Sunday 22 February 2015

The German-ringed CASPIAN GULL in Warwickshire

Caspian Gull (third calendar year)
Windmill Pool, Earlswood Lakes, Warwickshire.
Photo by Adam Archer

Outside the horrific gull roost of Draycote Water, the Caspian Gull is a pretty tricky species to pin down in the County of Warwickshire. With this in mind, I thought it was about time I did the decent thing and paid the 'second-winter' bird down at Earlswood Lakes a quick visit.

It was a bitterly cold morning down in this posh part of Birmingham and an initial scan of both Windmill Pool and Engine Pool produced nothing except for a dozen Black-headed Gulls, a scattering of Tufted Duck and a few Great Crested Grebes. As I began to lose the feeling in the tips of my fingers I noticed a couple of duck flying towards me through the murk. Nice, a couple of Goosander, I thought to myself. As they headed in closer from the west I noticed this was not the case and I was thrilled to find a smart pair of Red-breasted Merganser filling my bins. In thirty-plus years of traipsing around Alvecote Pools I have only ever spotted one example of this species and that was on the culturally inferior Staffordshire side of the border. 

The birds looked as though they were about to settle on Engine Pool but suddenly gained height, flew over Windmill Pool and disappeared off to the south-east. Perhaps it was the vociferous coffin-dodgers luring in the Mallard over near the pump house that forced the mergansers to move on? The chunks of stale Hovis they insisted on polluting the waterways with however had an opposite effect on the gulls. As the Black-headed Gulls began to circle and squark, this attracted a pair of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and in pursuit was a larger interesting looking immature gull. As the bird flew closer the identification was clinched...... largely by the green ring hanging off its leg! The Caspian Gull carried out a few circuits of Engine Pool before flying off out of sight towards Terry's Pool.

About twenty minutes later, whilst frozen to the spot on the Malthouse Lane causeway, I was joined by ornithological lovebirds, Dave Hutton and Donna Mallon. Luckily for me the sexual tension between them was at the optimal level to help thaw me out.  Dave insisted on lobbing out his mould covered Mighty White (bread) like a mealworm scattering NGBer, but all that did was attract a fussy Carrion Crow. We decided to head to down to Terry's Pool instead to see if the gull was hanging around down there.

Caspian Gull (third calendar year) on the right with Herring Gulls.
Terry's Pool, Earlswood Lake, Warwickshire.
Photo by Adam Archer

The Caspian Gull then showed very well indeed as it associated with a few Herring Gull in the middle of the lake. As you can see from the photo above it is quite a substantially built individual and it did not hesitate in throwing its weight around. Needless to say, as soon as Dave scarpered off to retrieve his camera the bird decided to fly off once again and became very mobile as the morning progressed. We later relocated it amongst the sailing boats on Windmill Pool.

As some of you will already know this bird bears a green ring marked 'XNDJ' on its left leg and metal ring on its right. The bird was processed as a chick in the nest at a large inland lake in eastern Germany called Grabendorfer See, 25 miles southwest of Cottbus. This very same bird was picked up by Leicestershire birders at the Shawell A5 lagoons during mid-October 2014. In Warwickshire, it was initially found by Matt Griffiths on the 30th January 2015 and as been quite faithful to Earlswood ever since, 850 miles due west of its birthplace.

The origin of Caspian Gull 'XNDJ'.
Map courtesy of 'Bag A Wild One' blog.

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