Monday, 4 April 2016

Some stuff from Baja

Here are some images from Baja California, taken on a recent trip there.  Most of the time was spent taking pictures of large gulls (mainly Yellow-footed) but there were lots of other birds and marine mammals (especially whales) too; here are a few of these 'other things'...

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Drums Caspian Gull

Had this Caspian in fields adjacent to my house on Saturday. Farmer was ploughing and many birds were coming and going.  It is a real beauty. Still very rare here in NE Scotland (this is the second record for us)

Interesting thing is that he/she is missing part of primary 8 on the right wing (the feather is snapped off half way down).  So this will be a useful way to track this you know of a Casp seen elsewhere in UK with such a snapped feather? It would be really great to know if this bird has been seen elsewhere or is seen again somewhere

The bird was too far away for DSLR pics so only managed record shots and video through my phone.  But I hope these convey the essentials.

okay now the video.  I'm a video phone novice so please forgive shake etc.   video

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Pacific Gull

I was in Melbourne, Australia, for work but managed some gulling. Here are some Pacific Gulls (L.pacificus) - a species that I was particularly keen to photograph.  'Impressive' is the only word needed to describe them.

I visited a short-tailed shearwater colony and found that each morning Pacific Gulls (and Kelps) came to feed on birds that were moribund, as well as to dig chicks out from burrows (which crows and Kelps did, but then once pulled out, Pacific came in and took over). So, the bird corpses in some of these images are shearwaters

Monday, 1 February 2016

More pictures of the Donmouth Gull

I found this bird on the Tuesday 19 January. My views of the bird on the ground were enough to lead me to think Thayer's.  We had some brief flight views and when I later was able to look at the three images taken as it flew around, these supported my initial thoughts - the primaries and secondaries looked okay in these shots for Thayer's. I put the news out as a ''Thayer's candidate'' but I have to say that at this stage I thought it showed enough to tick the boxes.

I was then away and out of touch for a few days, so the next chance I had to see it was the Friday.  When I went to Donmouth on Friday, I saw it in different light and immediately had concerns about calling it a Thayer's.

I spent most of the Saturday with the bird and these views further cemented my view that it was not safe as a Thayer's.
Mine is just an opinion, based on where I have set my line between a safe and an unsafe Thayer's.  Some details of the primaries (darkness, pattern at tips), the secondaries (overall darkness) and tail (e.g. extensive marbling along tip) make me uncomfortable calling it a Thayer's here in NE Scotland.

Here are some images.... All are in dull, neutral light, with absolutely no changes to images other than cropping.

All the images above are mine.  Below is a one taken by Mark Sullivan (many thanks to Mark for sharing this great shot) which I will use to illustrate a key problem with trying to assess this bird - how different it looked at different times and in different photographs.  In Mark's image (again with absolutely no manipulation other than cropping) it looks rather dark and contrasting ...

and for comparison, shown below is one of my images... not looking so good for Thayer's in this different light/with this different camera/with this different background.

My sincere thanks to the many top birders who have been willing to share their views on, and insights into, this great bird. 


Friday, 22 January 2016

seen the Donmouth gull again... and mmm.. no longer convinced

Just had my first chance to see the gull again since Tuesday.  Now the light is very good (neutral) and I have concerns. Overall tones look too pale to my eye and, in flight key areas (secondaries, outer primaries) do not quite look sufficiently contrasting to put it beyond doubt.

So I have concerns now -  enough to post up here 

Others may have a different view, and maybe i'm too critical, but today I have a different feeling about this fascinating bird. What a difference sun vs no sun makes to a bird where subtlety of tone is everything.

Thayer's Gulls

Lots of nice discussion of the Donmouth gull now on the internet.  I can't really add too much more as I've not seen it again, but at least there are now lots of good pictures of it to add to what was secured earlier in the week. The light up here in the last few days has been terrible for gull photos -very often far too bright. Inevitably the new pics are thereforemaking it difficult to get a balanced view of what it looks like in the flesh.

By far the best thing is simply to see it yourself.

 I tried to see it today to get my own DSLR images (especially some flight ones) but the weather is now awful!  Driving wind and rain. Sod's law.  Meantime, here are a few from California ..some of these are fractionally darker than the Aberdeen bird to my eye, and some a little paler (i'm thinking here of the primaries especially, but also general tones).  Its a great bird to see, debate and discuss...just what gulling is all about.