Friday 9 January 2015

Taimyr Gulls and Stejneger's Scoters

Following up on yesterday's Mie post, I spent the night in a coastal car park hoping to add a few more species next day. I shouldn't have been surprised that those people at the Met Office lied to me again. They'd promised me a mainly clear evening sky to look for the innermost and outermost planets. Mercury, which is performing well at the moment, and the presently relatively easy to find Neptune. It was uninterrupted cloud cover. The wind was less strong by then but it was still windy by anyone's standards.

Just before the sky paled I dashed off to the nearest convenience store for a large coffee. The wind had stilled at last but the never ending cloud cover had finally decided it was heavy enough to afford a steady loss of moisture. So much for the predicted 10% chance of rain the weather men had assured me of the previous evening. Having coffee in the harbour, checking that all the emerging silhouettes belonged to the expected Pochard, I spotted a Common Coot trying to fool me into thinking it was American. To that end it swam out of the harbour never to be seen again before light was broad enough to strip it of its mystery, but it hadn't fooled me.

Sunrise when it came was brief and red, the sun hadn't cleared the horizon before it was climbing behind the dark clouds. I popped up onto the harbour wall to see a beautifully calm sea, ideal for Scoter spotting and as I looked south down the beach there were already about six people, tripods set, trying to photograph the Stejneger's! I'd spent the night there and wasn't the first person in the field... not even close. I'll have to push coffee time back in future.

The odd-looking Coot in the harbour before light was full.

Typical Coots with full shields and white bills, this shot taken the day before. 

Stejneger's off the beach at dawn.

As light improved slightly they moved further out but became easier to digiscope with my old, slow to focus gear.

Out of 15-20 birds there were several immature males but only one adult.

In addition to the Stjneger's there were also two female Black Scoters though they never approached as closely as the Stejneger's. Two excellent species for the region.

I didn't feel like repeating yesterday's route round the usual places I visit, so drove further north to the next harbour along the shore and was rewarded with Finless Porpoise jumping just off the end of the wall. Though I've had them from the ferry this was the first time I've seen them from shore. I only witnessed three jumps, actually more like extremely vigorous rolls as they didn't quite clear the water, so I'm unsure how many animals might have been present but previous sightings from the ferry suggest they are very sociable. In terms of rarity value this was definitely the best sighting of the day!

To take advantage of the heavily overcast weather my next stop was to check the gulls loafing on the beach, what better way of using the neutral light. There were about 250 Vega, 3-4 Slaty-backed and five Taimyr.

In about 2% of Vega p9 is currently the longest primary, the majority are fully-winged. Taimyr on the other hand have p6-7 as the longest feather. One of the birds still hadn't dropped p10.

A typical Taimyr Gull with a short primary projection, slightly bluish-grey saddle and yellow legs.  

Its nearest neighbour was a typical Vega, full-winged, less blue-gery saddle, pink legs and a smudged shawl.

This Taimyr hasn't yet dropped p10 even though p7 has been replaced. 

The same bird showing the spread underwing.

List of species:-
Common Shelduck   3
Gadwall   common
Falcated Duck   fairly common
Eurasian Wigeon   1000s
Mallard   1000s
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   100s
Northern Shoverler   30-50
Northern Pintail   1000+
Eurasian Teal   fairly common
Common Pochard   1000s
Tufted Duck   small numbers in a few places
Greater Scaup   1000s
Stejneger's Scaup   15-20
Common Scoter   2
Goldeneye   several
Red-breasted Merganser   several
Little Grebe   common
Great Crested Grebe   3-4
Slavonian Grebe   1
Black-necked Grebe   very common
Grey Heron   several
Great White Egret   c10
Little Egret   4
Great Cormorant   very common
Eurasian Kestrel   1
Merlin   1
Osprey   4
Black Kite   fairly common
Northern Goshawk   1
Common Coot   common
Oystercatcher   1
Black-winged Stilt   11
Northern Lapwing   6
Grey Plover   c50
Kentish Plover   several
Lesser Sand Plover   2
Common Snipe   4-5
Long-billed Dowitcher   5
Common Greenshank   3
Green Sandpiper   4
Common Sandpiper   3
Sanderling   common
Dunlin   1000+
Common Gull   2
Vega Gull   500+
Slaty-backed Gull   3-5
Taimyr Gull   6
Black-headed Gull   fairly common
Saunder's Gull   20+
Feral Rock Dove   fairly common
Oriental Turtle Dove   common
Long-eared Owl   1
Common Kingfisher   several
Bull-headed Shrike   4-5
Rook   20-30
Carrion Crow   very common
Large-billed Crow   several in a few places
Japanese Skylark   fairly common
Brown-eared Bulbul   common
Japanese Bush Warbler   1
Japanese White-eye   several
White-cheeked Starling   common
Dusky Thrush   fairly common
Daurian Redstart   common
Blue Rock Thrush   2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   common
White Wagtail   fairly common
Japanese Wagtail   1
Olive-backed Pipit   13
Red-throated Pipit   1 heard
Buff-bellied Pipit   fairly common
Oriental Greenfinch   several
Hawfinch   5
Meadow Bunting   fairly common
Chestnut-eared Bunting   1
Rustic Bunting   3
Elegant Bunting   1
Black-faced Bunting   fairly common
Reed Bunting   several

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