Monday, 22 December 2008

Local birding: Probable 1stw Caspian Gull (or just possibly Cachinnans x Argentatus hybrid), Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 22nd Dec 2008.

Of all the damned bad luck! - Weather conditions could hardly have been worse for the time I finally clapped eyes on a bird showing the jizz/structure and some of the plumage characters that I have been trying to find on a large Gull species since the beginning of November!

Mucky, murky, drizzly, nay truly 'minging', weather conditions with rolling mist was steadily getting worse when I panned onto this bird, distantly on Fishmoor Res from my viewpoint on Guide Res at 15:30. Within a few minutes, I had seen enough to prompt a mad dash involving hurdling a fence, running over farmland, squeezing my way through a newly created hole in the perimeter wall of Fishmoor and climbing up the banking!

Several minutes later, and thankfully this distinctive bird was still on the water and easily picked out, but conditions deteriorated further with more murk rolling in and more 'in-yer-face' drizzle.

Through the scope, c80m away, I was unable to critically examine the plumage as the rolling murk/drizzle frequently partially obscured the bird, but was able to discern a grey 'feel' to the mantle/scapulars with dark centred feathering mixed in, 'thumbnail' effect neat pale fringing to otherwise solidly brown tertials. What could be seen of the greater covert pattern was better appreciated when i reviewed the images, but looked pro-Caspian.

Structually, i thought the bird was excellent; The black bill was slim, long and parallel with, in scope views, a shallow gonydeal angle. At no stage did i comment to myself that the bill looked obviously blob ended, as is suggested in the heavily cropped image. The headshape and colour was good, small eye set well forward with an obvious shawl of fine neck streaking. The bird appeared 'long' at the back end with an acceptably good primary projection.

In a mindstate starting to exceed that of mild panic that i would not be able to adequately document the bird, I decided to attempt some record shots using the still camera on 10 second timer/3 shot burst and the camcorder, but the light was such that the best I could manage are what is posted, and are frankly remarkable given the light/conditons.

After this i watched the bird as best I could through the scope until 16:45. During this time the bird sauntered on the water, constantly displaying that mesmerising jizz/structure, but stubbornly refusing to do as much as even preen briefly meaning I did not see the underwing, tail or legs! - With the light long gone, the bird was still on the front edge of the roost giving views to allow scrutiny to die for in good light!!!!! - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

As for what else may have roosted, God only knows, I didn't take my eye from this bird throughout!

Dick Newell kindly commented as follows: "It looks very good to me Bill. As you say, the overall feel is right, the head and bill look right, the shawl around the neck is right, the greater coverts (what you can see of them) are right, and the primary extension looks good . If one were pedantic, the bill possibly looks a little blob-ended, but maybe that is just a photographic effect, but it is just possible it is not pure - you would need crisper pictures, a view of the legs, and sharper plumage details to be rock solid sure."


I will locate this bird tomorrow if its the last thing I ever do, but if I do, then please God let the weather improve!