It's no word of a lie to say that this weekend's gulling exceeded all expectations. Having seen the first juvenile Caspian Gull of the year in London the previous Sunday, I had high hopes that we might snare another this time out. Dante, who is off to North Ronaldsay next week, was keen to get a final gull fix before heading north, so we made plans to give the gulls a good grilling on both Saturday and Sunday, taking in Rainham while the tip was still working on Saturday morning before moving round to Erith for the afternoon high tide, and then focusing on the latter again on Sunday. What neither of us expected was that we'd end up with a half-dozen of juvenile Casps, plus a few others of older ages ...
The weather was both bright and warm on arrival at Rainham at 8 am, yet despite the sometimes tricky conditions we managed four Caspian Gulls – a fine adult, which was only seen mid-river, a couple of third-calendar-year birds and, lastly, a big juvenile, which drifted off upriver on the incoming tide, tantalisingly right past Erith Pier ... which made me quite restless, much to Dante's annoyance (I think he'd have happily sat at Rainham all day). At that point, little did either of us know that we'd be seeing the same bird at considerably closer range later that afternoon! At least 80 Yellow-legged Gulls were tallied; most were juveniles, with adults the second-commonest age class (as you'd expect). Otherwise, the birding was quiet, with a migrant group of three Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin arriving high from the north just about the only other noteworthy sighting.
I'll cut to the chase without further ado. An hour on from leaving Rainham, some time after 2 pm, of our first offerings were dispatched into the Thames off Erith Pier and within seconds both Dante and I heard the classic hoarse call of a close Caspian Gull – we were thrilled to see that a strikingly big and pale juvenile had come straight in! It quickly became clear that it was the bird we'd seen distantly from the Rainham side a while earlier and it went on to spend much of the next few hours around the pier, occasionally making forays off downriver, but seemingly always returning. I have to say at the time that I felt it to be one of the better juvenile Casps I've seen and I would stick to that notion having reviewed the images. Richard Smith joined us while it was on show and needless to say he was thrilled to be able to walk up and start blasting off images of a Casp at point-blank range.
We were made up with with one, so it was a pleasant surprise to double the tally a short while before packing up. Initially assumed to be the same bird as it came in from downriver, calling as it did so, 'juvenile two' then banked and revealed a clearly different tail pattern, being more barred than the first and being swarthier overall, with darker underparts. Furthermore, seeing it at rest revealed virtually no scapular moult and more extensive pale fringing to the upperwing coverts and tertials, perhaps suggesting some Herring ancestry. Nonetheless it was a real beast structurally, as good as the previous bird, and looked good in flight. It looks nice in Richard's much better selection of images, which you can see here.
With some 5-600 large gulls present around the pier, plus the ever-present Yellow-legged Gulls numbering up to 30, most of which were juveniles, it was an excellent and memorable session to end what had been a productive Saturday – five different Caspian and in excess of 100 Yellow-legged Gulls is a result never to be sniffed at.
Rich B arrived back from a family holiday in Portugal on Saturday evening and was champing at the bit to give Erith a go at high tide on Sunday. Needless to say, Dante and I were up for it and we all met up on the pier at midday. Once again, a juvenile Caspian appeared almost right away: one of the first birds that Rich clocked after chucking a slice of bread into the Thames was a rather stunning and slender female, with textbook structure and plumage. As I wrote here last week, juvenile gulls can be genuinely challenging in many instances, but sometimes they're refreshingly obvious – and this was definitely a case of the latter. Although initially proving a bit reluctant to show well, it stuck around all afternoon and eventually performed brilliantly to the gathered 'crowd' of seven.
A second, much larger bird joined the melee mid-afternoon, proving particularly aggressive and vocal and surely a male on size. Initially I thought it was going to be the first bird from the previous day but, when it settled, it was quite obviously different, being much more advanced in terms of scapular moult and having more extensive pale patterning in the coverts and tertials, as well as a larger inner primary window. As I was lying down on the jetty trying to photograph the original Casp at the time, I didn't do too well for photos, but the below nonetheless give a decent feel for it.
As we were watching this bird, a third juvenile arrived to the party. We all felt that this was the least impressive of the three, although its gingery basal colour was both striking and attractive. It also had the muckiest underwing and was quite small and placid compared to the previous individual – on size and structure, we assume another female. It was also the only of the three to pose at close range on the jetty ...
