Saturday, 4 February 2012

Iceland and Glaucous Gulls at Ditchford - 4th February 2012

Today was a tad spontaneous as I had originally decided to head over to Fermyn Woods to see if I could find any Hawfinch. Due to lack of time I had then decided to change my plan and go to Stanwick Lakes with the intention of going to Ditchford later in the day to try and finally catch up with an Iceland Gull which so far this year had eluded me. From the direction I was coming from you have to pass just to the south of the Ditchford complex on the A45 and whenever I do I can't help a quick glance down to see if many Gulls are about. Today I did just that and the whole area was completely white with Gulls so with another change of plan I took the next junction and found myself parking up and heading into Ditchford. I have tried numerous times this year to finally see an Iceland Gull and so far I have failed despite everyone else it seems connecting, but today it looked good, in fact it looked very good. due to the recent cold weather most of the lakes were frozen over and this is always good for gulling as the birds stand very nicely out in the open allowing you to see all the features needed for an accurate id (one of the problems with Gulls swimming on the water is you can't see their legs). So after a quick scan of the Fishing Pit I headed over to view the Waterski Pit which was full of birds all nicely spread out. A few minutes later another local Northants birder, John Taylor, arrived to say that he had just seen an Iceland Gull on the Fishing Pit. How on earth did I miss it? I was looking at the same pit not 10 minutes beforehand but I certainly couldn't find it. One of the problems this time of day seemed to be the amount of raptors in the air trying to find the odd thermal and Red Kites and Buzzards were flying overhead causing chaos with the Gulls which kept flying up before landing and then flying up again and this is what was happening on the Fishing Pit while I was scanning- well that's my excuse anyway. Anyway John and me started scanning the birds on the Waterski Pit and it wasn't long before I found a snowball of a bird rolling around in the water that was free of ice - here at last was a second winter Iceland Gull. It did put on a nice show preening and then flying before landing again and preening once more. Also john managed to find a fantastic drake Smew swimming with the Goldeneye. After watching the Iceland for a while we moved on to see what else was about. The small pond on the other side of the viaduct was completely frozen over, as was the ground so there wasn't much point in looking for waders so we headed over to the viaduct pit but a brief scan couldn't find much out of the ordinary. Back to the Waterski Pit it was and a quick scan almost immediately awarded us with a second winter Glaucous Gull, and then I had a look to the right and found another! In fact at one point both Glaucous Gulls were in the field of view of the scope at the same time. John noticed a wader flying overhead which he managed to get his scope on and this turned out to be a Black Tailed Godwit. As we moved further down the Iceland could be seen again this time preening itself on the ice. Unfortunately I never really took pictures which is a shame as the birds were showing very nicely but the truth is it was so cold it was actually painful to have hands out of gloves for long and as the birds were moving around a lot keeping up with them trying to digiscope was a nightmare. Anyway I got the bird I was after and despite not being able to feel my hands and feet due to the cold I left a very happy man indeed!

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