Found the 2w Iceland that I first saw on Rufforth airfield on 12/01, at Hes East this afternoon! Was only about 20 other large gulls present! Managed to get some better views and photos of it and it look fairly dark? Opinions welcomed All shots have only been cropped, click on them to view larger
Went to the Rufforth/Poppleton area this afternoon to stare and some more gulls again, but with better results than yesterday! Getting to Poppleton there were several hundered large gulls in a field at SE.553.533 where after scanning through several times I picked out an interesting looking second winter bird. I observed this bird for around 5 mins before it flew off towards the tip.
During the time I watched it, it remained frustraitingly distant so I couldn't get any photos, luckily however it reappeared later in a field off the A1237 at SE.558.498 where I was able to get the following photos
What stood out the most in this bird when I first got onto it was its head. A long straight bill with an all white head and sloping forehead instantly got me interested. Further observations showed amongst other features
Long pink legs
Small mirror in p10
very pale underwing
dark tail band set against pale upper tail/coverts
largely dark tertials with a white rim (much broader than a 1w bird)
Extremely pleased with a second sighting allowing me to get photos!
Also present in the same flock as the Caspian was this 3w Iceland gull
They were both viewable in one scope view at one point! This photo shows the Iceland in the far right of the shot and the Caspian in the lower left with its wings open!
So that takes York's total of Caspians upto 4, can we catch Sheffields 7? Only time will tell!
An afternoon spent in the LDV was pretty successful, highlights being an Aythya sp (see below) a brief Green Winged Teal (that I didn't see!) a sub adult male Hen Harrier! (2 in 2 weeks in York after none at all last year!) 2 Bewick's Swans (one with yellow darvic on leg same as original 2 found by Andy) Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, lots of ducks and waders!
The bird is a first winter drake and on first look is a drake Scaup type (ie grey vermiculations on back, largely white flank patches) which is what I first called it as when I saw it. However looking at it in more detail I soon realised that it was no bigger than the Tufted Ducks and had a peak to its head (not what I'd expect from a Greater Scaup) so we started thinking along the lines of Lesser Scaup or hybrid.
Unfortunately by this stage the sun had dissapeared behind a blanket of cloud and the light was fading, the bird was present in the large patch of open water on the other side of the Carrs so probably nearly 1km away!
Prolonged viewing of the bird allowed us to note the following features
Obvious peak to the head set towards the back of the head (no crest)
Same size as Tufted Ducks smaller than the Pochards
Black on tip seemed to be visible from the side profile, but not seen when bird faced towards me(difficult to work out due to range). When compared with Tufted Ducks there was a lot less black, but I would not like to say if this soley was restricted to the nail or not
Slightly paler band on the bill around the nail, not clear cut like a Ring-necked Duck more faded
Vermiculations fairly obvious on mantle
Brown markings on rear of white flank patch
The wing pattern was not seen. It did a wing flap twice in the 3 hours that I watched it for but both times it was facing towards me and so I was unable to see if the white extended from the secondaries into the primaries.
So to break it down, it looks good for Lesser Scaup overall however there are 2 features that I want to see better before it can be clinched as one, the nail pattern and the wing pattern. Hopefully in better light tomorrow this will be possible. I will be there from early tomorrow, fingers crossed!
Didn't manage to get any photos due to light and distance but will try tomorrow.
Anyone with experience of aythya hybrids and distant Lesser Scaups please comment! Only drake I've seen was an adult at basically point blank range compared with this bird!
Chris Gomersall emailed me over some pics of the 1w Caspian he and Ollie had today, proving that the bird today and the bird I saw on the 10th are indeed different birds, how many more Caspian Gulls are lurking around York at the moment?
So today is my birthday, so what does one do on ones birthday? Go to the tip to look at gulls! Went down to Rufforth this afternoon and soon found a field with loads of gulls (5,000+) near the tip. After about an hour of scanning through them, I picked out this beauty!
Stunning 1w Caspian Gull, nice neat small bird so probably a female. Not the biggest bill I've ever seen on one, but the feather work was pristine! Watched it for about 15 mins then all the gulls flew off. Awesome birthday present! At this point Andy, Ollie and Chris arrived and we went to the airfield to try and scan through the gulls there when Andy picked out this bird
Another Caspian Gull! This one an adult, which I think are trickier to pick out than 1w birds, but neverless after about 20 mins watching it we were happy it was a Caspian. Whilst we were watching it it did the diagnostic? albatross call. I'd never seen this before so was really cool to see, tried to get video of it but didn't, however here's some that I found on Youtube showing what we saw, although it wasn't as aggressive as these birds it did do the dipped head wings open then head back over mantle call.
