Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Good ol' Fashioned Birding (28th November-11th December)

No updates recently as I've been too busy birding.  I haven't been off patch since dipping the Pacific Diver so walking around the same coastal stretch on a near daily basis is getting a little tedious and things are really grinding to a halt.

None the less, I've seen the campus Black Redstart a couple times before it made a disappearance for a couple days (along with a late flypast Small Tortoiseshell on the 30th November).  2 Dippers have also been great entertainment just outside the campus limits (although still audible from the campus grounds).  I even heard one in full song on the 30th November!  A 1st win. Mediterranean Gull also circled over campus a couple days back and a brief excursion down to Swanpool Point led to my discovery of a pod of 4 Common Dolphins offshore on the 28th November!  I also heard a Whimbrel calling over Swanpool whilst walking down through Swanvale on the 10th Decemeber.

my first bird pic taken with my new Nikon D3200, a Dipper! 

Besides numerous visits to the coast, I've also been inland a couple times and a brief visit to College and Argal produced little other than a single Marsh Tit and this hybrid Scaup x Pochard.

hybrid Scaup x Pochard (Pochard-like head shape and black tip to the bill extending beyond the nail suggest this can't be a pure Scaup)

patch tick Marsh Tit!

Mediterranean Gulls have been an almost daily occurrence down on the coast (and I'm regularly encountering 3 separate birds) but I've focused the majority of my attention on the numerous Herring Gulls that fly over the bay and out to sea to roost.  I've put my new Nikon D3200 to the test and have been photographing primary patterns of hundreds of individuals which has led to my discovery of a fair number of odd individuals highlighting the full potential of the word "variability".

Some of the more interesting facts and features have been the large number of argenteus with full white P10 tips as well as a fair majority sporting only a faint hint of a P10 band.  Some adults/sub-adults have had the occasional P5 band and most bizarre of all a 1st win Herring with a substantially paler double banded tail!

full white P10 tip and a weak P6 band point towards argentatus primary pattern although it's still more likely to be an argenteus (opinions welcome!)

here's one with a  P5 band!  probs inheritance from a younger generation.  I can't find a P9 mirror so this is a good support for a sub-adult option.

more variation showing the entire lack of a P10 band, rather contary to the usual argenteus

1st winter Herring Gull tail pushing variability to the extreme!

The AK Wildlife trips have been fairly productive lately too with an uncommon Common Seal being one of the highlights!  Grey Seal numbers have also swelled to a good dozen individuals and our team of volunteers are continuing to do a good job of data collection on their habits, distribution and numbers.

Grey Seal taking the lazy attitude to life

Common Seal at Killigerran Head (a rare sight in Cornwall)

Patching has also involved closely studying the local Rock Pipit population, most of which I suspect are winter visitors from further east as they appear to show several features relating to littoralis.

A trip down to the Lizard today with Dan was a great excuses to leave the patch and set eyes on some other scenery for which I was more than grateful.  Our WeBS count constituted a visit to Helston Boating lake (incorporating the nearby sewage-works), Loe Pool, Hayle Kimbro and Croft Pasco.  The former yielded the usual long-staying Whooper Swan with the nearby sewage works attracting the beginnings of the annual influx of Chiffchaffs.  Loe Pool was a little more exciting as I found a Bittern perched half way up the reeds.  A total of 5 Goosander (4 females, 1 male) also hit the highlights.  A weirdly patterned tail on a Great Black-backed Gull also grabbed my attention but not long enough to get a photo so I'll try and set that out of my mind...

Bittern at Loe Pool

thousands and thousands of small fish sp.

By far my favourite experience this month was trudging across the open moorland on the barren Lizard peninsula where Dan and I experienced some top quality birding.  Although neither rare or scarce, the 3 Whooper Swans that met our eyes on Hayle Kimbro represented one of my favourite moments in a long long time.  The pure magic of watching them trumpeting together in the middle of a small pool on the wide expanse of the open moorland was brilliant.  It was as if I was transported thousands of miles away back to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic.  The birding ideal was made all the more impressionable with a hunting Peregrine stooping in to have a fleeting chase with the flock of Wigeon and when finally settled, we picked out a single Pintail among them.

very early frogspawn at the Lizard!

Croft Pasco also rewarded us with a distant Peregrine and a second raptor sat on a distant rock just breaking the horizon.  Hinting as to what it might be, we invested a considerable amount of effort stumbling and falling our way across the moor towards the small spot on the horizon and on eventually reaching it, within a couple hundred meters, our reward was a scope full of grass, rock, lichen and a stonking Merlin!



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