Saturday 24 February 2018

White-wingers in Weymouth

I have often wondered whether the island outside the Radipole Lake visitor centre has hosted more rare birds per square metre than any other piece of real estate in the country. If it didn't before today it took a step in the right direction when an exquisite adult Ross's Gull, present in the area since Wednesday, paid a visit. This high arctic species is a great favourite amongst British birders, making very occasional appearances on these shores. The last one I saw was in neighbouring Devon, a tatty juvenile bird, a contrast to today's dapper adult.
Ross's Gull as it flew from Radipole Lake towards Weymouth Bay
Ross's Gull breeds in Siberia, Greenland and northern Canada
Only the 3rd occurrence in Dorset and the first since 1974
Son George and I had been dropped off in Weymouth by his mum and had planned to get the train home so thanks are due to the Mitchells for getting us back to Wareham, and to the kind chap from London who gave us a lift from Lodmoor to Radipole when the Ross's Gull was relocated there in the early afternoon. George is not a huge fan of birding, but he enjoyed the people watching. Desperate twitchers screeched to a halt in the Radipole Car Park wild-eyed and breathless, muscling their way to a good view like sharp-elbowed parents getting their kids into the best schools. Within minutes of seeing the bird, he observed, they were transformed into grinning idiots, generously offering new arrivals a look through their telescopes and slapping the backs of their travelling companions.
Wing-stretching in the harsh light of mid-afternoon...
...followed by a yawn revealing a Black Guillemot style gape
Note the short red legs
Earlier at Lodmoor, while we had been jogging on the spot to keep the cold at bay, hoping the Ross's Gull would drop in there, a couple of rather more substantial white-winged gulls had provided some good practice for finding the right exposure with the camera: not that I'm complaining, it was lovely crisp weather, but white birds in dark landscapes in the midday sun? Not easy.
The whiter of the two Glaucous Gulls at Lodmoor - note the pale iris
This is the more mottled of the two Glaucous Gulls - note the beadier dark eye
And here both Glaucous Gulls together - the one on the left a particularly fine specimen
With Thayer's, Ring-billed, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls all being seen at Blashford Lakes just over the border into Hampshire, intrepid birders who left Weymouth in the early afternoon could have clocked up double figures in gull species in a single day. We were quite happy though to stick around Weymouth, enjoying a major Dorset rarity and a handsome selection of waders on display at Lodmoor.
Lapwing, Lodmoor
Common Snipe, Lodmoor
Spoonbills, including a Dutch-ringed Bird, Lodmoor
Ross's Gull, Radipole Lake