Monday, 30 November 2015

Nov 30th Minsmere

Konik Ponies and Sizewell power plant
It was a wet and windy day at Minsmere today. My Aunt Barbara has recently arrived back from her holiday in Tobago. I wonder how much she wished she was still over there instead of being here with me in these British wintery conditions? She had been exploring rainforests in mud and tropical showers watching exotic birds with guides and friends, now she is wrapped up in layers, soaked through by consistant cold rain, walking in strong gales and dodging puddles with just me and Minsmere's wildlife for company. What could be better than that?

Caspian Gull
We started our walk in the wet by heading to the nearest hide, North Hide. If you thought we were nice and dry in there, you would be wrong. By opening the window covered in rain drops for a clearer view of what was outside, we were exposed to the wind driving the rain towards us. Two RSPB volunteers were inside with us. They had found some yellow-legged gulls out on the scrapes. The problem was, they were somewhere within a large group of great black-backed and herring gulls of various plumage stages. We asked for directions, which is easier said than done. I ended up taking a photo of a juvenile bird of the species I thought they were talking about and showed it to them. Nope, wrong bird, but it did have them interested. It turned out the bird I photographed from a long way off was in fact a juvenile Caspian gull!

Caspian Gull (far left) with Herring Gull and 2 Great Black-backed Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls
Yellow-legged Gull
I actually never heard of this species before, so my Caspian gull knowledge is very limited. It looks like a herring gull with slightly longer legs and apparently the bill is slightly slender also. To be honest, I would have never had known that it was anything special, but this is a bird from Asia which has now started to spread across Europe and small numbers of them are starting to arrive in the UK too. I did eventually find one of the yellow-legged gulls that I was looking for and it too was less obvious at first glance. Once you see the colour of its legs though, you start to realise that it is a different species. This species is pretty much a herring gull with yellow legs, a bird more common around the Mediterranean. Okay, you have to be really into your gulls to notice these subtle differences, but it makes you think. We take gulls for granted, but maybe we should give them a closer look. Some of them may have travelled many miles from another part of the world to spend the winter with us!

Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls
Gulls everywhere!
Herring Gull
Common Scoter
We made our way around the scrapes, visiting the other hides and did a bit of sea watching in the rain. From the beach, we found flocks of common scoter (a black sea duck) and gannets as well as a stonechat along the sand dunes. On the scrapes, we saw lots of teal, lapwing, mallard, a few wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, greylags and the odd redshank and curlew. Marsh harriers were busy scaring them all up, soaring low above the scrapes.

Little Egret
Marsh Harrier

The sun trying to come out
It had thankfully stopped raining when we were half way round the scrapes. We returned for lunch at the visitor centre and watched the finches, tits, magpies, squirrels, pheasants and a rabbit feed from and below the feeders from the windows of the cafe. After lunch, we went to Island Mere Hide, but we only saw mute swans, cormorants and several marsh harriers. By the time we returned to the car, it started to rain again! Not the nicest of days at Minsmere, but we did see some interesting things.

Grey Squirrel
Mute Swans
Marsh Harrier

No comments:

Post a Comment