Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Franklin's Gull

For me, Friday of last week was not a good birding day. We had travelled down to Blashford Lakes to see the Franklin's Gull. It was there and was easy to see, albeit after a long wait and hours of searching the thousands of gulls coming in to roost. Easy that is for everyone in the hide except me. I just could not get onto it. Even looking through Dave's scope which was centred on the bird I could not see anything that I could recognise as the Franklin's. I think by then I was just brain dead from staring at gulls.

There were distant views of Goosanders, Egyptian Geese, Ruddy Duck, and Black-necked Grebe but my only pictures for the day were of a Little Grebe and a Coot doing its leg stretching exercises. Going home in the car Dave was doing his best not to sound too happy whilst I tried to come to terms with my total failure.

Little Grebe


At first I was a bit negative about going back for another try but Dave convinced me that I should give it another go and volunteered to come along with me to ensure that I did not dip it for a second time.

We did a bit of birding around the New Forest before heading to Blashford. It was all very quiet. We followed a Chaffinch flock for a while in the hope of seeing a Brambling but there was nothing we could be confident about. We also managed to catch up with an old friend that we had last photographed back in February.

Tawny Owl

On arrival at Blashford we found that the Tern Hide that we planned to use was to be shut between 3.30 an 4.30 for a gull roost event. The Goosander Hide had also been closed by the police as a result of an incident. This only left us with the Lapwing Hide. You get good views out over the lake from there but by 3.30 when the gulls would be arriving you are staring straight into the sun. Still we had no choice so Lapwing Hide it was.

We settled down to an afternoons gull watching with a couple of Green and one Common Sandpiper thrown in for a bit of variety.

Green Sandpiper

The only other item of note was a flock of thirty eight Herons that came in to roost late afternoon. This was the first time I had seen them in a large flock. Other than that it was a long afternoon and by the time the sun started to set at 4.15 no one in the hide had spotted the Franklin's. Then we had a call from the Tern Hide to say that it had been spotted and that it was close to us. It turned out to be directly in the path of the setting sun but as it dipped below the horizon we had a few minutes of light left and everyone in the hide, including me this time, managed to get good views.

I had already lost sight of the bird in the gathering gloom when I decided that I should try to get a picture of it. By then I could not see where it was so I just pointed in the general direction, wound up the ISO, fired off a few shots and hoped for the best. They are not brilliant but these are my record shots of the bird.

 Just a few of the gulls on the lake with the Franklin's arrowed

Heavy cropping but the white eye rings and darker mantle are just visible.

And, to finish off the day, we had a starling murmuration swirling over our heads as we walked back to the car.

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