It has been slow going again this season. Whilst I was busy twitching the Western Purple Swamphen in Suffolk Bob Hazell found a Wood Sandpiper at Draycote Water. I dropped in to see it on my way home and it actually stayed for a couple of days despite the near constant disturbance which occurs at the site now. The best of the other waders have unsurprisingly been flyovers with a Whimbrel on 04/08, a Black-tailed Godwit the next day and three more on 29/08. Common and Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Common and Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Ruff have managed to put down.
Juvenile Ruff, Draycote Water, 27/08/16.
Adult Common Ringed Plover, Draycote Water, 27/08/16.
A European Marsh Harrier on 05/08 was part of a movement through the Midlands region. It was picked up circling over the Country Park and remained distant as it glided rapidly to the west and out in to the Leam Valley. Uniformly brown but for a small amount of pale feathers in the upper wing coverts the bird had a partial gap in the inner primaries of the left wing which would suggest it was not a bird of the year. European Marsh Harrier begins its first wing moult between May and June of its second calendar year and half of the primaries are replaced before migration when moult is suspended, completion taking place in the wintering quarters. The combination of dark brown plumage and apparent signs of moult in the primaries should age the bird as a second calendar year. A rather short tail suggested it was a female and if I am right about the age a male would be expected to have shown some grey in the tail.
I was working away when Bob picked up c.70 Black Tern, the first really large flock that has occurred there for years and I have had to make do with a group of five on 20/08 and two more on the evening of 27/08. I narrowly missed four Little Gulls on 18/08 but Dan Watson and I found two on 28/08 which were still present the following evening.
Juvenile Little Gull, Draycote Water, 29/08.
Yellow-legged Gulls can still be found around the shoreline in the daytime and numbers in the roost, which is finally building up, have increased to 15+.
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Draycote Water, 18/08/16.
2nd calendar year Yellow-legged Gull, Draycote Water, 18/08/16.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Draycote Water, 07/08/16.
On the 20/08 I found two juvenile Caspian Gulls in the roost. They were the first juveniles I had ever seen and whilst they appear to be within the range of variation neither had the palest head, body or underwings and both had quite heavy bills. As I understand it juveniles cannot be trait scored but I begin to think, lacking experience as I do, that it is perhaps best to regard all but the most classic looking individuals as suspect. The following evening John Judge and I found three juveniles and two second calendar year birds. One of the juveniles was colour ringed and Carl Baggot told us it was from a mixed colony at Grabendorfer See in Germany. Whilst it was OK structurally this bird had rather heavily barred greater coverts, extensive pale tips to the tertials and rather dirty head and body plumage. Interestingly we did hear the bird call and it certainly sounded like the one recording of a juvenile Caspian Gull I have been able to find on Xeno Canto. Unfortunately the birds are not ringed as nestlings but if this individual is found and reported later in life some clarification as to signs of hybrid parentage may be forthcoming. In the failing light my efforts to photograph anything were eclipsed by John who secured a few shots of one of the unproblematic juveniles with his bridge camera.
Juvenile Caspian Gull, Draycote Water, 20/08/16. Photo by John Judge.
Bob Hazell found two Juv. European Shag on 23/08 just after I left for Somerset. They were still present the following day but only one was seen on 25/08 and none at all on 26/08. After a massive thunder storm on 27/08 I wondered if two birds on the buoys by the Yacht Club were new in. Bob was away but we discussed the birds and it sounded as if at least one of them was distinguishable as a new arrival. Subsequent comparison of photos shows however that they do appear to have been the original individuals. They were both there at the end of the month after which just one was reported up to 05/09.
Juvenile European Shag, Draycote Water, 31/08/16.
Peak counts from Napton-on-the–Hill were of 6 Common Redstart and 13 Spotted Flycatcher on 26/08.
The most unusual record recently was of a Manx Shearwater discovered in a Dunchurch compost heap on 04/09. The finder posted a photo on Twitter and Severn Trent duly contacted John Judge who advised that the best option would be to release the bird at the coast. Steve Haynes took on the task, releasing it in Norfolk on 09/09.