coquet nature lover

Monday, 24 April 2017

Iceland gull - Angry or kind?

With the wind dropping and the sun out, a late afternoon walk at Low Newton by the Sea seemed like a good way to end the weekend. Yes, there was plenty to see with the paths along the clifftops flooded yellow with lesser celandine and cowslips, attracting numerous bees with their delicate egg yolk flowers and pale green stems.


Several seals were swimming close to the shore, gently nudging their heads and noses up to take a quick look around. Up above, streams of gannets could be seen heading back to Bass Rock after a successful fishing outing whilst several low flying cormorants, and one lone shag, headed south - perhaps back to Amble pier where I often take pleasure in counting them. For once, it was possible to identify the shag. With its slender bill and green sheen, it stood out from the cormorants.

Before heading home, a quick look at the flooded field next to Newton Pool proved to be a good decision.  It was actually quite dry and although there weren't that many waders or ducks on it, there were yellow and white wagtails running on the ground foraging for insects on the far side. Having almost given up and ready to head home, a keen birder drew my attention to a large white gull across the field which he confirmed was an Iceland gull. Now I've not seen one of those before so yes, it's a 'first'!

At this time of year, small numbers of Iceland gulls are passing through the north east on migration to Greenland where they breed. Generally they winter in north west Europe (including Iceland) but the bird at Newton Pool probably spent the winter further south in England. I am not sure why they are called 'Iceland' gulls as they don't breed there - unlike the common ringed plover I follow!

Typically I didn't have my camera with me so I had no choice but to use the mobile which wasn't ideal given the bird was several hundred metres away and could only be properly seen through binoculars. The photo below is in its raw state (taken with an iPhone through a telescope) Still, it's good to have some context....

The next photo has been zoomed in and cropped. Sorry the photos aren't great but you can identify it is an Iceland gull with its long white wing tips. You can also see the gull has a kind face unlike Glaucous gulls which are supposed to have angry faces!

Iceland gull - 23/04/17

To close this post, here are a couple of my favourite wildlife shots. As I didn't manage to get a shot of a seal yesterday, here is one taken off the Northumberland coast last summer. You can read more on my post A trip to Coquet Island
Grey seal

And here is a close up of a cormorant preening. I think I may have to do a post on 'cormorants and castles' as both are in abundance on the Northumberland coast! Admittedly, this cormorant was taken at the Marine Lake in West Kirby on the Wirral but then again, you can forgive me as that's where, as a child, I probably saw my 'first cormorant'!


and castles... (Dunstanburgh - view from Low Newton)

With such diverse landscapes and a wonderful array of wildlife, Northumberland is a superb place for nature loversEnjoy!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Update on common ringed plover 895838

Apologies for these shots which I intended to post at the end of March but unfortunately photography and blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat the last few weeks.  Anyhow, it's back to business and the borrelho strikes again! 

Just to remind you, borrelho is portuguese for common ringed ploverIf you are new to my blog, you might want to click here common ringed plover ring number 895838 to find out more about this bird which was rung as a chick in Sandasandar, Iceland in May 2010

Santa Luzia

The Ria Formosa National Park is a protected coastal region situated in the Algarve, Portugal. It was established as a nature reserve with UNESCO protected status way back in 1987. It is also part of Natura 2000 network of specially protected areas across the European Union and designated a site of international importance under the Ramsar convention (an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands).

Santa Luzia overlooks the lagoons and waterways of the Ria Formosa. With its amazing habitat, which includes saltmarshes and mudflats, it is a haven for migratory birds travelling through Africa, Europe and the North Atlantic areas of Iceland and Greenland.

Here are some photos of our seven year old ringed plover '895838' which Joao in Portugal kindly sent me last month to share on my blog. This stretch of coastline, just along from the fish market in the fishing village of Santa Luzia is where the ringed plover returns year after year after breeding in Iceland.  

(Common ringed plover: Fr-Bécasseau variable   D-Alpenstrandläufer)
(Dunlin: Fr-Grand gravelot   D-Sandregenpfeifer)

Santa Luzia proudly proclaims itself as the 'Capital do Polvo' (octopus capital) of Portugal and on weekdays, an auction takes place when the colourful fishing boats return in the mornings with their catch. 

Fish market where the ringed plover hangs out!

With the recent sightings, the South Iceland Research Centre, based at the University of Iceland, has been able to update their records for this individual bird and my contact informs me he is expecting her to arrive back in Iceland anytime now. 

You might be also be interested to know that the first ringed plovers return to Iceland as early as the 1st April. It is likely however that just a few will arrive at this time. More birds will arrive on the mudflats in Iceland between 15-20 April and there will be a peak between approximately 28 April and 03 May. The final peak occurs between 15-30 May and this large flock will include Greenland birds passing through Iceland on the way to their breeding grounds.

It is quite amazing when you stop to think about it!
Clutch of four eggs (Bodvar©)

Cute common ringed plover chick (Bodvar©)
For new followers of my blog, here are two photos which were taken in Iceland. I'm sure you will agree, the photography is superb and a real privilege to share with you

Now if you are thinking about Iceland or Portugal as a holiday destination, please keep your eyes open for our ringed plover and of course any other birds you might spot with rings. The research centre needs your help to continue their amazing work.

No one knows what triggers bird migration but we do know that successful migration depends largely on weather conditions. So, fingers crossed for a safe passage and favourable winds for this bird's amazing journey back to Iceland.
I am indebted to Joao in Portugal and the South Iceland Research Centre for all their assistance and also for making me smile when they told me they have named the bird after me! At last a claim to fame and I am very honoured. Thank you!

If you are interested, click here for other posts on the Algarve coastline

Ria Formosa rediscovered 

Sea birds of the Sagres peninsular