Sunday, 17 December 2017

Warnham Local Nature Reserve

Warnham Local Nature Reserve
A very cold night with temperatures reaching -5°C meant that three-quarters of the millpond had frozen solid. This meant only one thing...gulls! With last nights influx it was no surprise when I was greeted by over a thousand mixed gulls on my arrival into work. I wandered down to Aston Trelford Hide as this is the best hide to view the gulls from and started to scan through the ever-growing flock. After about an hour I was getting a bit cold and thinking about a cup of tea when I caught a glimpse of a white-winged gull in the flock. Eventually it came into full view and wow!!! It was the Reserve's second record of an ICELAND GULL...after a few quick phone calls to anyone I thought might be interested I set about getting a few photos just in case it decided to depart.
Iceland Gull - 1st Winter
Iceland Gulls breed in the Arctic and then generally move south for the winter but are not usually found this far south. In Sussex we normally have three or four records a year so this was a very welcome sighting. The only other record on the Reserve was in 2008 by previous warden Sam Bayley who had a brief sighting of one on the millpond.
The bird today was much more well behaved and stayed on the ice until about 12.45pm when it flew off towards the tip and sadly had not returned by the end of the day. I would imagine that this bird had been feeding on the tip early morning and then came to the millpond with the rest of the gulls for a brush up on the ice.

The most obvious identifying feature of this bird was it's wonderful white-wings rather than the dark wings of a Herring or Lesser Black-backed. The bird also has a short-stubby beak and very rounded head shape which gives the impression of looking a little dove-like. The bird was slightly smaller than a Herring Gull which rules out the other white-winged gull we see in Britain which is called a Glaucous Gull. 

Iceland Gull - 2nd Record for Warnham LNR
The bird above can be aged as a first-winter.  This means it was definitely born this year, the mottled cream colouration of the bird, the dark eye, pink bill-base and mottled head are all indicators of the birds age. When the wings are closed at rest you can hardly see the extent of the white in the wing but when it flight it is at its most obvious.

Continuing the gull theme there were also several other species of laridae present. These included Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and the biggest of them all, the Great Black-backed Gull. The latter is an uncommon visitor to us at Warnham and is only ever found during the winter months. This particular species is much more coastal in its habits and has not yet spread inland as the other species have done. Below is a picture of one of the nine Great Black-backed Gulls seen on the Reserve today.
Great Black-backed Gull - Warnham LNR
Lastly on the gull front today, several of the lads who had come to see the Iceland Gull gave me a ring late morning to say they think there might have been a second Iceland Gull out on the lake. So I quickly grabbed my scope and camera and popped out to have a look at the bird. It stuck out like a sore thumb but it did not look right structurally for another Iceland Gull. It was strong-billed and the same size as the Herring Gulls but not big enough to be a Glaucous Gull. It turned out, on closer inspection to be a totally white Herring Gull which is something I have never seen before but it certainly makes you look twice!
Leucistic Herring Gull - Warnham LNR

After all the excitement of the gulls there was little time to count much else but the other highlight was six Water Rails skating around early morning, the male Bullfinch was again showing nicely from Woodpecker Hide and there were still plenty of Redwing around the site.
Redwing - Warnham LNR

No comments:

Post a Comment