Monday, 17 February 2014

Tri-county Birding- Seabirds and Gulls

With the days slowly getting longer, the opportunity for some late night gull watching in the roost at Bartley comes into play, and after suffering the horrendous traffic from Dudley to Bartley Green we arrived with about 15 minutes before darkness.
Luckily, a selection of locals were already present, and after getting out of the car i was quickly ushered by Terry onto a stunning 1st winter CASPIAN GULL, which really was a looker of a bird.
Even in the low light, it stood out like a sore thumb, so much so that after leaving Terrys scope and setting up my own, i was on it within a few seconds! Luckily, it was in with the closest mass of Gulls, with most having landed near the dam end.
Unfortunately, i failed to pick out the Iceland, but the light had all but gone by that time.
Having dipped the Velvet Scoter earlier in the week, i was somewhat relieved to hear that it had been refound! This time in adjacent Shropshire! So with the morning tasks done, we took the relatively short journey up to Telford.
Luckily, again, a few familiar faces were present and on site at the time, and they relieved me by saying the bird was still showing.
Pulling into the layby at Priorslee Lake revealed a nice group of mostly local birders, all of whom had come to admire this seaduck!
Soon after, i was watching the female VELVET SCOTER as it swam around with the flock of Tufted Duck, Pochard and Coot really close in to the dam! It was great to be able to study this unusual seaduck so closely, as most Scoter are usually miles away sitting on the sea. It was quite surreal to see a duck, so closely tied to the sea swimming around and happily feeding with a flock of Tufted Duck just about as far from the sea as you can get! 

What made the visit even better though was the presence of 3 GREATER SCAUP (1w drake and 2 females) which were similarly swimming around and roosting with the Tufted's at close range!

Priorslee is also famed for its Gulls, and it wasn't long before a YELLOW-LEGGED GULL joined the flock briefly before it was flushed by a Sparrowhawk and flew north with the majority of the Gulls.
With a dark cloud now approaching, we decided to bite the bullet and blast along the A5 towards Cannock, were more avian treats awaited us.
Gailey Reservoirs was the next destination, despite no news having emerged from the site, so we were 'going in blind'. Once parked and scanning, we quickly located the GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER, which was showing well on the sailing pool. It was while watching this though that i turned and scanned the edges of the fishing pool, were i was struck by a white 'object' in the reedbed adjacent to a flock of Grey Herons. A few seconds later, and the head and neck of a GREAT WHITE EGRET emerged from the reeds, showing off its bright yellow bill. It was while trying to get the attention of some nearby birders though that i saw the bird jump out of the reeds, and then very quickly fly off along the shore, and then over the treeline heading south.

As if the Egret had sensed danger, this was quickly followed the by arrival of the local hunting 'party' (Feel free to change the word 'party with a word of personal preference). Needless to say, once they started going 'gun ho' on anything that flew by, i vacated the site in disgust at how such vile people can live in a so called 'civilised world'. It was somewhat heart wrenching to see a female Goldeneye flying for its life followed by a barrage of gunfire, and more so to see an unidentified duck fall out of the sky having had its body plastered in shotgun shot.
With the light now dropping, a brief drop into Engine lane, Brownhills was rewarded with very good views of the GLOSSY IBIS as it fed in the now very saturated 2nd paddock. After a brief time watching, the streams of Gulls passing over our heads became obvious, and it was time for the pilgrimage to Chasewater,

As if just to show the amount of luck i have had for the day, everything about the Gull roost was perfect. Due to the strong southerly winds, a large proportion of the gulls seemed to be using the south shore as cover, and were very close in for roost standards. Having just placed my scope down on the south shore, i panned onto my main targets. A stunning juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL! As it was still 'early' in the roost, and with the bird being very close in, i took the opportunity to get some pictures and video as it sat on the water!

Having been joined by a few extra gullers, we were soon grilling the flocks, and being in the prime position we were able to pick out 3 CASPIAN GULLS (The 2 regular adults and a 3w bird), which was also a huge surprise, as i have never had more than singles in the roost before. As if to complete the set, we also picked up 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, ending what was probably the best possibly days birding in the midlands for the time of year!

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