Monday, 17 August 2015

Caspian Gull, Ainsdale - a day at the seaside

I spent the day on Ainsdale beach, arriving at about 10.00 and not leaving until about 16:00. The main target was a Caspian gull which has been in the area for about five weeks. When I arrived it was still 3 hours off high tide and I hoped that the gulls which were spread far and wide would be pushed closer in on the rising tide and be easier to see. I seemed to walk for miles up and down the beach, mainly concentrating on the coastline between Ainsdale and Birkdale, but to no avail, I couldn't find the gull, and my attempts were not helped by a constant stream of people disturbing anything which landed. Dog walkers, families with young children, horse riders, horse drawn carriages, even two policemen on quad bikes, all splashing through the tideline or in the case of the kids even deliberately chasing the birds. It was a bit depressing at times and very hard work.

However it was worth it, and the further I got away from the car park and the ice cream vans, the less people there were and disturbance was reduced. There was a huge number of birds on the beach, thousands of waders including sanderling, bar-tailed godwits, grey plover, knot, ringed plover and dunlin, many in summer plumage, and there were lots of sandwich terns, at least 500 I would say. Then suddenly the Sandwich terns went up, and looking skywards I could see a small silhoutte which was unmistakably a female or juvenile marsh harrier, in off the sea. It disappeared eastwards over the dunes.

By this time high tide had been and gone, and sand banks were beginning to become exposed again. There had been a flock of large gulls sitting on the water over the tide presumably to avoid the disturbance, and now these began to come ashore. I waited patiently, convinced that the Caspian gull would yet make an appearance. Finally I scanned the water for the umpteeenth time and there it was, a young gull with a white head and stonking great bill! Surely this was it! I moved closer, fired off a few photos, then closer still. I had no doubts in my mind now, this was a classic Caspian. Then suddenly it flew a short distance and landed on the sand. I was able to approach quite close and get some better photos. This was my first Caspian gull in the North West. The gull fest continues!

There's gulls and there's gulls. That's a gull! It's a 2cy (2nd calendar year) bird also known as a 1st summer. Note the pure white head, nape and neck, the relatively long legs, long thick bill and pear shaped head.

Sanderling in the foreground.

Again, note the pure white head, nape and neck. In the end this was an easy bird to pick up, it stood out like a beacon on the beach.

White underwing, typical of Caspian gull.

Marsh harrier.

Sandwich terns.

Masses of waders.

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