Monday, 3 January 2011

Oh dear...

... three days into yearlisting and I've turned into a twitcher. Today we went to Westcliff-on-sea in Essex to look for 'Rossi', the famous Ring-billed Gull who's been wintering there since 2004. On the way, we decided to call in at Pitsea to look for Waxwings - but then I spotted a flock in a roadside tree on the A13, close to a parking layby, and bullied Rob to turn around at the next roundabout. Naturally, when we came back they had gone. So it was on to Pitsea, where we got lost trying to find our way into the big supermarket carpark where the birds had been seen yesterday. However, our convoluted approach proved fruitful, as we found a flock of Waxwings down a side road on the way.

There were probably about 30 of them. They were not feeding but sitting about in the treetops, occasionally having a little fly around and constantly calling, their trills a pleasant contrast to the squeaks and rattles of the many Starlings that were sharing their trees.

It wasn't the photographic cornucopia I'd hoped for, as they were quite high up and the light wasn't great.

Nevertheless, it was great to spend a bit of time with such stunning and charismatic creatures. A car pulled up while we were there and the driver told us that this particular road had attracted Waxwings on many occasions. Not sure why, there seemed to be nothing for them to feed on here.

We had a bit of time before we needed to be in Westcliff (I'd read that the best time was 2-4 hours either side of high tide, and today high tide was 11.30ish) so we looked in at the nearby Wat Tyler Country Park. The tide being what it was, there were few waders to see on the creek, but I did add Black-tailed Godwit to the yearlist. This looks like a great place for a birding day, we'll have to come back another time.

This fine fellow was in a field by the access track, just trotting along looking fairly relaxed. When we pulled over and wound down the window, he loped away to the safety of the miniature railway track, from where he shot us baleful looks.

On to Westcliff, where we located the coast road and drove along it til we found Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour, the haunt of Rossi the gull, and scored a nearby free parking place by some mad streak of luck. There were lots of gulls floating about in the very calm sea, nearly all of them Black-headed.

 New for the yearlist - a Turnstone. It and half a dozen of its friends were skittering along the shingly shore, in the company of Feral Pigeons.

Scanning my way through the gulls, I found no Rossi but there were a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, sadly too far out for nice photos. First time I've photographed them in winter plumage, and of course a new species for the yearlist.

Someone put some bread out for the gulls up on the promenade, and I took a look through the bins and thought I spotted Rossi among them. I took a couple of insurance pics and then we hurried over - too late, the melee was all over by the time we were anywhere near.

Examination of the pics showed that I had indeed spotted Rossi - he muscled through the swirling Black-heads to land on the wall and take his share of bread. Great photo opportunities if we'd been up there. We decided to give it a little longer.

Every Common Gull made me look twice. They are somewhat similar to Ring-bills - only a little smaller, with yellowy legs and even the suggestion of a ring on the bill. This photo shows the bill mark is more of a smudge than a neat ring, and also shows the Common's dark eyes - Ring-bills are pale-eyed, and more extensive white in the wingtip.

Finally, a really good candidate flew out - yes, it was Rossi himself. He settled on a breakwater that was just appearing as the tide retreated. I went over for a closer look, aware that this bird is well known to be approachable and tolerant of humans.

And there we have it. Lovely neat bill ring, pale mantle, pale eye, yellow legs. I took a lot of shots, inching closer until the Black-heads started looking twitchy (though Rossi himself didn't seem at all bothered) then rejoined a relieved Rob to get in the car and warm up.

1 comment:

IOW Birder said...

Lovely waxwing photos, Im hoping to see some myself. Ive only been birding since january, but not much time left to see them now before spring.
Check out my blog on: http://iow-birder.blogspot.com/
As I said im new to birding, but I love photography, so hope to combine the two hobbies into one!!
Cheers,
Dave