Thursday, 19 February 2015

Walpole Park, Gosport - 17th February

On a glorious spring like day I popped to Merser Way in Romsey to see if I could get any views of the usual wintering Hawfinch flock. I have only heard of up to four this winter but in winter 2012/13 there were up to 40 birds. I wandered around the area of grassland and thorn hedgerows and had to content myself with some rather distant or obscured views and it was not possible to get any photographs so I pulled out as the dog walkers took over.

I then headed to Walpole Park in Gosport to get my annual fix of Ring-billed Gull but whenever I visit the site I ask myself 'why on earth did I come here', still, I had battled through the horrors of Gosport and so may as well settle and have a look at the gull. The Ring-billed Gull was just about the first gull that I set eyes on. It was standing on the edge of the northernmost lagoon looking pretty pleased with itself. An adult Common Gull was loafing around pretty close-by allowing a good comparison to be made.

Adult Ring-billed Gull

Adult Common Gull - Note the diffuse bill mark compared to the well defined ring, darker eyes, more diffuse head spotting, slighter bill and more dove like expression compared to the Ring-billed.

Adult Ring-billed Gull

 Adult Ring-billed Gull. Growth bars can be seen fairly clearly on the mantle feathers in this image. I learned something new, the study of growth rates of feathers by measuring growth bars is called ptilochronology, see interesting paper on the subject here

Ring-billed Gull showing the two small white mirrors on P9 and P10 
making a distinct triangular mark

Adult Ring-billed Gull

Common Gull - Note the darker upper parts and more extensive and better defined tertial crescent

Common Gull - First winter

Black-headed Gull - Just starting to gain its brown summer hood

Black-headed Gull - This bird was the most advanced towards full summer plumage of the 200 or so birds present

A flock of 35 Brent Goose were also present on the grassland between the northern lagoon and the main road and allowed fairly close approach. I am always amazed at the variation in plumage shown by these birds with seemingly no two being the same, I find it very difficult to be able to claim hybrids between this and that race and not really sure how one could be confident of an out of range 'Grey-bellied Brent' - but maybe thats just me.

Brent Goose - Adult birds with fairly well marked necklaces and contrasting belly and flanks

Brent Goose - 1st winter birds, rather brown looking with whitish edges to the coverts

Brent Goose - Adult with more uniform underparts

Brent Goose - 1st winter with very well marked necklace

Brent Goose - 1st winter, a very dull bird with brown body, white covert fringes 
worn away and no noticeable necklace 

Brent Goose - A fairly pale bellied bird

Brent Goose - Head study

After an hour or so at the park it was time to head off to my bird survey and as I did some of the Brent took flight and headed northwards inland to feed on one of the many playing fields in the Gosport area.