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North Sea Thread (1 Viewer)

Gander

Well-known member
10th Jan

Counted 60+ Herring Gulls and 10+ GBBs in the morning, but quite far out. In the afternoon they came in closer, and I was able to pick out two Glaucous Gulls. One I pictured in yesterday's post, and the other, a 1W bird is pictured below.

I have also received some good information from the NSBC to help me differentiate between the Glaucous and Iceland. I am told that with Glaucous, the primary feathers projection beyond the tail is the same length or shorter than the bill. The Iceland on the other hand has a much more attenuated look, with the primary projection beyong the tail being greater than the bill length. You can certainly see that principle clearly in the Glauc picture below.

It's a slow process, but I am starting to learn. :t:

Also counted yesterday were the 2 Scoters, 13 Kittiwake and a lone Fulmar. Another big storm has rolled in, so it looks like I won't be getting home today or even tomorrow. I'll just have to keep counting gulls!
 

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Hugh Addlesee

Well-known member
I have also received some good information from the NSBC to help me differentiate between the Glaucous and Iceland. I am told that with Glaucous, the primary feathers projection beyond the tail is the same length or shorter than the bill. The Iceland on the other hand has a much more attenuated look, with the primary projection beyong the tail being greater than the bill length. You can certainly see that principle clearly in the Glauc picture below.

The attenuated look of Iceland Gulls is certainly readily apparent in side-on views (both due to the longer primary projection and the slighter tertial step) and that rule-of-thumb (from the Collins Guide) can be applied. The views you're getting make that less easy though, with the relative lengths difficult to assess, e.g. it's difficult to judge the angle of the bill and therefore its length, at least from photos. I think FPS is right to say that some are better left as undetermined. It's great that you're getting lots of practice to get your eye in though!
 

Gander

Well-known member
Extra Day - Extra Glaucous.

Due to extreme weather conditions yesterday, I have had to spend an extra day on the platform. Despite mountainous seas, eighty mph winds, hail, snow and lightening strikes on the derrick, there were still birds to see. Ninety plus Herring Gulls, a smattering of GBBGs, thirteen Kittiwakes, a couple of Fulmars, the two resident Common Scoter and the 1W Glaucous Gull that's been hanging around for a couple of days.

Today, the wind has dropped a bit. Herring Gull count was up over one hundred and sixty birds, with ten GBBs & ten Kittiwake. No sign of the Scoters this morning, but I didn't spend much time looking due to the blizzard conditions. What I did spot though were three 1W Glaucous really close in to the platform.

I can't tell you if this has been a particularly good Winter for white winged gulls. I'll be honest and say that last year, I didn't really know they existed. Have I been seeing them and just not identifying them in the past? Very likely. The first bird I noticed this year was swooping about right in front of me at close range. I had to look it up to see what it was, but after that I been deliberately looking for them in the gull flocks. From the records I have, they are not often reported from other platforms either, but I wonder if that is because they are not actively being searched for.

I have also noticed that reports from Shetland indicate a good year for the white wings. We are not two far away relatively speaking, so it is no surprise that what I'm seeing should mirror the Shetland reports. I noticed on a Twitter from there that they are hoping for the Northerly winds to bring them Ross's Gulls. I looked them up last night just in case, and spent a few extra minutes checking out our Kittiwake a bit more closely, just in case.
 

Gander

Well-known member
And I'm back. Three weeks of counting gulls ahead.

Not much about today. thirty five Herring Gulls, five GBBG & four Kittiwake. Grey Seal under the platform. No white winged gulls or sea ducks, but it is early yet.

NSBC annual report for 2015 is due out soon, so I'm looking forward to that.
 

Gander

Well-known member
It has been pretty grim for the last few days. Small resident flock of Herring Gull, with a few Kittiwake and GBBGs mixed in. The odd Gannet and Fulmar passing by have been the only change. This morning, I went out at eight AM to make my usual count for the day. This only takes a five to ten minute circuit of the platform, but today I was quicker, as there was nothing to count. Not a single bird! Nothing! Zero! Nada! Nil! Diddly Squat!!!

An hour or so ago though, I noticed relief forces had arrived. Initially looked like just a flock of Herring Gull, but as I watched, a large white winged gull came to the fore. The platform's first ever February Glaucous Gull had arrived to break the tedium.

Now, if I can just find a King Eider!
 
