Sunday, 27 November 2016

Back in the Day...

If you google 'nostalgia' you'll see it can be defined 'a...wistful affection for a period in the past'. As far as I'm concerned that fits nicely. I have no sentimental longing that such times were here again, I simply enjoy the memory of them.

Given my age you might expect my nostalgia trips to reach far back in time, and of course some do. But not all. Recently I was searching online for a photo I knew I'd published somewhere, and thought I might find it on Birdforum. If you followed earlier incarnations of NQS you'll probably be familiar with Backwater Birding, a Birdforum thread which began in January 2006. Like a little soap opera it documented the fortunes of the Backwater Birders as they exploited the potential of the Axe Estuary and surrounding area in East Devon. It was quite lively right from the start, but at its peak there would be several posts a day - 30 or more in a week was not at all unusual. It is safe to say that 2007 was the big year in many ways, not least for this amazing event (scroll down to post #2795 and on...). However, change was in the air, and 2008 saw three of the principal contributors start up their own blogs. Pretty soon the writing was on the wall and Backwater Birding eventually fizzled out in 2012.

Well, I didn't find my photo but I did enjoy enjoy a delightfully nostalgic time browsing the Backwater thread...

I can't believe how rude I was about Steve Waite, who now of course is the venerable and respected ex-county recorder for Devon, but then...well...let's just say there was a reason I regularly referred to Steve as the Eating Machine, and the Doughnut Jedi. I'm sure it's just a total coincidence that he married a girl whose Twitter handle is Jessicakes!

On 27th October 2007 Steve found a putative 2nd-winter Caspian Gull on the estuary at Coronation Corner. I quickly joined him and together we watched the bird and managed a few poor photos. This was early days of tricky gull ID for both of us; if confirmed as a Casp this would be Devon's second, following a juv in Torbay in 2006. On October 30th I wrote this on Backwater Birding:

"I have done a good bit of reading up on Caspian Gull ID, and am happy enough with our bird to a) submit it, and b) tick it. I think we are getting better and better at gull ID here, so hopefully Caspian will appear again before too long..."

In the event we had to wait another two years for our second Caspian Gull (and Devon's third) but even so I cannot help smiling wryly at what seem slightly prescient words now. I'm not sure how many the Axe has had to date, but it's comfortably into double figures.

Here's one from December 2011...



And then again, here's a...er... 'possible Casp' we wrestled with in April 2007. I even posted a few photos on the Birdforum ID thread. At the time I was hopeful...but clearly also quite ignorant!


Today my 'gull eye' would filter out this poor creature in a moment, but this was more than nine years ago.

Yep, back in the day I was pretty rubbish at gulls.

8 comments:

  1. Haha great post Gav, again. And I completely and utterly deserved those titles so no worries. In fact I like to think I worked hard for them :-)

    I have to also say, and many Casps later, the 1w you pictured remains my favourite of them all. It may simply be because it was our first 1w, but I dont think any of them since have been as massive? It was a true giant. A bit like you!

    Incidentally unless things change in the last month, 2016 will be the first Casp-less year on the Axe since 2010.

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    1. He was a brute, wasn't he! But a handsome one. Here's hoping for a December Casp, Stevie. That Portland bird of a few days back deserves another appreciative audience...

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  2. Evening Gav. Isn't the Casp pictured a second-winter, or am I being a laridunce?

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    1. Hi Steve. With all those delicately-marked marked 2nd generation scaps I'm afraid it's a classic 1W job. There was a 2W on the Axe last year; nice pic on post dated 16/11/2015...

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  3. Gav, the ID of this species and the YLG at various stages of their development is certainly worthy of attention. Just wish there were a few more chances in my neck of the woods.
    It's nice to get to the stage where a suspicion becomes a definite, based on the checking of a couple of; let face it, subtle diagnostic features.

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    1. Subtle is the word, Ric, and it always takes a combination of several features to nail an ID. I think that's why I enjoy the challenge - it's not easy, but the rewards are there if you make the effort to learn it all. In this part of the country Casp is still pretty rare, and YLG a scarce but regular visitor, especially as juvs in summer. I should think their status wouldn't be too dissimilar in your neck of the woods. I don't know if Broadwater still gets a decent winter roost? Got to be worth a go. An added incentive is that lots of birders can't be bothered with them, so with a Casp down here it's akin to ignoring something as rare as, say, a Dusky Warbler or Great Grey Shrike or thereabouts. Mind you, I do appreciate that a Casp won't quite have the 'wow' factor of the latter for most!

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  4. Gav, I've been thinking of Broadwater for quite a while. Access will now have to be via the Black-jacks lock end. All the other paths and roads to the gravel pit are blocked by gates.
    I believe I was with you (on Broadwater) when you picked up; in those days, a Herring Gull with yellow legs.

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    1. Winter YLG at Broadwater a distinct possibility. And I remember Andrew Moon finding a Glauc in that roost too. Not surprised the access is trickier these days; increased security everywhere...

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