All in all a pretty successful day, add in a male Merlin, a calling Green Sand and a flock of 18 Pinks and it was an awesome day!
Today me Chris, Jack and Oli took part in the Michael Clegg Memorial Bird Race around York for the second year running. We managed to beat our last years total of 90 raking up 98 species for the day! Grey Wagtail before it was even light, got the race off to a cracking start, one that we missed last year! Carried on brilliantly at Jack's old work place, really came up trumps this year getting us some potentially tricky species including, Woodcock, Green Woodpecker, Crossbill, Nuthatch, Siskin, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit etc, cleared up so headed off to Castle Howard around 08:30 Quick walk out around the lake at Castle Howard produced highlights of Scaup (didn't get last year) female Shoveler (tricky in the LDV and our only one of the day!) Pintail and loads of Goldeneye, Pochard and Tufted Duck, no sign of the hoped for Goosander but there was plenty of time for them. Down to Strensall where Stonechat was the main target, get out onto the Common and start scanning when a shout from Chris of Harrier was soon followed by HEN! We all got onto the stunning huge adult female as she hunted over the common! Proper bonus species! Took a bit longer to find the Stonechat but eventually got 2 birds in different parts of the common.
Only site I actually took the camera out of the car!
Onto Rufforth where we were targeting gulls, even thought it was a Sunday there were still plenty around and we managed to pick out a 1st and 2nd winter LBBG but couldn't find yesterdays 1w YLG. Didn't want to waste too much time so onto Askham Bog we went, the previous day we'd managed Willow Tit in about 30 seconds of being at the site, today took a bit longer but still only 2 mins! Round the corner to Dringhouses failed to find any Goosander but not too worry, whilst driving along the A64 we managed to pick out c.10 birds on Middlethorpe Ings! Hes East was our next port of call, where we miraculously managed to see the Green Sand that had been extremely elusive the last 3 months, then the spot of the day went to Jack when he managed to pick out a Kingfisher, crouched down amongst the rocks, by its cheek patch! We were buzzing and a quick walk over a small pool revealed a single Jack Snipe, on the way back to the car we got Red-legged Partridge. Getting round to the 'back' of Hes East aka then other side of the A64 we quickly got Little Owl and several other farmland passerines including Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow we managed to jam in on a large redpoll flock where we'd previously seen smaller numbers and Oli picked out a Mealy! Round the corner for Grey Partridge, expertly picked out by Chris in the fog and a tactical stop saw our only Bullfinch of the day! Off to a now pretty foggy LDV where the first stop was Thorganby, there had been Waxwings reported for the last few days here but we weren't sure exactly where so had a quick look around but no joy,shame that more details weren't forth coming on these birds! Onto the viewing platform where we quickly added Shelduck, Lapwing and Whooper Swan but somehow managed to miss a skein of 600-700 Pinkies in the fog! Down the road to add Barn Owl and Corn Bunting and we'd equalled the previous York Area Jan Birdrace total of 90 that we set jointly last year! A quick blast round the corner as we were tipped off by Andy Walker of several Golden Plover near North Duffield, we were soon watching these to break the record, and it was only 14:10! Tried for Brambling nearby but missed them, but got Peregrine, then onto Aughton where 5 Bewick's had been reported earlier, a quick stop to miss another skein of Pinkies before missing the Bewick's but getting 5 Whoopers. Onto Aughton where we got really lucky with a brief Marsh Harrier initially only seen by 2 of us (need to get 3 onto any bird to count it for total) but then came back out to flush everything off the ings. Waders galore and we quickly added Ruff, Dunlin and Redshank and were on 96! Up to Ellerton added a single Bewick's Swan for 97, we then looked at what we needed and decided to go to Melbourne to try for Little Grebe. Arrived at Church Bridge in near dark and amazingly picked out a single Little Grebe just as it was getting dark! We'd managed 98 species still with the potential for Water Rail and possibly a calling Pinkie! However it wasn't meant to be and we called it a day at 98. Really amazing days birding which was topped off when the other teams from across Yorkshire score's came in, we'd beaten Scarborough (who pretty much always win it?!) and won the birdrace! Would it be possible to get 100 in a day? We 'missed' Brambling, Mandarin, Pink-footed Goose, Water Rail, Waxwing, Yellow-legged Gull, Blackcap and Curlew that we knew where around in the area running upto the race, but we did get very lucky with certain other species!
Cracking days birding all in all, big thanks to everyone that helped us in the weeks running up to the race!