Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bonaparte's Gull at Boddington Reservoir - It's Been A Funny Weekend! Sunday the 4th November 2012

Due to me working full time, and the nights are now rolling in, my birding is limited to my days off. To be honest I hate it as birding after a hard day at work is one of my ways of winding down but as there isn't much i can do about it I guess I have to accept it. Accepting it is hard though when you receive a text to say a Bonaparte's Gull has been found mid week on a county reservoir. As I knew that being able to see it would be impossible until I had a day off I tried to put it to the back of my mind, and on the Friday a blank was drawn by the people searching the roost. So on the Saturday my mind was made up to head to completely the opposite end of the county to see what had arrived. I knew that due to social commitments I couldn't make the Boddington roost anyway (while days birding are rare in the winter months, time off with my wife are even rarer), but frustration was setting in early on as the predicted "prolonged spells of sunshine" had in fact turned into prolonged, heavy and relentless rain! I went to Fermyn Woods as it is one of my favourite places in the autumn. The berries around here provide a feast to the wintering thrushes as they move in, and the added bonus of the chance of a Hawfinch is also a draw. Despite the rain I put the waterproofs on and soldiered on regardless, and I am glad I did as the amount of Redwing was pretty incredible but despite scouring the flocks I couldn't find anything other than the odd Fieldfare. The Jays here were also putting on quite a good show too, perching often right out in the open in their quest for Acorns. All the normal Tit and Finch species were present along with quite a few Siskin (one individual showing very nicely at the top of a Birch Tree singing in the sunshine). In the evening as I was preparing to head to a house warming party I received a phone call to say the Bonaparte's Gull was back at the Gull roost. By then though I wouldn't have reached the site before nightfall anyway (as well as ruining the families plans for the evening) so I went out and started to think of a plan to get there very early in the morning instead as that was going to be my last day off for 5 days. I woke up very early and headed to Boddington reservoir reaching the site before daybreak. This posed another problem as I have never been here before in daylight let along in the dark. I found a car park and headed down a path all the time hearing the disconcerting noise of Gulls already leaving the roost above my head. My plan this morning was to be perfectly honest a bit of a shot in the dark as Gulls normally do leave roosts early on, and by the time there is any kind of light they are quite often all gone - but if you don't try then you won't succeed! The path went passed the yacht club and eventually I found a gate on the right, I have no idea if i was supposed to go through it but I did anyway, and soon found myself on the shoreline with a good view of the water. To my relief a lot of the Gulls were still on the water and a large raft of Gulls could be seen by the dam. I scanned from left the right, and then from right to left and back again before finally finding a bird in among all the Black Heads that was noticeably smaller than the others. It had it's back to me but zooming in on the scope also showed it to have a darker mantle than the others too! "Could this be it?" I asked myself and gradually the bird rotated round in the water showing a distinctive black ear spot and a small black bill. This was it! I couldn't quite believe my luck and I managed a few more  minutes of viewing before it before it flew up and over the dam with a lot of the other Black headed Gulls vacating the roost. As the weather wasn't too good and the early morning light was a little dull I couldn't grab any decent pics but luckily local birder Bob Bullock managed to get these images on the previous evening showing the Bonaparte's. You can see the smaller size, darker mantle, distinct black ear spot and small black bill not only clearly in these pics, but as an added bonus you can compare the features with the Black Headed Gulls surrounding it.

Bonaparte's Gull, Boddington Reservoir, Northants - c.Bob Bullock

Bonaparte's Gull, Boddington Reservoir, Northants - c.Bob Bullock
Bonaparte's Gull, Boddington Reservoir, Northants - c.Bob Bullock
The weather then proceeded to turn nasty again so I went home and watched the Grand Prix while the rain poured and poured. Eventually it eased of so I spent the final part of the day at one of my local patches Clifford Hill. I am pleased to say winter is starting to arrive here too with a large flock of Golden Whirling around. I did the check for anything more juicy but to no avail. Also the Lapwings are now forming larger flocks, with about a hundred or so doing constant laps of the gravel pit whenever anything disturbed them. Another nice surprise was a single drake Goosander having a preen on the central peninsular, this being the first one of the winter for me. Not a bad weekend despite the weather, with the added benefit of a lifer too! 


3 comments:

  1. Your perserverence paid off, i have to admit when my firm said they were shifting to a continental shif pattern (4 days on, 4 days off, 10 hour shifts) I was gutted, but it turns out to be an ideal system for birding.

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  2. Hi Douglas yes it certainly does - as does a lot of luck too :0)
    The shift pattern sounds ideal! I used to be on something similar as I drive for a living so if I work a weekend I need to take time off in the week not to breach tacho regulations but for some reason they have been putting me on Monday to Friday - which to most people sounds like a dream but I quite like my week days off as there's not too many people about.

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  3. Well done and congratulations on finding the gull Dave.
    I think I'd have easily overlooked that one.

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