A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Friday, 30 September 2016

Greenish Warbler and Franklin's Gull up North!

With Greenish Warbler being a predominately east coast bird that rarely makes it across to the north west, I was still yet to see this charming autumn migrant despite many visits to Spurn and other east coast localities during September. Therefore, when an individual in Cleveland developed a pattern of showing well in a small patch of trees during the week and on in to the weekend, it provided the perfect opportunity to finally catch up with this much needed autumn warbler.
Greenish Warbler - Saltburn, Cleveland
With Alex only having previously seen very brief views of a Greenish Warbler before a number of years ago, he decided to drive the 2 ½ hour journey to take us up to the north east, the very real prospect of the adult Franklin’s Gull in Northumberland making a reappearance during the day firmly at the back of his mind!

Arriving at Saltburn and heading east along the cliff top path beside the Ship Inn pub, we were soon looking straight in to the dell that the Greenish had been favouring, the bird immediately on show in the small Sycamore saplings directly below and giving absolutely amazing views as it flitted between the leaves.
Greenish Warbler - Saltburn, Cleveland
Similar in size and structure to an Arctic Warbler or Chiffchaff, we could clearly see the single white wingbar on the wings along with the broad white supercilium, differing from the often similar Arctics by having it extending through on to the forehead.
Greenish Warbler - Saltburn, Cleveland
Greenish Warbler - Saltburn, Cleveland
Watching this spritely individual for well over an hour, it appeared to stick to just the one tree filled hollow, not venturing out of this area during our time there and working its way back and forth between the bushes.
Cleveland Way, Saltburn
The small section of bushes in the dell the Greenish Warbler was favouring
Having not checked our phones whilst watching the Greenish, I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see the Franklin’s Gull had made a reappearance an hour earlier at Whittle Dene reservoirs, just under an hour and a half further north from where we currently were.
Cleveland Way, Saltburn
Cleveland Way, Saltburn
The beautiful views from Saltburn!
With Alex driving, he made the decision that we should try for the double, heading north up the A1 with our arrival time estimated to be nearly 6pm. With the Franklin’s Gull heading off to roost at around 7pm the previous day, this gave us around an hour’s window to connect – it could prove tricky especially if the bird was mobile. Then, disaster struck – being literally 5 minutes away from the site and travelling down the winding farm lanes heading towards the reservoirs, news came on that there was no further sign – nightmare!

Not giving up and spotting a mass of gulls congregating in a ploughed field, all dive-bombing the freshly turned soil behind the tractor in the search for unearthed invertebrates, we trawled through the numerous Black-headed and Common Gulls in the hope of spotting the Franklin’s.

After several sweeps through the scope and with hundreds of gulls getting up from the neighbouring field and flying off towards the reservoirs, we headed east to see if the Franklin’s Gull had returned to the field it had been seen in yesterday evening. Walking along the reservoir track and dodging the hundreds of mozzies buzzing around our heads, again we were met with the sight of lines upon lines of gulls, clearly gathering in a pre-roost.
Whittle Dene Reservoirs, Northumberland
The picturesque evening light over Whittle Dene Reservoirs
With no sign of the Franklin’s in with the hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls, a stroke of luck saw a birder running down the track towards us, arms flailing in the air to get our attention and shouting madly. This could only mean one thing – Franklin’s!

Immediately, the 10 or so gathered birders, me and Alex included, legged it down the path, rushing over the fence and setting up our scopes on the opposite field, faces flushed and hearts pumping furiously.

Squinting through the scope, finally we had our prize – one smart looking winter plumaged Franklin’s Gull happily strutting along the clods of earth and picking at any morsels disturbed in the soil.
Franklin's Gull - Whittle Dene Reservoirs, Northumberland
Much smaller than I had expected and with the head pattern much more subtle than I had imagined, zooming in revealed a number of diagnostic features to confirm the ID. The thick white crescent shapes above and below the eye were clear to see, as was the slightly darker mantle and blackish bill. The head pattern was also a giveaway from the Black-headed Gulls, being much more extensive and forming a large dark black patch behind the eye and up on to the head.
Franklin's Gull - Whittle Dene Reservoirs, Northumberland
With the Derbyshire bird in 2010 being before my time and with all subsequent Franklin’s Gulls in recent years being just a touch too far away in Hampshire and Essex, it was great to finally catch up with this Yankee rarity.

Not being a huge fan of gulls personally (they all look the same!) I had to admit that I did especially enjoy the Franklin’s – the thrill of the bird being there against the odds when it looked like we would dip (as well as the relief that we wouldn’t have to shell out for a hotel to stay over and try again the next day) made it, along with the Laughing Gull at New Brighton, one of the more memorable gull twitches!
Alex's Franklin's Gull video

Having scored with both our targets, we headed back to Cheshire happy and content, having secured great views of both birds after what was hopefully the start of a promising and fruitful autumn. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...