A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Firecrest, Shortie, mystery gull and MEGA find

A handful of Redwings and Fieldfare over the cottage as I emptied the moth trap gave hope that some migrants might have arrived on our second day of the holiday.  Raven and Grey Wagtails too, but I didn't delay too long before heading off to Porthgwarra, via Nanjizal again.

There seemed to be more birds in Nanjizal Valley than yesterday but nothing scarce - lots of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.  Heard a Chough fly over and more migrants in the form of Bramblings and Siskins.

I continued on through Higher Bosistow and on to Trevean Pool where a Firecrest was the only bird of note.  2 Ravens flew over, and a Brambling.  The bushes round the start of the path to Three Chimneys and Arden-Sawah held the first of what turned out to be 5 Dartford Warblers.

 Dartford Warbler, Porthgwarra, 20th October

Next I headed down through the moor to the wall and down to the dried up pool, and that's where the magic happened and my I've-lost-count-of-how-many-years run of not finding a BBRC rarity came to an abrupt end.  And what a bird it was too, not just a rare, but a mega - a BROWN SHRIKE!  I've already written about this so won't go into all the gory details again here... but here's the link in case you missed it.  Allow me to repeat a couple of pics from that page though - a few more there.

Brown Shrike, Porthgwarra, 20th October

Nothing else mattered much with that excitement, but more Dartford Warblers kept calling and dashing around while I was busy with the Shrike, and a couple of Short-eared Owls flew around, including one right over my head.

Short-eared Owl, Porthgwarra, 20th October

Next morning, not wishing to tackle Nanjizal again, I drove to Porthgwarra - or rather to the top of the road to Porthgwarra and walked across to Higher Bosistow and down to PG.  Things seemed very quiet indeed, and in particular there was no sign of the Brown Shrike (it had gone to Île d'Ouessant, off Brittany, we later discovered).  A couple of Dartford Warblers were seen again but little in the way of migrants.  As I contined down into the village a Firecrest was calling away at the Doctor's garden, in fact in the hedge right next to the track.  It remained very vocal while I watched and photographed it.

Firecrest, Porthgwarra, 21st October

As I headed up the road back to the car I checked the Starling flock at Roskestal Farm.   One pale bird among them at first didn't look pale enough, but when I got nearer it was obvious enough - a Rose-coloured Starling.  Apparently it had been seen here before, but I'd not picked up on the messages about that so wasn't really expecting it.  Not exactly a huge surprise though, as I had been aware of one at St Levan recently, and that's only a stone's throw away.  I don't think I can really count it as a 'find' despite my ignorance that it had reported from that farm before!

Rose-coloured Starling (with Starling), Porthgwarra, 21st October

Later on I headed over to Hayle again, for another attempt at the Ring-billed Gull.  No luck with that again, but the juvenile Spoonbill was on show and the lame juvenile Ruff was now on Ryan's Field.  A count of at least 65 Mediterranean Gulls was, according to one local a few days later, quite exceptional.  They'd consisted of around 25 birds loafing on the flats, likely birds I was seeing all week and, if I'd counted them more thoroughly quite possibly a few more than 25 in reality, plus a flock of around 40 that flew straight through the estuary (with a few Black-headed Gulls mixed in).

A second-winter gull grabbed my attention but has, so far, eluded certain identification.  It's mantle colour midway between Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull made me immediately contemplate Yellow-legged Gull, but structurally the bird looked quite different.   The small head was really obvious and it was very attentuated and long-winged.  Not a jizz I associate with Yellow-legged.  I pondered Caspian Gull for a while but the bill was quite short, not really Caspian-like at all, and I'd expect that to be paler grey too.  Then I noticed the long legs - wow, they were really long!  That's quite Caspiany, but even so, surely not?  I took some digi-scoped pics and intended to keep an eye on it to see if it flew, but took my eyes off it while I had another scan round to look for the Ring-billed and in doing so I lost it.  Later on as I checked my photos I started to lean towards it being a short-billed Caspian but I was never very convinced.  Maybe a hybrid, but what between?  Or as one larophile suggested (after just a quick look at the photos on my phone), maybe a Yellow-legged Gull from a different region (I think he suggested lusitanius).  For now at least it remains a mystery - please comment or get in touch if you have a view.  (Update: thanks to a couple of folk who have got in touch, also thinking Yellow-legged Gull (not specifying subspecies)).

probable Yellow-legged Gull, Hayle Estuary, 21st October

Herring Gull, Hayle Estuary, 21st October

Teal, Hayle Estuary, 21st October

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