Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Limerick Caspian Gull

I decided to twitch the second-winter Caspian Gull that was in Limerick city for the previous two days. The bird was photographed by Geoff Hunt on Sunday. It was identified from photos of several gulls that Geoff uploaded onto the UK Gulls Facebook page. I arrived down for first light. It took a while for most of the gulls to arrive back onto the river. The tide was also high which left none of the river bank exposed. I started by Saint Michaels Rowing Club where the bird had been seen over the last two days. I then moved up along the river as far a Thomond Weir where most of the gulls were initially. I was pleasantly surprised to come across an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Quite a small bird but with a pristine clean white head and underparts along with a red orbital ring and bright, thick bill. After a few hours and several trips up and down the river there was no sign until I got a call from joh Murphy who had the gull at the usual spot at 11.30. The bird quickly disappeared and after a while we decided to have a quick look for a flock of Waxwings at a nearby housing estate. No joy on that front either. We headed back into the city and while I was telling an inquisitive passer-by what we were up to, the bird flew in. It greatly appreciated the slices of bread which I produced. It didn't spend too much time on the concrete slipway but when present was quite approachable. I probably didn't hang around for more than 40 minutes only to disappear back into the ether of city buildings. This is obviously the first record for county Limerick with the only other west coast records being a first-winter at Termoncarragh Lake, Co. Mayo on 28th February 2006 and a third-winter at Killybegs, Co. Donegal from 13th to 14th March 1998.
There are only thirteen accepted records for the Republic of Ireland so they are still quite a rarity here. Looking through the list of Caspian Gull reports for Ireland on the Birdguides archive I was quite surprised at the amount of unsubstantiated records reported over the last seventeen years or so, probably more than total of accepted records. The total absence of proper documentation for most of these reports is quite disappointing I must say.























Adult Yellow-legged Gull in the early morning misty gloom.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, phone-scoped. 
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, phone-scoped. 


Adult Yellow-legged Gull, phone-scoped. 

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, phone-scoped. 
Adult Ring-billed Gull

208P colour ringed Black-headed Gull, most likely a bird from Lough Mask, Co. Mayo.


Monday, 16 January 2017

January 17 Gulls

A few shots from the last few weeks, mostly gulls unsurprisingly given the time of year.

Norwegian ringed Black-headed Gull, Loughrea, 1st January 2017. Ringed in Oslo on 22nd July 2013. Seen several times during each summer near ringing site but not outside of  Norway or during the winter months.

Polish ringed Black-headed Gull, Loughrea, 1st January 2017. Ringed on 29th May 2011. First re-sighting of the bird.

Third-calendar Lesser Black-backed Gull at Waterside, 8th January 2017. Nearly as rare as Ring-billed Gull here during the winter.

Third-calendar Lesser Black-backed Gull at Waterside, 8th January 2017. 

Third-calendar Lesser Black-backed Gull at Nimmo's Pier, 8th January 2017. 

Fourth-winter argentatus Herring Gull, Waterside, 8th January 2017. 

Fourth-winter argentaus Herring Gull, Waterside, 8th January 2017. 

Ring-billed Gull, Waterside, 8th January 2017. Very dull bare part coloration. Not one of the regulars in the city area. One of four individuals recorded so far this winter.

Adult leucistic Black-headed Gull, Nimmo's Pier, 8th January 2017. Long returning bird.

Adult leucistic Black-headed Gull, Nimmo's Pier, 8th January 2017. Long returning bird.
First-winter Iceland Gull, Rossaveel, 10th January 2017.

First-winter Iceland Gull, Rossaveel, 10th January 2017.

First-winter Iceland Gull, Rossaveel, 10th January 2017.

First-winter Iceland Gull, Rossaveel, 10th January 2017.

Little Egret, Sruthán Pier, 10th January 2017.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Great White Diver

I was down around the Kilkieran way today. A fish farm just off Ardmore Pier has started up in the last year and has received a gathering of gulls, mostly Black-headed Gulls. It's becoming a bit a struggle to find any location in the county in recent years that attach more than a dozen large gulls. Nimmo's Pier, Rossaveel Harbour and a lot of the previously productive Connemara fish farms are a shadow of what they once were. I probably saw less than 30 large gulls in all at Ardmore today which included a very brief flyover first-winter white-winged gull. I also had a white colour ringed adult Mediterranean Gull also here (too far to read). While looking through the gulls I noticed a few Great northern Divers feeding quite close to the fish cages. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a leucistic Great northern Diver. It looked also like a pure albino from a distance but the wings were less than white especially the primaries. You could also make out the ghost image of the colour patterning on the head and neck at certain angles. The bird had a bit of a habit of opening it's bill almost as if it was gasping especially just prior to diving. I'm not sure if this is a great sign of good health unfortunately? While doing a quick search online for leucistic Great northerns I came across a bird seen on Skye island, Scotland over the winter of 2015/2016 which looks very similar to todays bird - note the darker primaries along with the pale greater and median coverts contrasting with the darker lesser coverts and secondaries.
https://twitter.com/skyebirdsbob/status/688794155649216512
http://www.road-to-the-isles.org.uk/westword/feb2016.html
This isn't the first leucistic Great northern Diver I've seen as I had one bird up in Renvyle back in 2011. I've added two record pictures below. This appeared very similar to a bird that has wintered on and off in the Black Head area of county Clare and may well have been the same individual (note the brown foreheads of both birds). http://murfswildlife.blogspot.ie/2013/12/albino-diver.html


Leucistic Great northern Diver with a standard GND.

Leucistic Great northern Diver with a standard GND.
Leucistic Great northern Diver


Leucistic Great northern Diver

Leucistic Great northern Diver

Leucistic Great northern Diver

Leucistic Great northern Diver

Leucistic Great northern Diver

Leucistic Great northern Diver


Leucistic Great northern Diver with some of the fish cages in the background.

Leucistic Great northern Diver, Tully Cross, Renvyle, 6th April 2011.

Leucistic Great northern Diver, Tully Cross, Renvyle, 6th April 2011.