Friday 31 December 2010

Gulls on the Black Sea coast

Left the freezing fog of Bucharest and arrived at Mamaia to be greeted by large gull flocks on the beaches. Great.
This was the most interesting gull of the day, but unfortinately it was only seen briefly in flight.

It appears from the plain and dark inner primaries to be a 'Lesser Black-backed Gull' subspecies! But appearances can be deceptive - many cachinnans have rather dark primaries and when the feathers are not spread at all, as here, any pale on the inner webs is not visible.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Gulls and owls, Bucharest

Long Eared Owl
Long Eared Owl. A second bird in a roost of around 10.

Many perplexing gulls were seen on the lakes today, birds which I hope will make more sense the more I see. This bird is a far cry from the minds-eye image British birders have of 1w cachinnans, but that's what I think it is.

The same bird; although dark, note the small head and slim bill. Many 1w cachinnans (and michahellis) develop extensively pale bills, a feature which is extremely rare in Herring Gulls of this age.

The same bird.

An unexpected find today was this Herring Gull! I imagine this is a rare bird here in Romania.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Bucharest, 29 December: gulls and woodland birds of the city's parks

I spent a very nice day in the company of Cristian Mihai, birding in the city area.

This bird was a shock - a partial albino/leucistic Caspian Gull! This image is very poor - the bird was miles away and so this is a heavily cropped photo taken with two converters (a 2x and 1.4x) placed back to back to help overcome the distance; still, it gives the general impression of this interesting bird. Also in the pic are other cachinnans and michahellis.

1 cy (soon to be 2cy) cachinnans

Close up of the same bird

Nuthatch. It was great to photograph some common birds in the winter snow.

The same nuthatch
Blue tit looking nice in the snow

Sunday 19 December 2010

Another exceptionally dark 2W Herring Gull

The search for smithonianus in NE Scotland continues. This bird, a second winter, is the closest I've had. Actually the overall impression is more like a first winter bird- it really is that dark.
Note the undertail covert barring - black bars wider than white base. Also the underwing coverts are a rather uniform chocolate brown, as is the body.

Heavily barred upper tail coverts visible here, mirroring the undertail coverts

Tail wholly dark except for a few small white spots on the outer 2 tail feathers. In my opinion this tail pattern is easily within the range of that seen in second winter smithsonianus (though of course this does not mean it is one).

Lovely dark greater coverts and solidly brown tertials. BUT I still cant get myself too exited - the head and upper breast are much more streaked and blotched, respectively, than can be tolerated. Also, I'd like plainer median coverts and scapulars. Despite being very dark, with a number of good looking features, it is not quite the full smithsonianus package.

Would be great to know where such birds are from (Iceland?)

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Adult Caspian Gulls, Dumpiai - some real beauties

There is something oddly satisfying about kneeling down on a rubbish dump and having a beautiful adult cachinnans walk towards and come within a couple of metres of you, happily feeding away. So, this post brings back fond memories of long sunny days spent photographing cachinnans on Dumpiai dump , Klaipeda, Lithuania (September 2010).

A large and very aggressive (presumably male) bird. It was calling very regularly and seemed to dominate all other gulls present.

This and the photos below all show the same individual

Adult Caspian Gulls, Lithuania (September 2010).

This post shows a selection of Caspian Gulls from Preila Pier on the Neringa Spit, Lithuania. Photos were all taken in mid September. The ringed Ukrainian bird above is an annual visitor to the pier. The birds below illustrate the differences between the sexes, as well as some interesting less typical features.

Leg colour varies enormously.

This bird is interesting - it has bright bare parts (note especially the red of gonys extending onto the upper mandible) and a rather well streaked head. Some may argue that these features make this bird not safely identifiable as cachinnans.

'thayeri' P10 pattern, as visible on this bird, is not so unusual in cachinnans.

A proud (male) bird

Another bright bird

A near-adult

Oddly short legs