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Sunday 30 December 2012

A very dark LBBG at Candles

There were 2 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on Trench Pool

  Yesterday Latham and I went to look for the 1st winter Caspian Gull at Candles Landfill Tip that has been present for the last two days and was found by Dawn Balmer and Pete Wilson. There have now been up to 4 different Caspian Gulls at this site in the last month. The other 3 have all been found by Tom Lowe. We arrived in the rain to find a small group of gulls in the field opposite the main entrance to the tip. From the car Latham picked out an adult Yellow-legged Gull and then shortly afterwards, I came across an adult Lesser black-backed Gull with upperparts as dark as an adult Great black-backed Gull. (see images below) Baltic Gull went through our minds, but it's more than likely just a probable intermedius Lesser black-backed Gull. I got a few pics just before it was spooked and flew off towards the tip.
  Tom arrived, just as we were getting stuck into our chips that we got just down road. The rain had stopped and we all climbed the bank to look over at the tip where the gulls were feeding. Tom immediately spotted a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull. However, after 20 minutes of scanning, rain stopped play and we all returned home, pausing off at Prisorlee to have a look at the male Scaup.

Any comments welcome

Note the same shade of black on the probable adult intermedius Lesser black-backed Gull (if not slightly darker) as the adult GBB Gull (top pic) While the open winged shot with the adult Lesser black-backed Gull, shows how dark the upperparts are and how small the mirrors appear in comparison.(bottom pic)   

While on the deck, the gull appeared slightly smaller, longed winged and the only mirrors visible were on P9-10.

However, in flight, tiny mirrors were visible on P8-7 and 6 with a slightly larger mirror on p5 The inner primaries are paler than the outer primaries and (but as dark as the latter feature) the coverts, secondaries and mantle.

  In August 94, I found a very small, long winged, only one mirror on P10, black backed Lesser black-backed Gull, in the roost at Ellesmere, north Shropshire. I didn't know what it was at the time, but looking at books that evening that I had at the time, a probable Baltic Gull was all I could find. It was so easy to pick out from the Lesser black-backed Gulls the following night and quite a few birders saw it. One that got away! There were also 3 juvenile Mediterranean Gull and up to 4 Yellow-legged Gull in the roost that night.

2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on the tip

 As Horsehay is only a few minutes up road from my parents house, I returned to the tiny pool in the late afternoon. Only a handful of large gulls briefly came in including, 3 Great black-backed Gull and this 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull

 Late this morning I had a look at Prisorlee Lake to find 100's of gulls on water and in the time that I was there, 100's moving through. I thought I ain't moving until I see a Caspian Gull! All I could muster were 3 Yellow-legged Gull. It was good to see Rob Stokes, who I haven't seen for a long bloody time, Pete Jorden and Jim Almond all there.
  As Trench Pool is almost in the garden, I went to have a look at the roost and again Yellow-legged Gulls were the highlight

A very long ways off was this 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull

On the water there were 3 adult Yellow-legged Gull including these two and Great black-backed Gull were moving through all the time with as many as 25+ birds with a high count of 19 birds on the water at the same time! No sign of the male Scaup, but the 4 Gadwall still present

2 different 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull were at the pre-roost at Trench Pool with over 700 Black-headed Gull

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Friday 28 December 2012

Y L GULL at Horsehay

Adult Yellow-legged Gull at Horsehay Pool this afternoon.

Up to 3 redhead Goosander were also on the pool

The sleeping male Scaup was still present with the 4 Gadwall on Prisorlee Lake.

My singing angel singing one of her own songs 'You've Gotta Let Go' that she sang this evening

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Scaup at Prisorlee Lake

  There was a small group of Pochard and Tufted Duck in the the NE corner of Prisorlee Lake.. A quick scan with the bins from the car and I picked out asleep, this male Scaup with them. There was also 4 Gadwall and 10 Great Black-backed Gull.

It was always distant

Next door on Prisorlee Pool there were 11 Goosander including 4 males

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Sunday 23 December 2012

Damn! It wasn't a smiths after all!

3rd winter European Herring Gull Larus argentatus at Candles Landfill Tip, Telford

  Well I expect a lot of you already know that the possible American Herring Gull at Telford that I observed two days ago, has correctly been identified as a 3rd winter European Herring Gull.  I like to thank the experts for their quick response, particular Tom Lowe who took the time to contact a few of them.

 Here is the reason why it's a European Herring Gull and not a yank!

This is from Peter Adriaens

The shawl on this bird is impressive indeed, but in itself is no proof of a Nearctic origin.
I have attached a photo of a (4th winter) argenteus from Belgium, with an equally impressive shawl.
Also, birds with such shawls are rather regular in Iceland, where this character is inherited through hybridisation with Glaucous Gull.

