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, 17 March 2017

Bonaparte's Gull at Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire!

Bonaparte’s Gull is a species that has been a long time coming for my British list, having never gone for the returning Anglesey bird from 2009 to 2011 and with no other tempting individuals turning up nearby in the years since. Therefore, when a 2nd winter bird appeared on Swithland Reservoir in Leicestershire on the Sunday morning it was all systems go in an attempt to finally connect with this dainty trans-Atlantic visitor. 
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Bonaparte's Gull at Swithland Reservoir!
Arriving on Kinchley Lane on the northern edge of the reservoir just after lunch, we were dismayed to learn it had flown off high no more than ten minutes earlier, leaving just a handful of Black-headed Gulls present on the water. Speaking to the assembled birders it came as something of a reassurance that the Bonaparte’s had done this at least three times already during the day - returning back to the reservoir after a period of absence each time - and we hoped it would follow the same pattern this afternoon.  
Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Sure enough, after just over an hour of scanning both the sky and the reservoir from our vantage point of the dam, the gulls slowly started to reappear, singles and pairs of Black-headed Gulls alighting on the water swiftly followed by a large flock consisting of around 50 birds – the Bonaparte’s had to be amongst them surely! Scanning through the newly arrived individuals it wasn’t long until Alex called out that he had it – success and Bonaparte’s in the bag!
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Floating next to the assorted Black-headed Gulls the differences were subtle yet apparent, although without careful scanning and a keen eye, it could easily have been overlooked. Once you’d got your eye in however it was easy to pick out, the slightly smaller and daintier size in comparison to the Black-headed Gulls the main standout feature, along with the thin all black bill and darker grey nape, mantle and chest which all helped to distinguish it.
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Comparison of the smaller Bonaparte's alongside the Black-headed Gulls
Offering distant but satisfactory views through the scope, we fired off a couple of phonescoped record shots and watched on as it paddled around for a good ten minutes or so before departing, flying off over the conifer trees to feed.
Bonaparte's Gull - Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
Swithland Reservoir, Leicestershire
With no sign the following day or indeed since, it seems we well and truly jammed in on this small American gull, a great little bird to catch up with and refreshing to get one relatively close to home! 

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