Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Grimsbury Reservoir: Great skuas!!

During the morning a big movement of redwings was recorded by one of my RSPB colleagues during their walk into the office in Banbury.  Exciting to hear birds were on the move from Scandinavia.

I was not able to get out birding myself until near dusk, managing to fit in about an hour to watch the gulls roosting at Grimsbury Reservoir.  When I arrived at about 17.45, it was clear their were a lot of black-headed gulls around - I quickly estimated about 1500, then counted 21 common gulls amongst them, including one with a red leg ring I was frustratingly just unable to read, even using the scope. 

Nothing too out of the ordinary, but clearly an influx of gulls. 

Then I suddenly noticed two very dark gull-like birds joining the group of lesser black-backed gulls circling overhead in the gathering gloom.  Their bright white wing-flashes told me that these were not actually gulls but most likely great skuas.  It was hard to believe I could be watching these oceanic birds at a small urban reservoir in the heart of England.  So I quickly got my camera out to take some record shots.  I had to switch to manual focusing due to the poor light - but thanks to the modern digital camera's remarkable high ISO settings I got some reasonable shots. They were remarkably tatty and clearly in full wing moult.  After a couple of circuits of the reservoir they headed off together in a westerly direction - maybe headed for the Severn Estuary?
great skua - note tatty wings and missing primary feather

That was not all.  Huge numbers of jackdaws also came into roost - well over a thousand, a couple of flocks of pied wagtails  - each about twenty birds, a calling little owl and kingfisher.

Then to round off the evening an adult little gull joined the black-headeds.  It looked about half the size, and sat of the edge of the flock, not quite one of the crowd.  By this stage it was just too dark to photograph.

The great skuas appear to be the third record for Banburyshire.  The little gull is a bit more regular, but still not seen every year (though another recently at Boddington Reservoir).

The next few days could be very interesting too.

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