Monday, 26 February 2018

Ross's Gull - Radipole, Weymouth, 26th February 2018

For the last few days an adult Ross's Gull has been seen visiting both Radipole and Lodmoor nature reserves in Weymouth, Dorset. Today was my first opportunity to drive over to see whether I could hook up with this stunning small gull - a rare visitor from Eastern Siberia and Arctic North America.
The "Beast from the East" has begun to affect eastern areas of the country and the first few snow showers were arriving in East Anglia, London and the South East of England. Temperatures in Dorset  were once again at or slightly below zero minus a few degrees of windchill. A leisurely drive along the coast road with Justin T started well as a flock of Plover overflew the car. But unfortunately we only had a brief glimpse and we couldn't say with certainty whether they were Lapwing or Golden Plover.
Making a brief stopover at Abbotsbury Swannery we scoped the Fleet hoping to pick out a distant Scaup. We dipped Scaup however but the overflying Red Kite (heading West) as we arrived more than made up for this. And suddenly and even better about 12 Golden Plover flew over the road from the direction of the Swannery and landed in a nearby field along with c100 Lapwing, c50 mixed flock of Corvids (mainly Rooks and Crows) and c50 Starlings. A fantastic start on a freezing cold day.
Fast forward to RSPB Radipole, we chatted with some of the many patient observers and it was soon confirmed that the Ross's Gull had been briefly seen early that morning at Lodmoor (good news!) and had departed high westwards before 8am but had not been seen at Radipole (not so good news!). At our 2nd Radipole visit we determined to sit it out, fairly confident that the bird was still in the area and that there was every chance that it might return at some point in the afternoon. But you never know! Luckily and after a tense wait, we were not to be disappointed. And at around 2:45 a shout went up - to those (me included) on the small bridge by the visitors Centre unsighted as we were by tall reeds - that the bird had just dropped onto the water a few hundred yards to the north. A quick dash and I got the scope onto a beautiful, dainty Ross's Gull having a wash with some Black-headed Gulls and near a Teal. And a couple of minutes later it was all over. My photos are not great as the bird was distant and it only stayed for a few minutes before flying off over the eastern reedbed. But they are a record for me that give an indication of the general structure and appearance of this superb little gull and show the comparison in size with the nearby Black-headed Gulls and Teal

Size comparison with Black-headed Gull

I didn't manage a flight shot of its diagnostic tail shape with longer central tail feathers (seen clearly in the binoculars) but I did manage a ropey shot of its long pointed uniformly grey wing with paler rear margin.

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