Monday, 28 January 2013

More on Kumlien's/Iceland Gulls

A couple of people have got in touch to tell me there has been a definite Kumlien's in the county before, an adult bird at Broomhead reservoir a few years ago.  It was photographed but not predictable in it's appearances so not widely twitched.

I've also received a few comments about the Whitby bird of I think 2000/01.  The important difference between these birds is that the Barmston bird has an even dark shaded area adjacent to the shaft streak the whole length of the feather on both webs of every primary .  The Whitby bird in contrast has a faint shaded area on the outer web of the inner primaries and a complex subterminal mark on each feather, but the dark decreases on the outer feathers.  The Whitby bird appears to just be an unusually dark pigmented bird and the dark marking in the primaries are merely an extension of the dark marks on the secondaries and inner primaries.

The Whitby Gulls wing

a similar [although with pale not dark pigment] phenomenon is seen in 1st winter birds often claimed as Glauc x Herring hybrids that in reality are just argentatus Herring gulls at the pale end of the spectrum where the pattern on the inner primaries extends further on to the outers giving a paler appearance and inviting the conclusion that there is Glauc influence.  This is illustrated in the pic below

Friday, 25 January 2013

First for Yorkshire?

I can remember a few claims of Kumlien's Gull in the county over the last 10-15 yers but as I recall none of them have turned out to be gen.  The bird at Barmston therefore could well be the first documented record. That is of course that there aren't any pics of birds from way back when.

 Doesn't look much at  first glance does it?  But that's because it's at the paler end of the sectrum.

I'm going to preach a bit now so most of you might want to click on one of the links to somebody else's blog.  But as lots of people in Yorks don't know much about Gulls I'll bat on with a brief summary of the Kumlien's subject.

This is what most people think of as a Kumlien's Gull, lots of dark grey in the primaries but otherwise like an Iceland.  The thing to understand is becuase it is widely believed to be or originate from a hybrid between Thayer's and Iceland any bird showing dark in the primaries, no matter how little has to be by definition a Kumlien's Gull.  I remember Graham Catley photographing an adult bird in Lincs a few years ago which only had dark on the outer web of the outermost primary, the rest were classic Iceland Gull white.  So if we accept that they are a hybrid and mega variable when adults then it stands to reason that juvs and imms will be just as variable.

I can't remember where I photographed this juv Iceland but note the lack of dark in the primaries.  Actually this bird seems to show some dark on the second outermost primary, so it may not be the best example but I don't have any better ones and without a spread wing shot I can't tell if this is just shadow from the far wing folded over.

Compare the Barmston bird here and see how there is a dark shaded area either side of the shaft streak.  On darker birds this will extend further toward the edges and show more dark with a thinner pale fringe.

Kumlien's also often shows a less rounded head shape but this is difficult to portray in pics as it changes so much with posture, overall though the bird appears less gentle and pigeon headed than the average Iceland

In this pic with the wings raised the extent of the dark shading becomes apparent.  This pattern continues through all the primaries and onto the secondaries giving a hint of a secondary bar.  Although my pics don't show it the tail is also similarly dark with a definite hint of a tail band.  The next few shots further show the extent of dark in the wings.

Martin Garner has written about this bird on his excellent Birding frontiers blog and several prominent Gullers have commented. Perhaps the most enlightening is from Peter Kristensen who turns the argument round by asking the question if this was submitted as a nominate glaucoides Iceland would it be acceptable, and the answer to that is surely a great big NO.

OK Gull talk over sorry!!!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Well back from Holland and it's mid September so that can only mean one thing........FOULA time.

Well actually this year it meant marriage time, that's right folks I went and got married, then went on Honeymoon a few days later with mssr's Thomas, Aspin, Brown and French.  That's right I got married and left a couple of days later for Foula, I've found a good un!!!

As usual I traveled up by ferry and had a couple of days on Mainland Shetland before flying onto Foula.  On the Thursday with not much around and time to kill I suggested we visit Eshaness in NW mainland as it's very underwatched and there had been a Baird's Sand on the previous Saturday.

