Monday, 16 March 2015

Laughing Gull

Friday 6th March

The start of a much awaited, weeks birding in Scotland, based in the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey. Best of all I had a guide to take me around as Dave had made a number of previous visits to the area and had all the best birding sites mapped out.

First stop was on the way up when we diverted off the M6 into Cheshire and visited New Brighton to look for the juvenile Laughing Gull. On arrival it looked a bit disappointing with no sign off the bird on its usual Marine Lake pontoon and no other birders visible. A quick search along the front located it at the model boating lake about 400m away where it was happily bathing with a few Black-headed Gulls. Unfortunately it then took off and disappeared from sight.

Another search and we relocated it on the beach where it seemed happy to pose for pictures.

First winter Laughing Gull

The Laughing Gull is a rare vagrant to the UK from America where it breeds in Mexico, the Caribbean and around the south and east coasts of the USA. There are usually two or three sighting a year in the UK mostly of juvenile birds but they do not occur every year.

This is a bird that is never going to go hungry!

With the Laughing Gull in the bag we decided to pay a visit to Burton Mere RSPB. I hadn't expected much but it turned out to be an excellent site with some decent hides, lots of viewing screens and great staff. You actually felt that they wanted to give you decent views of the birds instead of what seems to be coming the norm of focusing on the shops and restaurants and keeping you as far from the birds as possible.

We only had an hour before the car park closed so it was a quick dash round to look for the Long-eared Owl. I had to ignore all the feeders and attendant birds and the viewing screens to make sure that I got back to the car before the gates were locked. It was great to see the Owl but it was the usual view of a Long-eared, buried in a bramble bush in the darkest place that it could find. Then to make it even worse it had leaves over its face.

How do they get into these roosts without tearing there feathers to bits?

Views through the bins were a lot darker than this but the camera over exposes assuming an 18% grey image to give a much clearer picture.

There was no way to improve on the picture and I was not going to disturb the Owl so I grabbed a few shots and headed back to the car.  This is definitely a site that I will be coming back to. Perhaps a week on the Wirral should be my next birding trip.

If you want to see better views of a Long-eared Owl have a look at the shots here that I took of one out in the open at Pagham Harbour.

We stayed over at Lancaster that night and continued on to Grantown the next morning. Musselburgh gave us good views of Eider, Common, Velvet, and Surf Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Goldeneye, but few were close enough for pictures. These Goldeneye in the river mouth gave the only photographic opportunities

Female Goldeneye

Male Goldeneye

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