Wednesday 4 July 2012

Top billing at Startops 4 July 2012

A first summer Sabine's Gull should normally be far from these shores, either out in the mid Atlantic or somewhere near its Arctic breeding grounds but as is occasionally the way one of these lovely birds turned up about as far inland as possible in Great Britain at Startops Reservoir near Tring, Hertfordshire. How it arrived there is anyone's guess but presumably the endless rain and strong southwest winds in this awful spring and early summer had something to do with it. Being only just the other side of Aylesbury and relatively near to my home it was only right that I should go and pay homage, especially as it is not often one  gets the opportunity to study at leisure a bird of this species in first summer plumage. Collecting Badger at Kidlington we soon found ourselves at the reservoir and after a short search found the gull resting on one of the straw bales which are floated in the reservoir to keep the water free of algae. After a few minutes this gem took to the air and put on a grandstand performance swooping down like a tern and deftly picking invertebrates from the water's surface. 

Indeed so grandstand was its performance that it came within literally a few feet of us as it patrolled the water alongside the bank. We looked down on this apparition of black, white and grey as it flew along below us apparently totally without fear. I wondered if it had ever seen humans before? It had two favoured areas in the reservoir, one close to the bank where its admirers stood and the other further out. After a spell of flying around feeding it would retire to the straw bales to rest and even sleep but soon would resume its feeding. Such a delicate and gentle bird with a buoyant languid flight it really was very appealing as they always are. We watched it for around two hours  and then left only just making it to the Black Audi before a deluge, in the form of yet another  heavy rain shower, arrived

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