on Eurasian White-fronted Geese. However some birds have been noted to have orange in the bill, but these birds are rare. Equally as striking as the differences in the bill colour is perhaps the much darker upperparts, neck, and head of the Greenland bird compared to the Eurasian White-fronts. However lighting may change how a bird appears in the field so beware, however in my experience with distant geese it is far easier to pick out a Greenland on the dark upperparts than on the bill colour.

(Greenland White-fronted Goose and Tundra Bean Goose - © John Bridges)
Nothing I can really say that I haven't already, features that cannot be seen in these shots but may be seen in the field is that all the birds have orange legs. This photo shows the top of both the birds legs revealing the orange colouration of the legs.

Glad I managed to catch up with them before they left, a brilliant treat.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Kumlien's Gull - Hartlepool Headland

Just a quick blog post pointing out some of the features as to why many (including myself) believe this bird to be a Kumlien's Gull. I have learnt loads about Kumlien's Gull ID just through this bird, very educational indeed! So here are a few shots with some details underneath each photo as to why the bird has been ID'd as a Kumlien's Gull.

(Kumlien's Gull - © John Bridges)
Nice photo showing the blotchy breast and neck sides this bird has making it quite a handsome bird. The outer primaries show the greyish wash here, showing the feature is evident even in strong sunlight.

(Kumlien's Gull - © John Bridges)
P9, P8, and P7 showing that greyish was nicely here. Also the remnants of a tail band can also be seen here in this shot. 

(Kumlien's Gull - © John Bridges)
Greyish wash to the primaries can be seen here in this above photo. 

(Kumlien's Gull -  © Mark Newsome)
I've added some annotations onto this wing shot image taken my Mark.

Very educational bird and the sort of bird I really enjoy...a nice challenge. Now if best go off and brush up more on my Yellow-legged Gull ID which is pretty atrocious at the moment

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Big Gulls you are Beautiful

News emerged a short while ago of a Kumlien's Gull at Hartlepool Headland, I didn't see it last week and as pictures emerged gradually I decided I must see it. So this morning I headed on down to Hartlepool Headland armed with scope, bins, and camera. The latter object came in particularly useful as I spent most of the day photographing the gulls around Hartlepool Headland, the photos kind of speak for themselves but I will add some comments for anyone who is interested. The days totals are as follows:

  • 1 3rd winter Kumlien's Gull
  • 2 adult Iceland Gulls
  • 1 1st winter Glaucous Gull
Not ashamed to say that an intended few hour period turned into a day! A superb day might I add! I love white winged gulls and today just got me hooked even more, yet I still have not seen a Caspian Gull in Durham this year. Need to get my finger out, anyway enjoy the pics! I hope...

 (Glaucous Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Big, obvious, and powerful looking bird. Note the massive two toned bill.

 (Glaucous Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
The snow white wings can be seen well here, also I would add a stunning looking gull in 1st winter plumage. Big hefty long bill obvious here aswell. 

 (Glaucous Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Note the contrast between the underwing coverts and the primaries in secondaries, they almost look translucent. This feature is particularly obvious in some 1st winters, certainly in all the Glaucous Gulls of this age I have seen have shown this. 

 (Glaucous Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Size difference is easy to see here, Glaucous Gulls are much larger and thicker set than Herring Gulls. Its at least a third bigger than any surrounding Herring Gulls seen in this shot.

 (Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Greenish tinge can be seen in this shot, obviously the completely snow white plumage is obvious as is the blotch appearance to the breast.

 (Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Iceland Gull © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Kumlien's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)
This bird is not particularly obvious from the underwing, this bird really comes into its own when you see its upperwing.

 (Kumlien's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Kumlien's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)
The greyish wash on the outer primaries from P10 to P7 can clearly be seen even from this fairly poor image.

  (Kumlien's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)
The greyish wash on the outer primaries from P10 to P7 can clearly be seen even from this fairly poor image.

(Kumlien's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)
Superb bird, if you live local and get a chance to go; do! You don't regret it. Very educational bird.

More on this bird to come soon with far better shots. Meanwhile John Bridges captured just one image of this stunning creature:

(Fog near the Tees - © John Bridges)
Note the distinctive Durham Bird Club hat as well as as the overall tired appearance usually associated with the species at this age. 

Superb day and a one that probably won't be beaten for a long while yet!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Return to Iceland

This morning a check of Boldon Flatts NR didn't produce the hoped for Yellow-legged Gull, will try again tomorrow morning and hopefully get it then. Here's hoping! However a check of Roker Pier and the lure of some bread thrown out by Derek Charlton brought the Iceland Gull in within a matter of seconds! Was quite humorous as the bird simply appeared from nowhere. Mark Newsome reports a 2nd winter and juvenile to be also present at the same site this afternoon. Managed some better shots of the bird than I had managed on my previous attempts, I really like adult Iceland Gulls. Truly are stunning birds, with this cold weather on its way I wonder what might be encouraged to move south a little bit. Ross's Gull or Ivory Gull anyone?

 (Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
If this bird was distant it should be fairly easy to pick out as an Iceland. Note the long and slender winged appearance, snow white primaries and light mantle shade similar to or lighter that larus argenteus. Fairly delicate head with small bill, lacks the general robustness expected of Glaucous Gull. But beware as some Glaucous Gulls can look more delicate than some of the more 'monster' individuals. 

(Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
This image shows the lime green tinge to the bill, typical of adult Iceland Gull.

(Iceland Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)
Best image I managed to get, note again the lime green tinge to the bill, also in particular note that the outer primaries are snow white eliminating any thoughts of claiming a possible Kumlien's Gull (due to range and variation it would be a dangerous game). The primaries create an almost translucent effect which is often visible from even a considerable distance. 

I did mention Kumlien's Gull above briefly and I forecast that we may get a twitchable bird in Durham in the next few weeks...though I would prefer an Ivory or Ross's Gull. Never pleasing some people....

Until next time, Foghorn out!