Thursday 26 November 2015

Away with the gulls again

26th November 2015 - Topsham


Gulls never let you down. When there's nothing else about there's always a few gulls to look through and, not surprisingly, the more you look, the more you see. Certainly, having just a handful of regular species to scan through does tend to concentrate the mind, even one as prone to wander as mine.

So, today I made my usual low tide visit to Topsham Rec and as usual there's a couple of hundred Black-heads, fifty or so Herring, a dozen Common, a handful of Lesser Black-backed and single Great Black-backed. After a superficial scan for anything really obviously unusual. i.e. rare, I picked out an adult Med Gull, a colour-ringed bird (white 34K4) with a long history (see previous post). It landed near another adult, this one did not co-operate but spent all the time sleeping (Med Gulls tend to be rather inactive I've noticed). While checking my photos later I noticed it too was colour-ringed - red, right tarsus (so probably a Polish bird) - and this has been around on and off for a week though I've yet to read the code.

Mediterranean Gull 34K4 >17cy - 26/11/2015 Topsham

Mediterranean Gull 34K4 >17cy - 26/11/2015 Topsham

Mediterranean Gulls - 34K4 at back, red c-r taking it easy - 26/11/2015 Topsham

Now, folks, it's time for my occasional feature - the Topsham Mystery Gull - no prizes, in fact probably no definite solutions.

Further up the river the big gulls have their own bathing and loafing area. A quick scan produced nothing but the usual Herring Gulls and four LBB but then I noticed this slightly different individual. Light conditions were not great and the bird was not close - the usual excuses, I know - but the main points are obvious.

Larus sp. ad (it's the one at the back) - 26/11/2015 Topsham
 It's clearly darker grey than the 'normal' argenteus HG and the legs look a bit different too, not quite so pink maybe. I started thinking nominate argentatus but the mantle looks a little too dark and the tone is odd, it should be a bluer grey. A view of the spread primaries would help so I waited for it to fly.

Larus sp. ad - 26/11/2015 Topsham

Larus sp. ad - 26/11/2015 Topsham

Not looking too good now, is it? The white mirrors on P9 and P10 are just about OK for argentatus (also fine for argenteus) but the amount of black is not ideal. Another odd thing is irregular shape of the black areas plus they seem to be a little paler on P8-10, almost like something went wrong in pigment production, like the bird couldn't decide quite what it wanted to be. Maybe it's an odd argentatus, maybe it'll have to go down as another hybrid?

As ever, comments welcome.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

My oldest Med Gull yet

15th November 2015 - Topsham

I should now be writing about - and proudly posting 'top quality' photos of - a cracking 1st winter Caspian Gull that performed beautifully to a small but appreciative crowd at Topsham Rec over the weekend. Sadly, despite wishing really hard, said Larid did not put in an appearance. Instead I made do with a distant 2W on the Axe, an impromptu visit following a text from the estimable Steve Waite. No photos - it must have been at least 300m away - but great value and almost certainly the same individual as Mike Langman's 11th November bird, see Axe Birding for the details.

I've only once seen Caspian Gull at Topsham Rec - back in 2012, actually it was 2013 - but naively thought my chances of another were good this week. Meanwhile, I make do with colour-ringed Med Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull Adult (17yo at least) - Topsham, 15/11/2015
I've seen this individual on the Exe at Topsham for a few days now but only managed to read the ring on Sunday - 34K4. From the colour and code it was a Dutch or Belgian bird so I sent off the details to Camille Duponcheel. By very quick reply I learn that this bird was first ringed (as >3cy) in May 2001, in Antwerp, Belgium. So, if it was at least in its 4th calendar year in 2001, it fledged no later than the summer of 1998 making it now at least 17 years old (in its 18cy). It's been seen many times since first ringed (now on its second c-r); while apparently usually wintering in Somerset, it was regularly seen on the Axe Estuary in the winter of 2011/2012 and once on the Exe at Lympstone in November 2014. A few spring and summer sightings from the Antwerp area suggests that it returns there to breed.

As for the Caspian Gull, I know you're out there somewhere - just need to be there...

Wednesday 11 November 2015

A New Beetle

11th November 2015 - Topsham

I found this outside the front door last night. Coming home from the pub, I noticed it on the wall by the front light. I didn't immediately recognise it so popped back out with a specimen tube and saved it for this morning. As I was photographing it I assumed it was a Longhorn Beetle (Cerambycidae) but when I tried to ID it using various keys it just wouldn't fit. On a hunch, and noticing the obviously enlarged back legs, I wondered if it might be an Oedemera or something related - Oedemera nobilis (Scopoli) is common around here (and just about everywhere) but is much smaller and bright metallic green, this chap looked like he might be a larger relative. After a bit of searching and checking photos I'm confident that this is Oedemera femoralis (Olivier), a male judging by the swollen hind femora.

Oedemera femoralis (Olivier) - 11/11/2015 Topsham

Oedemera femoralis (Olivier) - 11/11/2015 Topsham

Its distribution is said to be local in England and Wales and it's a new one for me but, as it's apparently nocturnal, this may not be surprising.

Identification checked using the excellent Watford Coleoptera Group website - highly recommended for British beetle info. Distribution data from Beetles and Beetle Recording in Great Britain - also well worth a look.

Monday 2 November 2015

Short-eared Owl

1st November 2015 - Topsham

A walk around Highfield Farm, Topsham yesterday produced a Firecrest - views too brief and light too dark for photos - and this Short-eared Owl, flushed from the wet meadows by the river. It got up just a few metres away and settled at only a short distance atop a hedge. Before we could approach the local Jackdaws took real objection to it and chased it off down the valley, I lost it in the distance over Darts Farm - maybe still in the area?

Both Firecrest and Short-eared Owl new birds for the Farm, though oddly I've recorded both from our garden which is just a stone's throw away.

Short-eared Owl - Highfield Farm, Topsham, 1/11/2015

Short-eared Owl - Highfield Farm, Topsham, 1/11/2015. Chased off by Jackdaws.C

Short-eared Owl - Highfield Farm, Topsham, 1/11/2015