There are a few things in your bird that look a bit off to me for American Herring Gull:
- The greater coverts show thin brown barring.
- The distal parts of the tertials show barring.
- The pattern of the secondaries, with vague brown markings on the outers, looks unusual for AHG.
- The pattern on P5 is asymmetrical, with more black on the outer than inner web.

In addition, though I cannot be too sure from these photos, it looks as if the black pattern on tail feathers is not entirely solid, especially on the central feathers.
In 3w smiths, the pattern is usually more square, solid and regular, as if painted with ink.

In conclusion, I would identify your bird as a European Herring Gull.

Third winter is a tricky plumage. Last winter, this bird was reported as a possible American HG in the Netherlands:
However, it was shown to be a European HG when its DNA was examined.

  Never mind! I think I'll just stick to The Smiths, Smiths Crisps, Smiths Clocks and WH Smiths!

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Saturday 22 December 2012

Possible American Herring Gull in Telford!

 Herring Gull showing characteristics of a possible American Herring Gull att Candles Landfill  Tip, Telford, Shropshire!

    Just got back from north Africa and yesterday afternoon I deciding to go and see if the Caspian Gull was still at Candles Landfill Tip, Telford just up road from my parents house. When I arrived, I located some 2000 gulls hanging out in the fields opposite to the tip entrance gate. They were pretty distance, but I set up scope and started scanning carefully. I immediately picked out the sub-adult Caspian Gull with 2 Yellow-legged Gull. The gulls were commuting with the field and the tip and after about 30 minutes, one of the gulls caught my eye. It was front on at first and showed solid brown underparts with a stonker of a bill. Broad black ring and pink based and tip. I had to see more and when it turned side on, I noticed it was a fraction paler than the nearby Herring Gulls. I could also see black in the tertials. All other features on the bird (see images) were all showing characteristics of an 3rd winter American Herring Gull! However, I couldn't rule out argenatus Scandinavain Herring Gull. As I was pointed out later on, they can also show all these features. Except for it being a 3rd winter and showing extensive black in the tail and the main feature, two black tertials.
  I've only ever seen three 1st winter Smiths Gulls before and lots of adults in the states. I was also in the crap, because my mobile broke while I was in Morocco! I just thought it would be safe to go out thinking that I was not going to see anythin of note. But, isn't that what happens most of the time? When you forgot something or you think, I don't need my scope today, I never see anythin anyway. And that day you do and wished you had that bloody scope at hand! It's always the way!
  Now I had to wait patiently for it to fly. That it did and 10 minutes later it was up in the air. All the time I was firing off shots, then a quick look through the bins, and back to the camera. Again everything was spot on!

  Any comments welcome.

The first sighting I had of the gull

Note the two dark tertials, the solid brown smugging on the neck and the stonker and pattern of a bill

Also note the extensive black on the tail for a 3rd winter bird

Herring Gull showing charactristics of 3rd winter American Herring Gull!

  The bird in question returned back to the tip and for the next 30 minutes I was in the tip car park, but there was no sign of it. I tried the flooded River Seven just down road, 5 Goosander! I needed someone else to see this bird, but had no way of contacting anybody. Latham was at work, when I called on his house and when I tried the gull roosts at both Prisorlee and Trench pool, there were maybe 500 gulls between the two site!

Sub-adult Caspian Gull at Candles Landfill Tip, Telford

Friday 21 December 2012

Don't mess with the Moroccan police!

Moroccan policemen!

