Monday, 16 November 2015

A Jamboree Bag of Stuff

Had a slow walk around the new patch at lunchtime. In fact I went beyond the patch, and encroached on West Bexington turf. I was drawn there by a very distant gang of gulls on the beach, and when I reached them I found I was level with West Bexington Mere - a seasonal body of shallow water that lies just behind the beach. There were gulls on that too. Thankfully they were all dross, so I'll do my best to henceforth pretend it doesn't exist. There's no legit way to include it in the Cogden patch.

The sea was dead as dead can be, but it did give me Lesser Black-backed Gull for my patch list. Inland I added Raven, Jackdaw, Green Woodpecker and Bullfinch, and my tally now stands at a very modest 35. Slow going, eh? Still, you never know. I walked over a mile of shingle today, and I might easily have found a Snow Bunting or something...

Hmm, this is a good sign. That last sentence is just the kind of platitude with which the patch birder combats serial patch mediocrity. I think I must be settling in for the long haul...

On a different note, the 2W Caspian Gull which I enjoyed on the Axe this Saturday followed closely on the heels of a similarly aged bird at Broadsands in Torbay three days earlier. Were they one and the same? If there are good enough photos you can frequently draw a confident conclusion one way or the other. Well, in this case there are, as you can see from THIS post on Devon Birds, and THIS post on Stevie's blog. I squidged the birds into a collage, and this is what it looks like...

For me it was convincing enough that the bills are absolutely identical in every nuance, but there are helpful plumage details also. The two offset white edges on display among the coverts for example - one greater covert and one median, as marked by the little yellow arrows. A careful look reveals more similarities too, despite the fact that the feathers are lying somewhat differently in each pose. (Photos: Top, Mike Langman; bottom, Ian McLean.)

So, the same bird I reckon. In 2011 we had a December Casp on the Axe which had also been on Portland back in October. This was proven by comparing photos. And another which turned up in Feb 2012 reappeared several weeks later. Again, photos confirmed it was the same individual. I find this very interesting because it suggests that even though Caspian Gull records are on the increase in this part of the country, it is definitely still a rare bird. Observers are surely getting better at picking them out, but it's not necessarily a case of an actual influx of birds...and I wonder how many 'sight only' records might well tie in with other Devon/Dorset birds reported within the same season.

Finally, one of the reasons I do like Twitter is that occasionally something pops up in my feed which gives me a nice lift. In the face of the really dark stuff that's happening right now, this little video cheered me up no end at breakfast time today...


  1. Spot on Gavin I see Steve has come to the same conclusion too with the much better photos available now.

    Love your take on the Scilly birding today and especially the two dated photos!

    1. Thanks Mike. Ian's photo made all the difference. Re Scilly, visiting in October these days is quite an eye-opener; joking aside, the average age has got to be well over 60!