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Gander

Well-known member
Icelanders

The Glaucous Gull has not been seen today, but we do now have two Iceland Gulls in amongst the Herring Gulls. I have to admit that I only spotted one of the IGs, a juvenile, at first. I grabbed a photo of it, then when I looked at the photo on the computer screen, I found that it had been sitting close to an adult. First IG adult I've ever seen. I've been back out since and had a good look at both birds.
 

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Hugh Addlesee

Well-known member
The Glaucous Gull has not been seen today, but we do now have two Iceland Gulls in amongst the Herring Gulls. I have to admit that I only spotted one of the IGs, a juvenile, at first. I grabbed a photo of it, then when I looked at the photo on the computer screen, I found that it had been sitting close to an adult. First IG adult I've ever seen. I've been back out since and had a good look at both birds.

Nice! Good to hear the gulls are still providing entertainment.
 

Gander

Well-known member
Roll on springtime

Monday's Iceland Gulls were gone by Tuesday, and they took the small Herring Gull flock with them. No surprise as we had high winds and heavy seas throughout Tuesday. Wind and sea died down on Wednesday, but the temperature has dropped significantly and we are getting sporadic outbursts of snow.

Only birds around now are Herring & GBB Gulls in their ones and twos, along with a handful of Kittiwakes, and a single Gannet.

Roll on springtime.
 

Gander

Well-known member
Black Day

Saturday was a black day! The platform's first ever recorded birdless day. And that despite fairly good weather. Sunday looked like it was going to mirror Saturday, but a single Kittiwake flew by in the afternoon, and a single Herring Gull turned up late in the day.

Today has been better. A small (11) group of GBBGs greeted me before sun up. Half a dozen Herring Gulls were also present, and later in the morning we had two Kittiwake. Slim pickings, but gratefully received.

The NSBC annual report for 2015 has now been mailed out. It'll be over a week before I can get home to read mine, but I noticed in the photo that accompanied the mail out announcement on Facebook, that the first ever Little Egret has been reported offshore.
 

Gander

Well-known member
List Update

Well, as you can see from my post at lunch time, thing have been pretty quiet here. This afternoon however, thing took a real turn for the better and produced a new entry to the platform's year list. While taking a tour around the platform, I found a Guillemot in close proximity.

Now, finding a Guillemot in the North Sea is hardly a seismic birding event, but a new bird on the year list in February means a lot to me. I was actually worried that I might not get a Guillemot this year. Last year, I had quite a few over a period of a few weeks early in the year, but they were always at night time and gone by daybreak. That is with the exception of one bird seen a few days after Christmas ( see photo above in post 111# ). I don't work nights much anymore, so the possibility of missing out on Guillemots was in the back of my mind. Now I can relax and wait on the King Eider I've ordered up. :t:

The List Updated
1. Herring Gull
2. Great Black-Backed Gull
3. Glaucous Gull
4. Iceland Gull
5. Fulmar
6. Kittiwake
7. Long-Tailed Duck
8. Common Scoter
9. Gannet
10. Guillemot
 

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Gander

Well-known member
Unexpected Visitors

If yesterday's Guillemot could be described as unsurprising, today's visitors surely cannot fall into that catagory. A lovely bright and mild winter's day had me making my usual gull count in the late morning. The GBBGs have moved on, but the Herring Gulls are starting to return, although still not reaching double figures. Kittiwakes are still around - six today, although difficult to count as they whirl about. A single adult Gannet was also seen to pass by.

While counting the gulls on the water, I noticed a larger bird a little apart from them. The monocular revealed that this was no gull. It was a Greylag - my first goose of the year, and at a very expected time. Later, I was able to return with a camera and take a couple of record shots. While doing this, a bird flew in towards the platform structure above me. A quick search and I found a Collared Dove perched on a steel beam, eyeing me warily. A couple of record shots taken, I backed away to let it have what must be a well needed rest.

Where these two birds were coming from or heading too, I have no idea. I've never seen birds like these out here at this time of year.
 

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Gander

Well-known member
List Update

Since the goose and dove spots on Tuesday, it has been pretty quiet again. A few Herring Gulls and Kittiwake, with the odd GBBG and Gannet thrown in. I can't complain though. If you had said to me at the beginning of this trip that I would get three year ticks in February, with Guillemot, Greylag and Collared Dove, I'd never have believed it.

