Sunday, 8 March 2015

A visit to Yorkshire

We decided to have trip over the Pennines and into Yorkshire today, with a view to experiencing the gull fest that has been happening recently at Rufforth airfield. On the way we stopped off at Normanton to see the drake American Wigeon which showed well with a group of about 40 Eurasian wigeon.

We arrived at Rufforth at about 9:45am to find only a fairly small flock of gulls in a field adjacent to the airfield. However after only a short wait a superb adult glaucous gull landed in the middle of the flock and just a few minutes later a 3rd winter Iceland gull landed alongside it. A fantastic opportunity to compare these two white winged gulls. Then at last we saw the bird we had really gone there for. A stunning adult Caspian gull, complete with long parallel bill, pear shaped head and dark beady eye. As if that wasn't enough, close by was a 3rd winter Caspian! Just like buses. My first Caspian gull in the UK and another bogey bird bites the dust.

Having seen our target species so quickly and so well, we decided to push on into enemy territory, and made our way to Kelp Beck near the village of Harpham, about seven miles outside Bridlington. For the past week or two this beck has been home to a continental black-bellied dipper,  only a race and not a separate species from our dipper, but still my first in the UK and a really nice bird to see.

After that we retreated, but not before a brief call in at Fairburn Ings to see a drake smew and three newly arrived avocets.

UK: 407 (Capsian gull), Year 2015: 146

Black-bellied dipper Cinclus cinclus cinclus. As the name implies, this race is completely black under the white bib, unlike our resident and largely sedentary bird which is chestnut immediately below the white, blending into black under parts. I was worried that this might not be a very obvious feature, but as you can see in the photos, there's not a hint of chestnut. Black-bellied dippers breed in the north of Scandinavia and move south in winter to escape the northern winter.

Actually there are two races of dipper in the British Isles, C.c. hibernicus in Ireland and western Scotland, and C.c. gularis in eastern Scotland, Wales and England. I'm not sure what the differences are between these two races, but I'm pretty sure I've seen them both. I've certainly seen dippers in the Inverpolly region of Sutherland which I assume will be  hibernicus. I've never seen this race in Ireland but I might have opportunity to put that right as soon as next week.....

American and Eurasian wigeons.

Adult glaucous gull.

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