With excitement tailing off a little at Erith by late afternoon despite the continued presence of up to 30 Yellow-legged Gulls, Rich, Dante and I made the executive decision to head back in towards Central London. Rich is the most dedicated of us to a series of 'lesser' sites along the Thames, where lobbing out the odd bit of bread usually brings in a handful of gulls including regular Yellow-legged and – occasionally – a Caspian. He suggested a stop at King Henry's Wharf, one of said sites (in Woolwich), which quickly produced three juvenile Yellow-leggeds and then, amazingly, a juvenile Caspian came in calling; our fourth of the day! By this point the light had gone very dull and the bird probably looks darker in the following photos than it would have done had it been at Erith earlier in the day, but it was definitely a swarthier bird – albeit nonetheless looking fine for a fresh juvenile Casp. A great way to end a fantastic weekend of late summer gulling.
I've been championing Erith Pier for some time now as the potential spot for good looks at a juvenile Caspian Gull this summer and it was great to for the prediction to ring true this weekend. The pier is a productive site, jutting out into the Thames Estuary opposite Rainham landfill site and attracting plenty of gulls, particularly on Saturday afternoons and Sundays when the tip is closed.
I hadn't been at Erith long on the morning of Sunday 28th when I picked up an interesting bird settled on the water. While not a 'classic' the bird evidently showed several Caspian Gull features, looking large and long necked when settled on the water. A couple of slices of bread soon got the bird in the air, revealing a nice, pale underwing and, typically for a Casp, it was vocal and aggressive, giving the distinctive harsh call of the species.
While the bill (quite heavy and stubby looking) and extensively fringed pale greater coverts (and perhaps scapulars too) have attracted criticism from some quarters, I can't personally see anything other than a Caspian Gull here and, actually, when you take into account a bit of moult and wear, I think this bird will look really quite decent. While cachinnans averages a long and slimmer-looking bill than both Yellow-legged and Herring Gulls, this feature is quite variable and birds like this pop up more regularly than most would think (see this one I photographed last year in Norfolk, for example). Of course, there's no way of knowing for sure if this bird has Herring Gull genes in its ancestry, but the vast majority of features range from 'acceptable' to 'good' for a cachinnans and I don't see any reason to label it a hybrid.
Others have asked why this isn't a Yellow-legged Gull. Perhaps the first thing to look at is the head. It's small and rounded, not robust and angular like a michahellis. Facial expression is also important here: it's open-faced, lacking the 'evil' look of a Yellow-legged that is accentuated by the eye mask. I also find the white eyelids of Caspian are much more prominent (although these obviously aren't easy to see once they become white headed) and give the face a distinct look. Bill structure is also slightly different. Yellow-legged has a more angular and 'pointy' bill, often appearing quite bulbous towards the tip. The wing coverts and tertials of Yellow-legged are generally very sharply fringed with pale and uniform on the interior, with very strong notching on the inner coverts (though this can vary, with some having almost none at all). This bird's diffuse markings on the inner greaters is much more Caspian-like. Tail band varies, but less tapering towards the outer tail feathers is better suited to Caspian. Underwing is also variable, with some Yellow-legged being very pale (although this clearly favouring Caspian). Most significant, though, is the call – Caspian sounds very different to Yellow-legged. I posted a photo on Twitter of this bird perched next to a Yellow-legged Gull to illustrate what a different beast it was; you can see that here.
When it comes to juvenile gulls, I think it's best not to over-analyse whether a single feature is acceptable or not. The more and more you look at these birds, the clearer it is that individual aspects of a bird's plumage (especially) and structure are extremely variable and routinely overlap. Judging holistically, assessing behaviour, taking into account what you see and hear is so much more valuable than concluding from a single photo.
Seven years ago, Rich Bonser and I saw a yellow-ringed juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Rainham Tip. That bird came from a rooftop colony in Frankfurt (a bit more about it here) and, until this weekend, it was the only ringed individual of the species that I've seen in Britain.
So it was interesting that seven years on, almost to the day, a ringed juvenile Yellow-legged at Erith Pier proved to be German. This time the bird was wearing a red band marked '92T' (rather than the usual yellow of German birds), signalling that it emanated from a different area to our usual flow of Caspian and Herring hybrids that we tend to see from early autumn onward.
