This is no Farmoor, Otmoor or Port Meadow. This is Grimsbury. It's Grim up north!

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Friday, 23 December 2016

23rd Dec 2016: Caspian Gull

There is a longer story to this below, however I'm sure some people will find that boring! So, in short, there was a Caspian Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls at Grimsbury today..... please look at the pictures and video. If you want to, please read the account of this patch first too. 

Early this afternoon John found a 1st winter Caspian Gull a mere 2 km from the reservoir, as the crow flies, in fields just over the county boundary in Northamptonshire (keep an eye on John's blog for information and photographs). So I thought today would be a good day to do the gull roost and maybe finally get a Caspian Gull at Grimsbury. John later told me there were hundreds of large gulls in the fields and at least 40 Herring Gulls in the Upper Cherwell Valley within the Grimsbury patch area (a very good number for the B.O.S. area).

I arrived at around 14:30. I wasn't sure where John had moved on to, I tried ringing him and it went straight to answer phone. He had mentioned going to Boddington and as it is normally a good gull roost I assumed he went there. To start with there were very few gulls, maybe 30 Black-headed Gulls and around 8 large gulls including an adult and a 2CY Yellow-legged Gull. It was otherwise dead and with a strong breeze and rain setting in I decided to seek shelter in the wood. There was little activity in there at all but there was several fresh Otter spraints under the railway bridge. 

I made my way back to the reservoir and although there were more gulls, they were mainly Black-headed Gulls with a maximum of 20 large gulls. The adult Yellow-legged was still around, there was a few Herring Gulls and several Common Gulls. It was now 15:30 and my hopes of a Caspian Gull were rapidly diminishing and to top it off it was raining again and I was getting cold. I decided to move down towards the pontoon to scan through the small gulls just in case there was a Med Gull or even something more unusual. As I was walking a large, very pale gull flew in and settled amongst the Black-heads. I watched it land, looked through the binoculars and was delighted to see a Caspian Gull sitting on the water! I got a good look and a few photos and the bird moved. I lost it in amongst the now hundreds of Black-headed Gulls squabbling over some bread someone had thrown out for them. I was over the moon as I think this is the first time Caspian Gull has been recorded at Grimsbury. I tried phoning John and it went straight to answer phone again... Sh!t!. I thought I caught a glimpse of the Caspian Gull sat on the water so walked back up but couldn't see it. I turned around and there was John walking towards me. I was absolutely gutted for him assuming the mega, first for patch bird, had now left. I assumed his phone battery was flat but it wasn't, there was clearly a signal issue not allowing me to connect. Oh dear... Anyway, we kept scanning and luckily John re found the gull and we enjoyed further good views and we were both extremely happy to get a patch tick. 

At first I had thought the bird was a first winter and I have to admit my experience with gulls and ageing gulls isn't that great. I also assumed it would be the same bird John had seen earlier in the day. Well, why wouldn't I? In the failing light John noticed it wasn't the same bird as earlier and thought it was a second bird, he even mentioned it may be a second calendar year bird. My photographs of the bird are awful, but after putting the news out and a link to my YouTube video on the Oxonbirding blog, Ian text me to say well done on the find and confirmed that the bird is a 2CY and not a 1st winter (thank you Ian). In hindsight, looking at John's photos and my photos/video of the two birds, they are clearly very different.

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