Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An American gull in London

I've been watching the reports of Londons second (possibly even first as the other report has it's doubters) Bonaparte's Gull over the last couple of days hoping it'll stick until I can catch up with the visitor form across the pond. Still being reported last night so as I was working local and woke early I decided to give it a go. 5am and I'm on the road to do the 13 miles to the north Thames shore at Barking. Two hours and nothing to report save a few Shelducks, Cormorants and an Oyster catcher so I'm forced to abandon the mission and get to work. I'm not too surprised as the bird has been reported as showing better on the Kent side from Cross Ness so I'm now committed to getting it later in the day.

Arriving at Cross Ness from Fairway Drive I walk past the golf centre and make my way to the water treatment outfall which I suppose is about half a mile away. Once I get nearer I find Adam W already searching but despite a couple of hopeful birds we don't pin down the Bonaparte's. Another group of four eager birders from south London arrive and tell me they have been on site all day and haven't yet seen it which gives me great encouragement as you can imagine. The group splits up and I find myself with one of the south London guys and as I say I think I have it he turns to say the same but before we can confirm the detail to our satisfaction the bird drifts behind the jetty out of view. Excited by the brief "possible" he calls the others back and we spend the next half an hour waiting for another view from the otherside of the jetty but it doesn't appear. As the tide comes in the Black Headed Gulls start to drop in and sit on the river either side of the jetty and after watching and searching and scanning and scanning nothing appears apart from a couple of juvenile Black Heads. I decide it's time to leave and Adam agrees so we make the walk back together and just as we reach the golf course centre the sea wall becomes low enough again to look over so we decide on one final look and find a large group of Black Heads drifting past. I find what I think looks a good bird in the bins and ask Adam to take a look in his scope and BINGO! WE HAVE A LIFER! The Bonaparte's Gull is drifting past...more slender than Black Heads, A distinct egg shaped black spot behind the ear and that give away small black bill. I walked back to the other group and the walk now feels like over a mile but they have moved on so I posted it and hoped they'd pick it up. Another group of locals turn up just as a small boat puts all the birds up. A difficult twitch but a good learning curve to have to find it. Nice to meet Adam and enjoyed his company on the twitch. He actually lives near me and supports the Arsenal, small world! 239 now on the year list with 11 left to achieve the target set of 250.....I'm starting to think I'll get there.

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