The bird showed a few interesting features, not least the pale underwing and a harsh call, reminiscent of Caspian Gull (but probably not as harsh as that species), although otherwise looked like a Yellow-legged. Nonetheless, knowing that it was likely from south Germany, the possibility of mixed heritage always looms large and I was keen to find out more.
A bit of research and rapid responses from Martin Boschert and Kirsten Krätzel established that the bird had been ringed as a nestling on 18 May 2019 at a colony on an island in the Danube River near Straubing, Bavaria, in south-east Germany. This colony is almost exclusively Yellow-legged Gulls, although the odd pair of Caspian Gull has nested since 2016 and some single adult Caspian (and apparent hybrids) are present in the breeding seaon. However, no hybrid pair has yet been recorded at the colony, so it's fairly safe to assume that this is a pure Yellow-legged Gull.
The bird was present on both Saturday and Sunday over the weekend among good numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls – Rich and I managed at least 45 between us from the pier on Sunday.
I visited Homefield Wood and Hartslock with my mum on the morning of 27 May. There were plenty of Military Orchids flowering at the former, although they were smaller and weedier than I recall them being in the past – as with the Kent Lady Orchids, presumably a result of the dry conditions in the run up to this spring.
From past visits I always remembered a few impressive spikes of Greater Butterfly Orchid, so it was disappointing to see that one of the plants I've seen in previous years also looked quite feeble. However, close-up images of the flowers made for an interesting subject with the early-morning dew.
However, the Fly Orchids put on a fine show, with some impressively robust specimens in the meadows. Also plenty of small White Helleborines in the shaded beech woodland.
Nearby Hartslock was enjoyable. A few White Helleborines were in the wood, while the swarm of Monkey x Lady hybrids were just past their peak. A handful of Monkey Orchids were looking nice, albeit tiny when compared to their progeny.
My mum's newly reignited interest in UK orchids meant that we'd pencilled in a trip around Kent's top sites in mid-May, with several target species in mind. She got plenty of ticks during a great day on Saturday 18th, while for me it was a nice opportunity to see various species that I'd not seen for anything between three and five years.
Our first stop, early in the morning, was Marden Meadow – a new site for me. It didn't disappoint, with a spectacular showing of thousands of Green-winged Orchids, including a few paler examples among the predominately dark-purple carpet.
Having had our fill at Marden, we headed down to the south coast at Samphire Hoe. While it was getting late for Early Spider Orchids, I hoped that we might still find a few in flower – and so it proved. Although the vast majority were long dead, a few flowers remained and we found a handful still in relatively respectable condition. I've only visited this site once before, again in mid-May, so I'm yet to see the Early Spiders here in all their glory. On the bird front, a Ring Ouzel chakking from the undercliff was a slight surprise, but migrants were otherwise non-existent.
I had confidently predicted that it was "too early" for the nearby Late Spider Orchids at Folkestone to be flowering, yet we decided to call in anyway. The spot has changed since I was last there a few years back, with electric fences now erected to protect the small and sensitive colony of Late Spiders from trampling – they are, after all, situated right next to a busy footpath. It was ironic, then, that the only obvious spike was happily flowering outside the fence, perfectly positioned for photos! An unexpected bonus, especially for mum, who'd not seen the species before, and an indication that we were on to clear up on all possible targets. Also here were several small Man Orchids.
It was then on to Yockletts Bank, a pretty little reserve on the Kent Downs that supports good numbers of Lady and Fly Orchids, as well as plenty of Common Twayblade and various other species in small numbers. The Ladies duly obliged, with several large specimens on show.
But it was an unusual form that stole the show. It took some finding, but the ochroleuca Fly Orchid was stunning. As I understand it, this form is only known from a handful of sites in the country.
After a spot of lunch, we headed for two nearby sites. Unfortunately the Monkey Orchids at Park Gate Down were only just coming out (although there were many more spikes than I remember seeing on my previous visit) so didn't look particularly great, but there were some nice Early Purples on show. The Lady Orchids at Bonsai Bank weren't in particularly fantastic fettle, with the dry spring presumably to blame for the relatively small size of most of the plants. However, good numbers of Duke of Burgundy butterflies were a joy to watch, with the pugnacious males taking on anything and everything that had the audacity to wander into their territories.
In fact, if an image could sum up gung-ho toughness of the species, it's probably that below. Despite a predator attack having left him with half his wings, this feisty chap wasn't letting his disadvantage get the better of him. He had no problems flying and was even resolutely defending his territory against other wanderers ... fair play!