  After a week of being on the road, we were returning back to the Marrakesh. We booked into the same hotel we stayed in before , because we liked it so much. We had just been in the hotel room for over an hour relaxing, when there was a knock at the door. It was one of the hotel workers trying to explain to me in her best English, that the car window was left open and the police are waiting outside! The things that have happened to us on this trip, in some cases, is enough to make anyone go insane! And now I was getting the idea that the car had been stolen! Christ!! By rushing, I almost fell down the stairs into the main door that leads into the street, to be greeted by about ten locals at the entrance. With them I ran like the devil to where the car had been parked and as I turned the corner, to my relief, there it was! In the passage seat was the policeman dressed up in an plain green army uniform holding my video camera that he had taken out from under the drivers seat. Was I pleased to see him and a quick search of car revealed that nothing had been taken. Ildiko had left the window wide open and someone called the police as they didn't know whose car it was. When they discovered that it was someone from the hotel, they informed one of the workers.
  Understandable, the policeman asked for my documents. I returned to the room and felt like killing Ildiko! When I told her what had happened you know the first thing she said 'Was my best summer top still in the car!?'
  The policeman was waiting patently outside and I gave him my papers. He was tall, lean, in his sixties, had a truncheon on one side and a pistol on the other, and as it turned out, a one hell of a son of a bitch! He was happy that my documents were all in order and then he firmly grabbed my arm and took me away from everyone else. 'Where are you taking me?' He didn't answer. Something wasn't right here and I didn't like it. I started to struggle and was too strong for him and broke free and stepped aside. He broke it to this unfriendly smile and asked for cigarettes? OK, I'm in a strange country and I had to be careful here. I could see where this was leading and I didn't want any trouble. 'Ildiko, give me your cigarettes now?' For the first time, she didn't have any. I returned and told him that I'm sorry, but I ain't got any. He didn't like that and a gesture with his figures, he demanded me to give him money! What could I do? Yeah, I'll give yeah money, I thought, and went and got 20 dirham and he ain't getting anymore. That's 2 pound, but fags here cost 32 dirham. I was really getting pissed off with this prat and holding it to his face in my hand I said 'Here you go'. His face turned nasty and he said more!! I ain't taking no shit from anyone, especially you and I stood my ground and simply said 'Take or leave it!' I had no idea what he was going to do next, but one thing I did know, is what he was doing, was wrong! There was a pause for a minute and then he snatched the note out of my hand and  marched off down the narrow street like he had thrown his dummy out of his pram! Assole!. I felt good and as I turned, there was the guy that I was told called the police. I walked up to him and shaking his hand I told him to take the money that I was offering him.
  I returned to the hotel room and told Ildiko of everything that had just happened. You know what her answer was this time 'Well, I would of been OK if you were taken away, because I've got the tickets to get home!'  Doesn't anyone care what happens to me in a strange country?
  I thought the police were here to help you, not corrupt, ling and deceiving. Hang on a minute, this is starting to sound like the UK!

A Crossbill trapped in a cage

Me showing the kids how to play football in the back streets...

..And then looking for a shop that sells footballs, because I kicked theirs over into someones garden! I was wearing my hiking boots at the time!
Marrakesh streets. Note the White Stork on tp of a pillar to the left

Slippers all over the shop four bottom images by Ildiko Solymosi
 We had our last walk around the Marrakesh markets and as we approached the main market, we could hear a guy in a high-pitched voice, shouting and screaming. There were 30-40 people gathered around the middle aged man and what we observed was that he was being harassed by four policemen. We had no idea what was going on, but we got the idea by their behaviour, it was wrong!
  We decided to eat at a cafe that overlooks the street outside. The avocado juice was amazing! We had just got stuck into our meal, when out of the blue, this young guy with blood covering his face, looking dazed, fell onto our table! Unbelievable! What else is going to happen to us before we leave the country tomorrow? The waiter was finding it hard to get him to move on. I offered to help, but this man came along in a black uniform and took him away. All the time while we were eating, we couldn't help but notice children aged between 5-8 staring at our food. They were homeless kids and when we finished and told them to come over and take the food. They did and scoffed the whole lot down while walking away! I guess unfortunately, they have to be quick before it's grabbed out of their hands by other older homeless kids. Pretty sad to see, but there were a lot of sad situations, similar to this, that we noticed in most parts of Morocco that we visited. When we stopped in a town or at the side of the road in the countryside, poor kids would come running to the car asking for money. After a few times of this happening, we always had fruit in the car and gave it to the kids, as well as biscuits and chocolate. In the end, we gave them whatever we had with us, because we can get it anytime and they can't! Each time we did it, it was a good feeling when you observed the men, also at the side of the road, thanking us.

And here's an example of giving food to the kids. These two little girls saw us approaching in the car and came running down the hill, ahead of their father, hoping to catch us. I was too fast and went passed them. However, I quickly put it to reverse and Ildiko spoke to them. She gave them a large bar of my favourite chocolate, yes well, and also banana, in the fathers hand, and oranges. They were so pleased and went on to look after their goats in the hills.

This guy gets the idea that how cool he looks with the Moroccan flag on a pole the lengh of Merrakesh! He wont be so cool when he crashes and wished he had put the helmet on that is in between the handlebars!

This is the norm in Marrakesh. A father, son, maybe 4, at the front and his daughter, 5 or 6, holding on at the back and to top it all, he's texting! So who steering the scooter? No helmets again!

One way of taking your doors home!

100's of scooters, but not one helmet in sight!

They should have these signs everywhere in Marrakesh! No, all over Morocco, especially bloody Merzouga!

Doors and windows images by Ildiko Solymosi

Mid-afternoon and some 50 White Stork started gathering in the hot sun

I managed to see a few male Moussier's Redstart. This one showed superbly in front of me, however, as you can see, not for the camera.

White-crowed Black Wheatear were everywhere

Good numbers of Grag Martins. Other birds of note included, Wryneck, Cirl bunting, Osprey and Redstart. The rarest bird of the non-birding trip was a Brambling!