As we arrived Bill and I walked less than 20m from the car and scanned the grassy slope below the car park, whappo!  first bird I saw was a Buff breast.  There had been one present earlier in the month but none of us could remember how long ago.  I found out later there had been one the day before the Baird's and fter our sighting there were two birds.  So the dilema is did we find a new bird?  We'll never know I guess unless someone grills some pics.  But with a gap of 6 days between our sighting and the previous one, plus a few birders looking for the baird's and 2 birds present later there's got to be a good chance ours was a new one.  In his write up about this years Foula trip Paul French suggests Foula must be oe of the most regular places for Buff breast, I'd agree with that but Eshaness probably gives it a good run for it's money, in fact I'm sure some of the birds will be the same ones.

 The next morning we flew onto Foula for my 4th straight autumn on here, Two weeks on the most remote inhabited island in Britain, it's rally hard work flogging all the iris beds and kicking wet grassland and ditches, in fact it can be a really soul destroying place but the expectation keeps you going.  Especially when you land on the island to the forecast we did this year.  We've had some success each year I've been on here but I really felt with the weather a crack team who now know how to bird the island including new secret weapon Golden Balls Brown tht we couldn't fail to score a monster.  As it turned out that bastard place to the south east Fair Isle hammered us, but we put up a good fight.

Frenchy has done a smart write up of the trip plus his extra weeks so I'll just put up some pics and point you in the direction of

Lesser throat, but which race?

The Athertons

Marsh Warbler, foot just out of shot!

Evocative Swainson's

Stunning sprite

Stunning, rare and surprisingly easy to ID

Is this the best Sykes's shot ever taken in Britain?
Can't be many better.  And with a £400 camera too!

Bill and I take full advantage of Dan taking leave 
of his senses, and going up the big hill.  
He found a Blyth's Pipit, no justice!

Foula not that small, Dan is about 8 foot tall!

Gav finally scores with his first Foula rarity after 3 trips trying,
 it's like putting on a hat, apparently

The Sykes's has moved half the length of the island!

 The Aspin antenna.  

Often the only way to find the runt when behind walls,
 or in iris beds

HDR image of the sneck

Friday, 4 January 2013

One of the highlights of the autumn was a few days in Holland for my mate Jim's wedding, I had a cracking long weekend and saw some old mates and a few good birds.  I'm not sure if Jim and Remke are speaking to me though as they had to pick up my bar tab!

The whole thing didn't start too well as Alison was delayed and didn't get there til the sat morning so missed the wedding itself as they are traditionally held on Fri on Holland, but then at least she didn't get embarrassed by my dancing, although Jim dancing to the birdy song and tainted love has left me  bit scarred! 

He's the one in the 'Man from Del Monte' suit hiding

I can't remember much about it but Jim got me hammered on the Sun night drinking Belgian and Dutch beers, probably the most drunk I've been in a long time, I proceeded to direct Alison the wrong way up a one way street in a bus lane on the way back to the digs, which went down well!

Whilst in Holland I went to the Dutch birdfair, having missed the Rutland one I wanted to check out the new Swaro scope and the newish 8x32ELs  To say I was impressed would be an understatement.  I've since bought pair of the ELs and although I only compared the scope to the outgoing 80hd I can't see me not buying one at some stage I just need to find time to check one out against the Kowa for an hour or so.

We didn't see any birds of note at the fair and had a day in the north at Lauwersmeer.  Jim reckons this is one of the best place in Europe for waders, not when I was there it wasn't, it was shit.  To be fair a Peregrine landed right in front of the hide and flushed what waders there were present but they weren't in very good numbers.  Best bird I saw was a juv Caspian Gull.

On our last day we went to Amsterdam, a lifer for me, I got dragged round the Anne Frank museum, don't bother its just a crappy house where some bint played hide and seek!  In return for my patience we went for a look round the whore houses, well the streets where they are anyway.  To be honest with you it's bit shit too, I think they put the ropey ones out during the day and the better looking ones work at night, at least I hope they do!  Whilst eating an ice cream and doing touristy shite (taking photo's of each other) I heard a Caspian Gull calling.  It was sitting on a barge right next to us in the centre of the town.  Holland is ace!  The pics are taken with the phone held at arms length.

Next update will be Foula, with loads of pics of MEGAS