Rarity finding accomplished

It was another impressive birding day in England. We headed very early in the morning to Dorset to find another long-staying rarity, a 1st summer Ross’s Gull. This red-legged Little Gull-like bird was first reported on 21 May from Bowling Green Marsh near to Topsham.

The rain stopped by our arrival and weather turned to be very pleasant. The Bowling Green Marsh Hide was empty at 9AM allowed me to watch the gorgeous feeding Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage. A Green Sandpiper, Common Redshanks, already in winter plumage, and Northern Lapwings were the representatives of waders. Gulls seemed to be somewhere else, so I decided to walk to the other hide.

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is one of the roosting sites of the birds of the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The hide is offering an open view to the Exe Estuary and its mudflat. The tide was coming so it was just a question of time for the birds being pushed back to the roosting site of Bowling Green Marsh. On the mudflat I couldn’t spot the Ross’s Gull, so as the high tide was progressing, I decided to return back to the other hide. Not surprisingly, it was full of birdwatchers. They knew the bird would come with the high tide as many times for weeks now.

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Incoming tide in the Exe Estuary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It took a while till all the gulls returned for roosting. The first excitement emerged by the arrival of a 1st summer Little Gull, which was claimed as a Ross’s Gull by one of the birders. A pro birder, means really skilled, birder corrected the identification and suddenly people got quiet again. After all, the Ross’s Gull appeared with the last flocks of gulls. It provided a very nice view both in flight and on the mud. After landing I had a chance to watch it through an incredible Swarovski modular scope of that keen birder. What a view it was! The resident Carrion Crows often flushed the gulls, what the Ross’s Gull didn’t tolerate too well and flew off the area.

Ross's Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Ross’s Gull is a unique-looking gull with red legs. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Ross's Gull, Topsham, Devon, June 2014 064-1 - Version 2

Another unique feature of the Ross’s Gull is the long wedge-shaped tail. © Steve Rogers (www.swoptics.co.uk)

Records from Bowland Green Marsh:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 1
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) 4
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) 2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 7
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) (Anas crecca) 4
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 1
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 1
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 3
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 2
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 9
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 7
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 1
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 8
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 1
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 1
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 9
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 19
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 55
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 132
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 3
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 550
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 1
Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea) 1 1st summer
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 5
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii) 1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 6
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 4
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 3
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 4
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 7
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) 2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
Common House-Martin (Delichon urbicum) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 2
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 4
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) 7
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 2
Eurasian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) 3
European Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Greater Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) 1
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 6
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 1
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 2
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 1

On the way to Portland Bill I came across a large mixed flock of Common Swift (360), Common House Martins (24) and Barn Swallows (12). I have never seen such a large Common Swift flock and it surprised me to see it in the beginning of July. I know very little about their biology and life cycles, but must have finished breeding. Along the East Yorkshire coast 5.200 birds were counted today.

At the Portland Beach Road at Wyke Regis I stopped to check Mediterranean Gulls at the lagoon. They were in various phases of moult into their winter plumage. Gorgeous Little Terns, summer plumaged Dunlins, Sanderlings and Common Ringed Plovers made the tiny mudflat exciting.

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

East end of the Fleet. © Gyorgy Szimuly

eBird checklist from the east end of the lagoon:

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) 12
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 1
Sanderling (Calidris alba) 1
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 13
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 18
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) 69 (two colour ringed birds with green with white codes)
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 19
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2
Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 21
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 3
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 3
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 63
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2

Portland Bill was very crowdy, but I was hoping to find some seabirds, following  the exciting morning news about the observation of a Black-browed Albatross. As I entered the cliffs, I picked 3 fast flying shearwaters just meters from the shore. They were my very first Manx Shearwaters ever. I sat down on a rather comfortable cliff and enjoyed birds flying by for more than an hour. Off-shore, I counted some more Manx Shearwaters, but no skua or other shearwater species was seen. I tried hard to spot a European Storm-Petrel, but I couldn’t find one.

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Sea view from Portland Bill. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The lighthouse of Portland Bill is one of the popular attractions of the south coast. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Records from Portland Bill:

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 1
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) 22
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 19
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 18
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 6
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 17
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 9
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) 4
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 42
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarellii)
Rock Pipit (Western) (Anthus petrosus petrosus) 1
Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) 14
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 1

Many thanks to the unknown birder in the hide who allowed me to watch the Ross’s Gull through his spotting scope. Special thanks to Steve Roger for allowing me to use his photos of the Bowling Green Marsh Ross’s Gull.

Life list increased by two and now is at 2.182!


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