11 February 2015

Napton gulls

and I took a brisk lunchtime stroll around Napton Reservoir, determined to make the most the kind of late winter weather that puts one in mind very much of early spring.

The standout birding moment happened before we'd even set forth from the car park; almost 100 lapwing flying low over our heads, blinking black-white-black in the midday sun.

The flock split into two as we watched, and the smaller group of perhaps 30 birds came back to us twice while we were on site.

The reservoir itself had taken on a deep, rich blue colour which contrasted beautifully with the straw yellow of the winter reed bed. The far corner was iced over, providing a popular platform for a large gull flock.

My count of c120 common gulls is among my largest for the site, and the wide variation in their coloration got me thinking - not for the first time - that I should spend more time brushing up on my gull identification skills.

Elsewhere on the water there were pairs each of gadwall and wigeon; plenty of tufted duck and coot (no count, but my perception was that the latter were down on their peak winter numbers); and three great crested grebes.

In the surrounding fields and hedges we had good views of a pair of bullfinches, plenty of blue and great tits, a kestrel and a buzzard.

Bird of the day: Common gull (Larus canus), not common at all except as a visitor in winter (from our own coasts, but many more from Scandinavia & Baltic areas), when numbers can start to build up as today. There's something very attractive about this gentle-faced gull, and it's always a welcome break from the monotony of the more numerous and year-round black-headed gulls. 

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