I've checked back on the NSBC records that I have. These are the annual reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015. Greylag are pretty scarce, with only one bird reported in those three years. We had two in 2016, but they were in August. Still can't work out what Tuesday's bird was doing out here? Maybe something to do with the strangely mild weather?

Just under a week to go, so still time for a King Eider. :t:

The List Updated
1. Herring Gull
2. Great Black-Backed Gull
3. Glaucous Gull
4. Iceland Gull
5. Fulmar
6. Kittiwake
7. Long-Tailed Duck
8. Common Scoter
9. Gannet
10. Guillemot
11. Greylag Goose
12. Collared Dove
 

Gander

Well-known member
It has been relatively quiet sice the excitment of Tuesday. First indications from the NSBC is that the Collared Dove looks like the first ever recorded for February in its 30+ year history.

Weather is still very mild, but the wind has swung right around from being predominantly out of the SE over the last few weeks, to now being out of the NW. Hopefully, it might bring some fresh birds in.

Since Tuesday, it has been standard fare. Herring Gulls predominate, but in small numbers - less than twenty on all counts. Kittiwakes ever present in single number counts. And the odd passing Gannet and Fulmar. There is also a Common seal hanging about.

Today however, we had our second Guillemot of the year, although it is quite possible that it is the same bird spotted last week. A welcome sighting none the less, and another small victory while I await the arrival of a King Eider. :t:
 

Gander

Well-known member
Fresh Gull

Wind has strengthened to 40 knots and is now coming directly out of the East, bring rain with it. I am not complaining though, as it also brought a fresh Iceland Gull (1st W).
 

Gander

Well-known member
Corrections

Wind has strengthened to 40 knots and is now coming directly out of the East, bring rain with it. I am not complaining though, as it also brought a fresh Iceland Gull (1st W).

Two mistakes in that post. Wind was (is) blowing out of the West, and the Iceland Gull is (was) a 2nd W.
 

Gander

Well-known member
Stuck again

Supposed to be heading home tomorrow, but does not look like the choppers will be flying due to another storm set to rattle through.

On the bright side, yesterday's Iceland Gull has turned up again. I managed to get a half descent photo this time. ID confirmed on the Bird ID Q&A pages (Thanks AW). I was fairly sure, but the beak looked a little heavy, though not long enough for Glauc.

Other birds around today were Herring Gull, Fulmar, Kittiwake, GBBG and Gannet.
 

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Gander

Well-known member
Every cloud.....

Due to high winds and mountainous seas, I am still present at the platform. |8(|

Despite high winds and mountainous seas, the juvenile Iceland Gull is still present at the platform. :D
 

Gander

Well-known member
2015 Report

Over the last couple of weeks I've had a good look at the North Sea Bird Club 2015 report. It makes interesting reading.

One hundred and five different species of birds reported from twenty installations. Highlights are Little Egret, Wryneck, Gyrfalcon, Great Grey Shrike and Lapland bunting, although there are other birds reported that don't wouldn't raise an eyebrow onshore, but are pretty rare offshore. The report of one Little Grebe for the year being a good example.

I now have the annual reports for 2015, 2014 and 2013, so have been able to look for any trends, and in the case of my own platform, any differences in what I'm seeing compared to other platforms.

It would seem that we are a little bit too far North to get the best of the passerine movements, but judging by the numbers I've put in over the last year and a bit, since starting to report, it would seem that my platform is the gull and wildfowl capital of the North Sea. Although it has to be borne in mind that most of my figures are for 2016, so I can't see what the others have been reporting for that period. They may well have had an upsurge in gull and wildfowl numbers that mirrors what I've seen last year.

Other points of interest include that there have been no swans reported in four years. Strange, as there must be thousands passing overhead during migration. Also, Yellow Browed Warblers have seen a dramatic upturn in reporting over the last ten years. I believe this has been reflected onshore.

One other point worthy of note, is the first ever record of birds breeding successfully of a platform. The birds were Kittiwakes that nested on a platform in Morecambe Bay.

I'm already looking forward to the 2016 annual report. It will be the first report that I will have contributed to over a full year, and with Glaucous Gull and Velvet Scoter not having been mentioned in the previous three annual reports, I know that we could be pushing the total bird count for the year, along with Greylag, Long-tailed Duck, Pink-Footed Goose and Icterine Warbler, that did not appear on last years list.
 

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