Thursday, 23 September 2010

Wash and brush up time.

Last night, for reason unknown, I had a problem connecting to the WEB, so this is yesterdays post, a second class imaginary stamp?

As always, when your instinct tells you to go and check a site because there's going to be something good, it is difficult to turn down that feeling. More often and not there's nothing much there, and in today's currency so it turned out yesterday. The evening at the Restharrow scrape can be quite busy, with lots of birds coming in for a wash and brush up. When watching the gulls dropping in it is always worth checking them, just in case.

In front of the hide a group of Teal were tidying up their feathers. Preening is a very important occupation, the oil from the preen gland renews the waterproofing and as the nights get cooler well maintained feathers help retain heat and save energy.

Most of the gulls coming in were Black-headed, with a few herring and the odd Lesser Black-backed. Common Gulls, not here in the summer are just starting to return and there's an adult on the right at the back.

I said there wasn't much there by today's standards, a few years ago the Mediterranean Gull flying in the centre of this group would have been an unusual occurrence, but today there are a common sight in Kent. I still think the adults, with their pure white and rounder wings, giving a more elegant flight, are one of the more attractive gulls. By now they've lost the black heads of summer, as Black-headed Gulls have lost their brown heads (what's in a name?). Today I saw about four adult Meds. In addition there was one second year birds, with quite extensive black tips retained on the outer primaries and one with very small black marks on the outer tips, which may have been a 3rd winter birds.

Although Mediterranean Gulls are slightly larger than Black-headed Gulls this is very easy to see when they are on the water. They do have a slightly heavier, darker bill with a slightly droopy profile.
First winter birds have a wing pattern that is more reminiscent of a first winter Common Gull that a Black-headed Gull. The bird here with it's wings raised has the characteristic dark patch on the ear coverts and dark bull. The legs are dark, in adults they are dark red in winter, but young birds have blackish legs until the spring when they get a reddish tinge. In the photo I've noticed that the bird has a ring on the right leg.

Other than the drakes in breeding plumage Teal are little brown ducks, but a closer look shows just how attractive they are.

As the sun got low a Dabchick fed in the shallows just in front of the hide, but there was no sign of that mystical rarity that drew me to while away an hour or so in unfulfilled anticipation.

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