The past couple of days has seen a reasonable (if not spectacular) movement of Arctic Terns through the Midlands – the first decent passage of the year of the species, which is always eagerly awaited by inland patchers every late April and early May. With murky conditions dominating throughout Friday and small flocks popping up elsewhere in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, it felt like was very much on the cards for Baston & Langtoft Pits as the day progressed.
I had a quick check at lunch but no terns were present, so I headed on to Willow Tree Fen, the excellent LWT reserve towards Spalding. It was cold, windy and started to drizzle as I grilled the scrape there, which held nothing but the usual breeding waders, so I decided to head back home. A quick look at BLGP Wader Pit on the way back revealed the welcome sight of four Arctic Terns battling the breeze among several Common Terns – what a difference half an hour can make at peak migration season.
Arctic Tern is a species that I never used to see at BLGP anywhere near as regularly as I probably should have when I watched the site regularly in my teens, given that they must pass through each year. Sure, I used to get the odd one or two, but it was rare for them to linger, and it's testament to the open expanse of Wader Pit and the feeding opportunities that it provides that they now seem to be more of a fixture here, along with Little Gulls, Black Terns and other aerial feeders.
I sat by the edge of the pit and enjoyed brilliant views of the Arctics as they fed along the pit margins, alongside large numbers of hirundines (mainly Sand Martins and Swallows) and several Common Terns. Apparently another five or six Arctics dropped in after I left mid-afternoon, but quickly departed north again. And, on returning after work in the evening, I was treated to two further Arctic Terns dropping in and circling Wader Pit for a couple of minutes before continuing off to the north.
Watching the Arctics feeding alongside the local Common Terns was a great way to reacquaint myself with the subtle differences between the two taxa. Common Tern is an elegant bird, but Arctic Terns somehow manage to make them look mildly cumbersome. Arctics are so buoyant and delicate, with the longer tail streamers exacerbating their gracefulness. Then there are plumage and other structural differences, including the shorter neck, shorter, deeper red bill (with either no or minimal black dip), darker, more uniform grey below, shorter legs and translucent underwing extending to the outer primaries. A couple of comparisons below.
It's fascinating to let your mind wander and think about where these birds, arguably the greatest travellers of all living creatures, have come from, and indeed where they might be going. Their annual movements are nothing short of epic (see here) and it's remarkable to think these terns may still have hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres left to complete before they reach their breeding grounds. Just imagine what they will have witnessed on their travels across the world's oceans! Superlatives are often banded about too freely in life, birding included, but Arctic Terns are worthy of all the praise they get – and plenty more besides.
It's taken me an embarrassingly long time to get this sorted and added to the Photography section of my website, but a photo album for my India trip in January of this year is now online. To view, click here or alternatively on the Indian Courser below ...
I spent a relaxing Easter weekend back in Lincolnshire, where the glorious weather meant it was very much a period to be outdoors. After a procession of chilly north-easterlies for much of the first half of the month, the weekend felt positively sweltering and much more like June than mid-April.
Despite the wall-to-wall sunshine the birding transpired to be excellent, with migration hotting up on both the passerine and non-passerine front. An indicator of how things were to be came instantly on arrival back at Baston & Langtoft Pits mid-afternoon on Good Friday, where Will Bowell had seven immaculate Little Gulls waiting for me on the Wader Pit as I set up my 'scope. It's been another great April for the species, thanks largely to the prevailing winds, and they are never to be sniffed at.
The following morning I was out early for the first of two sessions at BLGP. While nothing exceptional was recorded, I was pleased with a total of 80 species (eBird list here). A group of five Northern Wheatears in excellent habitat that I'd never previously seen the species in was the highlight. In fact, I ended up spending well over an hour crawling around trying to photograph them, getting soaked by the morning dew in the process. Otherwise, it was just nice to see and hear common summer migrants; a male Peregrine and a female Goldeneye were probably the other stand-out birds.
Mid-morning produced a message from Vin Fleming about a male Whinchat on Thurlby Fen, so I headed round there and quickly found the bird favouring a sparse hedgerow north of the small reserve. It was a bit nervous, as they often are, but eventually I managed to sneak within range by crawling about 15 metres along the edge of a ditch. What a bird.
