Sunday, 11 November 2012

A trip to the Caspian 11 November 2012


Adult Caspian Gull c Gnome
Late afternoon on Sunday, sunny but cold, found me venturing out onto Port Meadow in the company of many other of my fellow humans enjoying the sunshine. My aim was to see the adult Caspian Gull that Gnome had discovered the evening before. At first I tried looking from the 'usual' spot by the entrance to Burgess Field but the sun was now quite low on the horizon making viewing difficult. So there was no choice but to schlep round to the other side of the flood by the river, where viewing the gulls would be much better with the sun behind me. It was a bit of a trek and the ground by the river was much waterlogged, churned up by animals and in places was just sheer liquid mud underfoot. Needless to say I had not bothered to don wellington boots. Too late now. No turning back. I was on a mission. I eventually made my way out to opposite the gull roost by way of the boardwalk alongside the moored boats, then crossing a small stream with a hazardous 'sink up to over your ankles in mud' feature on both banks. Amazingly there were other people out walking here with normal shoes on and even people jogging, seemingly oblivious to the mud and water splattering up their legs and soaking their feet. I set up my scope and scanned the small flock of gulls and bingo, virtually the first large gull I looked at was the Caspian. A real beauty of a gull with it's long, dull yellow, parallel sided beak, black, boot button eyes in it's all white head and showing the diagnostic white tongue on the underside of the outer primary to good effect. I just stood and enjoyed looking at it in the sunshine and because there were relatively few roosting gulls present at this hour it was not obscured and I got to see it clearly and very well. 

Perhaps because of the regular procession of people that are attracted to Port Meadow the gulls here also seem less wary than usual and allow a comparatively close approach. An attractive Eastern European lady asked to look through my scope and what was I looking at? Irresistible. I acquainted her with the diagnostic features of a Caspian Gull. Well she did ask! Her eyes started to glaze over. "Zank you so much. You are most kind" she stuttered as she slithered off as fast as possible across the morasse. 

Jarrod sensibly clad in wellington boots joined me and I pointed out the Caspian to him. Five Dunlin flew past and two Common Redshank fed on the edges of the flood. Lapwings and Golden Plover wheeled around before coming back to earth and Common Snipe crouched like brown divots on the exposed mud. Gnome called on my mobile. "Can you see the Caspian?" 'Yes it's showing really well. We are over on the far side.' Gnome eventually joined us across the muddy wastes and together we watched the gull roost slowly build up in numbers, finding three possibly four Yellow legged Gulls also in the roost. The light slowly faded and we headed back for the sanctuary of dry land, slipping and sliding through mud and pools of water.

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