Saturday, 12 December 2009

More gulls at Rainham

Today was an organised gull-watching event at Rainham. I arrived at the site later than planned, at about 9.45 am (blame the London Birders' Bevvy last night), and first went straight to the viewing mound to try and jam in on the recently reported Corn Buntings. It wasn't to be - again - but, having bumped into Steve Bacon, we decided to scan the distant gulls on Wennington Marshes before moving on.

They were a good way out today, some maybe as far as half a mile, but in decent light through the excellent new Swarovski 25-50x zoom, they were largely viewable. After a while I picked up what was very likely a first-winter Caspian Gull walking through the flock, but just as I was about to get Steve onto it, the bird sat down and was largely obscured. He then found a Yellow-legged Gull which similarly went AWOL before I could get onto it. Dick Jeffrees joined us and we continued scanning until I eventually picked up another Caspian Gull, this time an adult, standing still and side-on in the flock - result.

While they watched the bird I dashed back to the car for my 500 mm lens - only to return and find it had moved on. We did pick it up again briefly before it flew off, but the microscopic record shots proved to be a wasted effort when I viewed them on a decent screen back at home. A shame, as unphotographed Caspians are lost to the record in London. After the others left, I estimated the gull numbers twice, and with a big arrival from the tip around noon, there were easily some 3,500-4,000 birds on Wennington and the Target Pools combined. Among the Herrings were numerous argentatus, and there were a few intermedius types amidst the Lesser Black-backeds too. Just a shame that viewing is so distant there.

Also this morning, a Common Buzzard appeared and settled briefly at the west end of Wennington, while back in Aveley Bay, Yellow-legged Gull took my personal larid species tally to seven for the day; a Black-tailed Godwit, four Ringed Plover and 120+ Dunlin were also on show. Something then came up at home which meant an early departure, but the probable Azorean Yellow-legged Gull seen again yesterday didn't show today, despite all the attention the gulls were getting. Maybe next time.

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