I spent the afternoon checking various pasture fields, paddocks and meadows for Ring Ouzels, but alas couldn't find any. However, the Cattle Egret was noted at Deeping Lakes and, later on, a Tree Pipit heard several times and seen in flight at Bainton Gravel Pits was a really nice Peterborough record (I think only the second I've ever had locally). A surprise to say the least. Also in this wider area was an even more uplifting sign: two singing Turtle Doves, the first I've seen for a few years now. I decided to sit and watch them, purring away to each other, with a pang of sadness thinking about how much commoner these were even in the early 2000s, when I got keen on birding. I used to have double figures singing at BLGP but they've all gone from there now; the last failed to return in the early 2010s.
On Sunday morning I hit BLGP again and it was immediately apparent how warbler numbers had increased overnight. Among these I was thrilled to come across a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, which I think is my first at the site since about 2004/5. It was sitting out in full view at first, but as soon as I got out the car and crossed the road it clocked me and became much more elusive (though continued to sing). Again, another species I don't see enough of these days living in London and it was great to spend half an hour appreciating it.
Quite surprisingly, the quintet of Northern Wheatears was again present and it seemed rude not to point the camera at them for at least a bit of time in the morning sun.
After a fairly relaxed day I headed out looking for ouzels again late afternoon. I decided to go and check some paddocks on Woodcroft Road, north of Marholm, which I'd always thought looked good for ouzels, redstarts and other migrants. The first had about 20 Fieldfares and a single Redwing in, the second nothing and the third looked bare too ... until a harsh chak chak resonated from the horse chestnut to my right and a male Ring Ouzel flew across the gateway in front of me. It was the most pumped I'd felt about finding anything for quite a while, even if 'just' an ouzel, but it was a satisfying result given the effort put in over the previous couple of days – and because it was a spot I've always felt should produce the species, even if it never had done previously.
As it transpired there were two male ouzels together in the paddocks there and, to put the icing on the cake, both went on to perform very well indeed over the next hour – in fact giving me my best ever views (and photos) of the species in Britain. A highlight of the spring, for sure.
After a couple of early starts I had planned to have a lie in on Easter Monday, but I awoke shortly after 06:00 to see a message from Hugh Wright about a breeding-plumaged Red-necked Grebe at Deeping Lakes. It was a bird too good to miss out on, so I went down to join Mike and Will and enjoyed nice (if distant) views of the pristine grebe in beautiful light as the sun came up. A bonus came around 07:00, when a Spotted Redshank did a couple of laps of East Pit, dropped down for 10 seconds and then flew off west again.
After breakfast with my mother, I popped down to BLGP for the last time before heading back to London. I could see a few energetic-looking terns over Wader Pit with my naked eye and a look through the bins confirmed my suspicions that they were Black Terns. In total six were present and, as I watched them hawking over the water, Little Gulls suddenly began to appear around them. Numbers of the latter continued to build to 21 by the time I left, easily the highest number I've seen here. Watching two of my favourite species hawking in the warm April sunshine was the perfect way to round off a terrific Easter weekend.
Ask any inland patch birder what their favourite month is and the majority will say April. Growing up watching gravel pits in south Lincolnshire, I always felt that the period from 25 March through to around 15 May was most productive, with the best weeks undeniably coming in the latter half of April and the first days of May.
Thus the arrival of April (and my acquisition of a new bike) was bound to stir my birding juices and finally, on Sunday, I visited Walthamstow Wetlands for the first time, despite having lived within a couple of miles of the site for the best part of a year. While there wasn't exactly much happening, aside the drake Greater Scaup performing well on No.4 Res, I was impressed by the site, both for its size and diversity of habitats. And actually, it wasn't that busy away from the central path, which is most used by the general public (although no doubt the dreary conditions had an impact on that). I was sold, and vowed to return the following morning.
Unfortunately the weather was awful when I woke on Monday; in fact, the heavy rain showers persisted until 10:00, when it eventually brightened enough to sneak out. I can bike to the wetlands in around 10 minutes and arrived on the east bank at Lockwood Reservoir a short while before 10:30. I quite like the vantage point you have from the east side of Lockwood; plus it's the biggest expanse of water at the Wetlands and thus must look the most attractive to any overflying migrants.
