A single lecture and then exam results or a day out birding somewhere were my options today, and of course I chose to go birding. Who wouldn't.
I decided to call in at Swillington Ings, as it would not require an absurdly early start and I had a good chance of a few scarce yearticks, as well as cleaning up Water Pipit on my life list. Since the Pipits were on a sewage treatment works near the reserve itself I decided to go there first. It took some finding and thats an understatement. I could not work out where to go for the life of me. However, once I was there it did not take long to locate a smart Water Pipit, once I had trawled through the ample Pied Wagtails.
It was nice as they were feeding alongside a small number of Meadow Pipits, allowing a nice comparison of the obviously greyer and bigger Water Pipit. My only previous sighting was a flyover bird at Fairburn that another birder in the hide had pointed out, which when I was seven was fine to tick, but now obviously seems a little sketchy. Anyway, that can now be laid to rest with these two birds showing rather well. Well, one was, the other kept to the back and generally out of sight.
I think birding at a sewage farm is a new low for me...
Once I was happy with the Water Pipit I headed on to the reserve itself, this was about midday so I still had plenty of time. I wandered over to see the Greenland White-fronted Goose on the far hillside, but I was hindered by the fact that the causeway was still flooded so had to take the long way round. I got a few nice birds on the way; mainly Wildfowl like Goldeneye and Wigeon. There was also a large flock of Siskin in the birch trees behind the fence.
When I got to the hillside I could see that the geese were well spread out but after a little searching I managed to pick out the bird I was looking for. One look and I could clearly see it was a Greenland bird as opposed to a Eurasian bird. The black belly bars were much stronger than they had been on the Eurasian birds I had seen a couple of weeks ago, and the bill was very much orange. A real nice sub-species lifer for me.
I could have got closer but did not want to flush them so just grabbed record shots from the path below. My second target bird of the day got.
-Greenland White-fronted Goose
Since the afternoon was drawing on I decided to head to the main lake and see what gulls came in to roost. Last night had been a very good roost and I was hoping for something similar tonight. However when I got to the main lake there was nothing more than Black-headed Gulls.That only being on the gull front, as a hunting Peregrine was pretty awesome as it took on the Lapwings and Gulls. It also put up a Ringed Plover which is a yeartick for me.
Since the gulls were not happening here I decided to move over to the other lake where they might have been. As soon as I arrived I could see there were more large gulls here; three. Even from a distance I could see that one was insanely pale, but appeared to have dark primaries. Intrigued I got closer for a better look.
It was pale, with dusky dark primaries. A real mystery. Its was bigger than the two Herring Gulls, with a bicoloured bill. The outer primaries were not black, but a dusky grey. When the wings were open there was an impressive lack of contrast between the primary window and the secondaries. It basically looked like a glaucous gull with dark primaries. I came to the conclusion that it must be a hybrid glauc-herring gull, or an aberrant of either species, although the latter seemed more unlikely given the plumage features.
I waited for it to fly to get some shots of the wings open, which it did eventually when it flew off. At which point I returned to the main lake. There were still no gulls roosting and a scope towards the tip showed none were coming either. With that in mind I decided to call it a day.
When I got back I messaged Tim with the gull, asking what he though, stating that I had wondered if it was a Viking Gull (Glauc x Herring). Tims reply was that it looked spot on for a 2cy Viking Gull, and that I should put the photos up on twitter. So thats that then; sadly not a yeartick but it is the first time I have seen on of these, and its more exciting anyway, as well as educational. A nice way to cap off a smashing days birding.
What a day out, this is why I love birding. Although I got no Lifers, its three species I have never seen properly or ever before. What a day.Species List:
Swillington Ings: Shellduck, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Long-Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Goldcrest, Kestrel, Great-crested Grebe, Common Teal, Grey Heron, Goldfinch, Siskin, Lapwing, Goldeneye, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Carrion Crow, Goosander, Linnet, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Pochard, Peregrine, Shoveler, Common Gull, Ringed Plover, Starling, Collard Dove, Curlew, Sparrowhawk,