Sunday 11 November 2012

Yes tonight, Josephine...

Mr Blyth obliged me the week before last with decent views of his Reed Warbler. Last week was the turn of Mr Bonaparte and his Gull. I dug out my copy of Whose Bird? by Bo Beolens and Michael Watkins to check precisely which Bonaparte gave his name to this dainty visitor from North America. For the record, it was Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte - nephew of the Emperor Napoleon. The Prince pioneered the cataloguing of all the birds of the world, and although he died before completing the task, his was a major contribution towards its compilation.

Anyway, one of the Prince's Gulls had been reported on and off at Dawlish Warren since mid-October, and as I had never photographed this species well I thought I would try my luck. What light there was was already fading as I arrived. A kindly birder in the car park gave me his ticket as he was just leaving, but also reported that there were virtually no birds about. As I approached the beach, I could see that he wasn't wrong - just one in fact: a Bonaparte's Gull, the only bird I could see on the sea for about a half-a-mile.

It was very distant at first, and I cursed myself for not bringing the essentials of good gull fieldcraft - a bag of chips and some bread. I needn't have worried - within a few minutes it flew in to the beach to feed in the surf and perch on the groynes (it seemed to favour groynes 1 and 2, which are marked on the maps on site and on-line). With uncharacteristic presence of mind I had worn my wellies so was able to walk into the surf and wait for it to fly past, or come back to the nearest groyne.

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