It 'felt' like a good day to be out. Low cloud, occasional rumbles of thunder, odd outbreaks of rain and a mugginess to the air. The first indications of passage came at 10:35, when nine Common Terns spent 10 minutes restlessly pacing up and down the reservoir before continuing off to the north. Not long after this, seven Yellow Wagtails moved through (the first of four groups totalling 15 birds) and the first Meadow Pipits also went overhead. I'm not sure if it's normal here in murky conditions, but the birds seemed to be following the east side of Lockwood northwards and thus my position on the bank actually proved quite a decent 'vis-migging' spot. Hirundines moved through in small groups past me and the biggest flock of Meadow Pipits overhead was 24.
The sight of David Bradshaw making his way towards me was seemingly the catalyst for a memorable few hours of birding. Not long after he'd joined me, he got a call to say that at least a couple of Little Gulls had arrived on West Warwick, so he decided to head down there to see them. A couple of minutes after he left me, I noticed four waders flying north up Lockwood: two each of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Unfortunately they didn't stick, but while we tried to relocate them at the north end, I looked back south to see that two Little Gulls had dropped in – an adult and a second-summer. Very smart, and exactly the result I been hoping for on such a day.
At around 13:00 the gulls went off high to the north, so I decided to cycle down to the south section of the reserve. The male Northern Wheatear was still present at the north end of East Warwick Reservoir and three Yellow Wagtails flew overhead as David and I convened with Eugene Dillon-Hooper. All three dropped onto the reservoir bank and so we set about enjoying them (all those I'd seen earlier were fly-bys). Much to my surprise, one of them transpired to be a pristine male Blue-headed Wagtail. The day was getting better!
The slow meander towards West Warwick recommenced, but David and I only managed about 50 metres when the local gulls went berserk. A quick glance upwards produced the almost predictable – though nonetheless hugely welcome and satisfying – shape of an Osprey hurriedly tracking north-west at remarkably low altitude, being battered by the LBBGs and HGs. We picked it up late but I managed to rummage for my camera and fire off a few shots which, on subsequent viewing, revealed the bird to be ringed ('PW' on the right leg)! Presumably a Scottish bird, but awaiting details.
The excitement continued when we eventually reached West Warwick, where we were expecting a handful of Little Gulls at best after reports that many had circled up high and departed – but in fact there were no fewer than 25! It was great to sit on the bank and watch them avidly feeding, sitting on the water and even calling to each other – not a sound you hear in Britain often. Hirundines were present in good numbers and a Little Ringed Plover flew over, concluding a truly fine day.
I've been told that it's all downhill from here. Well, it'll probably be a while before it's this good again, but as long as the conditions are decent, you're always in the game.
I had a bit of a shock on Saturday afternoon when a female Bufflehead flew through my scope as I scanned the wader pit at my old patch of Baston & Langtoft Pits. It was a surprise, of that there is no doubt – but the excitement never really built, primarily because it took all of about three seconds to remember the long-staying and wide-ranging escaped female that has toured sites between West Yorkshire and Somerset since it first appeared in summer 2017.
At first the bird was preening its left side and repeatedly holding its (unringed) left leg out the water ... but a text from Northants birding guru Mike Alibone confirmed that I should be paying attention to the other side, as the recent escapee that he'd seen in Northants back in 2017 bore a metal ring on its right leg (more here). The bird started to feed and, on the first dive with the right leg facing in my direction, I was sure I noticed something pale and ring-like – disappointing, but hardly surprising. However, it proved difficult to see subsequently and, on reviewing images of the bird in flight later that afternoon, I couldn't see an obvious ring ... suddenly there appeared to be a glimmer of hope that somehow, just somehow, this was all a massive coincidence and the Baston bird might be wild after all.
One thing not in its favour were the white upperwing coverts, which identified it as an adult female. Had it been a second-calendar-year, I might well have been able to start believing that my luck was in. On returning to the pits with Will Bowell that evening, we managed to see the bird well in flight and several photos clearly depict the metal ring on the hanging right leg as the bird took off from the water. Balls.
So, there you have it. A wary Bufflehead, for a single afternoon, at a seemingly perfect time of year for a vagrant (lots of wildfowl on the move at the moment) ... but wearing a ring, which confirmed it as a bird present in the Midlands for the best part of two years. Oh well.
Other, 'real' birds over the weekend were in relatively short supply, although an adult Mediterranean Gull, a brief Black-tailed Godwit on Sunday afternoon, my first Sand Martins, Swallows and Little Ringed Plovers plus the resident pair of Ravens were all pleasant enough. A few northbound parties of Whooper Swans were also seen, including a group of 15 over my mum's house shortly after sunrise on Monday morning, which was a garden tick.