Monday, 30 April 2018

Bony's back

Bonaparte's Gull, named for the Emperor's nephew rather than the great man himself, is an American species which, until 2015, had been a very rare visitor to Dorset. A long-staying bird in Weymouth that year started a run of records which has seen at least one occur in the county every year since.
Bonaparte's Gull, Longham Lakes on 15 April
Note partial Ashy-grey hood, dark bill and pink legs
A shade smaller than the local Black-headed Gulls
The bird came in really close to feed on some bait thrown out by a fisherman
Dip-feeding and pattering on the surface, reminiscent of a Storm Petrel
The Bonaparte's (bottom right) was getting some hassle from Black-headed Gulls but held its own in the melee
Last year I managed to catch up with a first summer Bonaparte's Gull at Longham Lakes, and what is presumed to be the same bird reappeared there earlier in 2018. When first relocated in March just a few flecks of dark feathering could be seen on the head as it moulted into second summer plumage. I first hooked up with it a few weekends ago when these flecks had developed into a mottled, ashy grey hood. This had developed further still by the time I last saw it on 22 April. Quite amazing to study the photographic records which show that particular plumage feature advancing on a daily basis.
Bonaparte's Gull, Longham Lakes on 22 April
A little more distant on this occasion - but still very smart
A view of the upperwing...
...and the paler underwing (compared to Black-headed Gull)
Compare the key features in this shot with....
The more familiar Black-headed Gull
As if often the case, Longham Lakes had a good supporting cast for the Bonaparte's Gull - a smart drake Scaup was present on one of my visits, Great Crested Grebes were in their breeding finery and the first Reed Warblers of the spring gave themselves away with their scratchy song in the reedbeds.
Drake Scaup with Tufted Duck
Great Crested Grebes
Great Crested Grebe
Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Bonaparte's Gull

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