Tuesday 30 December 2008


A good day on the farm. The lake remained frozen all day. The 1st winter Iceland Gull (bottom) was on the ice, as was an adult Mediterranean Gull (above). A 1st winter Caspian looking gull was also present (below). Most of the Shoveler, Gadwall and aythya ducks had presumably found refuge else where. There were still 50+ Teal on the scrape.

Presumably if this weather keeps up we might see something in the way of cold weather displacement.

Checked in on the Long-eared Owls- there were still two or three on the bridge.

Lapwing on ice

Spent an hour in the evening trying out my new i-pod in Beddington Park. Called in a couple of Little Owls.

Monday 29 December 2008

Kew Gardens

Went to Kew Gardens today to have a look at the winter trees.
This Ring-necked Parakeet was one of several in the park.
Saw a Barn Owl yesterday hunting during the day at Fleet Head in Essex.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Darwin Exhibition at the Natural History Museum

I would thoroughly recommend the Darwin Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. The God Father of Modern Biology and the Greatest Brit ever (in my opinion).


Wednesday 17 December 2008

Gull sp. The Plot Thickens

Lee Evans kindly followed up on the gull sp (see below) and contacted gull master Peter Adriaens. It was good to hear from Peter again, who guided me on the identification of the Short-billed Gull on the Azores from 2003.

He drew my attention to these links from another gull expert, Visa Rauste: http://www.helsinki.fi/~rauste/gulls/hannu11.html and http://www.helsinki.fi/~rauste/gulls/parnu02.html

Peter says that the situation is complicated by eastern baltic argentatus herring gulls that can show features which recall Caspian. To make things even more interesting there is genetic evidence provided by Pierre-Andre Crochet et al that this variation of the eastern baltic argentatus is due to the presence of genetic material from an unknown perhaps even ancient gull species.

It really dont get much better than that in gull identification- a 'hybrid' with an extinct species.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Conservation Day at Beddington

We managed to clear the lake of birds today while we were clearing the islands and edges of willow scrub.
It was a good day, we literally pushed the boat out (click on below link for more):

Thursday 11 December 2008

Gull sp.

Here is another photo of a large white headed gull which I have chosen to label 'Caspian-type'. As this bird has generated a little bit of discussion I got a bit worried and gave it some more thought.

The reason why I think this bird is not a 2nd Yellow-legged Gull is as follows: a) Lacks a darkish 'eye' mask thus appearing distinctively 'white-headed'. b) p10 mirror in 2nd win is a Caspian feature and not Yellow-legged Gull, c) structurally I interpret this bird as being 'long-necked' and perhaps even small headed, not much of a tertial step and maybe even a hint of a full breast- all more Caspian features but I wouldn't put too much emphasis on my subjectivity with structure on a bird like this d) Also perhaps the dark tip, pale based bill and dark eye- maybe (?) pointers towards Caspian.

To my eyes, I don't think there is too much to suggest argentatus- the white head, dark eye, lack of blue grey in the upperparts, structure etc but some people have suggested they can see argentatus in it.

Therefore, as it shows Caspian features- why not a Caspian. Well, I would prefer not to call anything a Caspian unless it is a classic. Malling Olsen and Larsson's 'Gulls' deal with Caspian Gull- condensing a lot of independent papers and discussions into a concise summary- so I think Caspian Gull identification has become easier in recent years. Basically if it don't look like the birds in plates 42 and 43 it isn't one. I cant find this latest Beddington bird in this book- so...good night to that particular bird.

This book has even been endorsed as 'high standard' by the BOURC Taxonomic Sub-committee (TSC) (BB:101 pg 344) so I think can pass for 'scientific'. Although I am not too sure if my game of 'snap' qualifies as such.

That may be over-simplifying things but there are still gaps in knowledge about the variation within Caspian Gull and there appears to be hybridisation between Herring (argentatus)-Caspian at least in central Poland and also there are birds showing mixed characteristic from the Volga to Scandinavia. Therefore it appears a good idea to be cautious when assigning the name Caspian Gull unless it is a classic. The sink term 'Caspian-type' is a bit of a cop out but just points towards Caspian when it shows more features than say Yellow-legged so maybe a convenient way of logging these birds. Perhaps it is even more appropriate to call this bird gull sp. but personally I feel we can narrow it down just a little bit more. Of course, I could be wrong.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Fleet Head- Essex

Met up with Simon for some Essex birding. Fleet Head is pretty good in the winter- although it is difficult to photograph here as things are pretty distant. We had six Short-eared Owls, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, thousands of Brents, 5 Ruff, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, Corn Bunting, a few Rock Pipits and good numbers of other waders and water fowl including 200 Golden Plover.
As it was Essex also managed to bag a greasy spoons fry up and six fried donuts at Southend.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Beddington- Caspian Gulls

Above (two photos): 2nd win Caspian-type Gull. As there is a hybrid zone of cachinnans-argentatus in central Poland it is probably unwise to assign all Caspian-type gulls to specific identification. This bird looks good and even shows a mirror on p10. However the washed out 'dirty' upperpart markings are not something I generally associate with Caspian Gulls and even though it is quite possible that this is simply variation, I wouldn't know for sure.
This 1st winter Caspian Gull (botton one of the three gull shots) is more typical of what to expect of this species in this particular plumage.

Another one of these dark juvenile Herring Gulls (above). I don't know what is going on there- late birds or northern birds. It looks big- is this a juvenile argentatus?
Also on the farm today, birds of note included four Long-eared Owls still, one Peregrine, 2 Water Pipits on the enclosed beds, 32 Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, 100+ Teal and 10 Pochard. There are about 10-15 Long-tailed tits moving around the site with half a dozen Goldcrest.
It looks like Song Thrushes like the open areas of Fathen. I couldn't find the Stonechats or the Dartford Warbler but I flushed about 10 Song Thrushes from the same area.

Friday 5 December 2008

Beddington- a good winter's day

There are now four Long-eared Owls, which are clearly visible from the public area. A Peregrine went over causing a passing flock of Ring-necked Parakeets to dive into the trees alongside the lake. It took me over a decade to see Ring-necked Parakeet over the farm. Tonight there were flocks flying over, heading to a roost, somewhere. This is a very recent development. I heard that there had been some kind of disturbance to the roost at Esher rugby club where over 2000 used to roost, so maybe part of this population has relocated in this area somewhere.


Adult Lesser-black backed Gull- I think it is fair to say that this species is out numbered by Herring Gull by something like 500 to one.
There are some good winter birds on the farm at the moment. Four Long-eared Owls, two Barn Owls,, Dartford Warbler, Stonechats, Peregrine and hopefully soon a white-winger and Jack Snipe.

Tuesday 2 December 2008


I managed to see one of the three Long-eared Owls, which were found over the weekend, but couldn't get a photo.
A quick look on the lake didn't produce much. I could only see three Wigeon.
Managed to get this shot of a Common Gull 'pirating' a Black-headed Gull.