Whilst visiting relatives in the Midlands last week I managed to meet up with my old birding buddy Carl Baggott for some serious ‘gulling’. Before I moved away from Leicestershire Carl and I often teamed up for some birding or full-on twitching adventures – looking back now they were great days and I have lots of great memories from back then. Nowadays he’s a bit of gull enthusiast and has definitely put his patch – Shawell A5 Lagoons, well and truly on the map as far as gulls are concerned. My hope was to meet up with him and finally get to grips with a Caspian Gull, a species that he encounters frequently there. It would almost be a lifer for me – my only experience of Caspian Gull was of 2 birds at Groby Pool in Leicestershire in 1999 and I can’t really remember them at all to be honest. As we approached the lagoons we could see plenty of gulls and it wasn’t long before Carl picked out a 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull, shortly followed by a nice adult. Even this species is rare in Cumbria, barely annual, so it was good to see them.
No sign of any Caspian Gulls on this lagoon though, but more large gulls were loafing on the grassy embankment between the lagoons so we began to search through them. I soon located a promising looking individual and gave Carl directions to get onto it. Initially it was largely obscurred by other gulls but I could see it looked relatively ‘small-headed’, had a small dark beady eye, a nice clean white head and a longish looking slender, parallel-sided bill. In short it looked nothing like any of the Herring Gulls that were around. Carl soon agreed that it was a good contender and when the Lesser Blackback that was stood in front of it moved away it soon became obvious that this was indeed a superb 2nd-winter Caspian Gull.
The overall structure of this bird was particularly striking to me, it was long-legged, slim looking and long-winged with a full chest, and had a comparatively small head. Note the head shape too, the obvious flat crown with striking angular rear crown, fine streaking on the nape, and a very small beady eye which is set forward on the head. An absolutely fantastic bird, I don’t normally ‘do’ gulls, in fact I barely give them a second glance if I’m honest, but I have to admit that I was really impressed by this individual. Very many thanks to Carl for letting me use his photos – I took loads but accidentally formatted my memory card deleting the whole lot. Numpty. Please take a look at Carl’s blog by clicking on the ‘Bag a Wild One’ link at the side of this page.
Apart from a bit of gulling the rest of my time was spent doing family stuff, on Saturday evening we went to watch the Brisca F1 Stock Cars at Coventry – something we used to do all the time when we lived down there – it’s so annoying that they don’t have any meetings ‘up north’.
There was also a fantastic firework display, which scared the life out of my boy!