GRC Blog

Welcome to the GRC Recorders pages. This blog provides details on all the relevant news of Glamorgan’s scarcer birds, plus all BBRC & WRP decisions that affect us locally. It will also be used to document the status and occurrence of these scarcer species and we welcome contributions from anyone with photographs, artwork or documentation of rarities past, present and future. The GRC also welcomes all seawatching news from around Glamorgan and news of passage migrants in spring & autumn, uncommon birds in our area and unusual behaviour.

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The Glamorgan Rarities Committee, in conjunction with the Glamorgan Bird Club & Gower Wildlife , have agreed to co-operate with the Welsh Ornithological Society in the sharing of bird records & photographs in the interest of keeping accurate records and to promote birdwatching in North, Mid & South Wales.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Not proven!

I've had 2 instances within the last week concerning birds that, although not particularly rare, would have been very nice records for the time of year or for the area.

The first of these involved a Philloscopus warbler near the Neath river. I saw it briefly giving a side on view and thought it was a Chiffchaff but then clearly giving a rear view where it was quite obvious that the legs were pale over their full length and not just the feet. I immediately thought Willow Warbler and other features seemed to suit this identification. I spent a brief time setting up the camera for very dark conditions to provide the record shot but I never saw the bird well again after that and despite spending quite a bit of time trying to relocate it, once it had been lost to view in dense undergrowth I never saw it again. Given the rarity of this species at this time of year in the end I decided that I couldn't be 100% sure.

The second incident came earlier today and involved a presumed juvenile Sabine's Gull off Mumbles. I initially saw a small gull at distance from Bracelet Bay car park which was silhouetted in bright light. I moved out onto Tutt Head and relocated a bird which was again silhouetted and distant but it was moving towards better light but becoming more distant the whole time. Eventually features showed that were consistent with other juv Sabine's I've seen before, notably the dark primary wedge, a significant white triangle and the remaining parts of the wing and back all looked dark. I couldn't be certain of the dark underwing bar, long tail and dark head at this distance but nevertheless I felt confident of its identity and put news out. Knowing Barry Stewart still needs Sabine's for Glam I called him personally.

Barry arrived 30mins later and during this time I had lost the original bird and relocated another bird which didn't quite look as convincing as the original bird and I was wondering whether the earlier bird had in fact been a different one? This bird was lost again mainly due to the very bad light. BS arrived and we both spent some time trying to relocate the earlier bird. Barry found a 1stw Little Gull flying on a similar line to the earlier bird but a little closer in. This bird was watched for a while and lost. A bit later a gull was found further out and it appeared much closer to the appearance that prompted me to claim the juv Sabine's Gull earlier on. Again the light was bad but the contrast between light and dark patterning of the upper bird features looked very good and flight appeared different to the earlier Little Gull. It looked pretty good for Sabine's but the distance and light meant that a definitive view remained impossible and this bird was lost.

Not long afterwards a 1stw Little Gull passed quite close in and at times showed extensive and striking white triangles on the trailing wing due to the sunlight shining through! The flight it showed during this time also appeared more deliberate and less "tern like."

The conditions surrounding this sighting were hard to work with and despite occasional cloud cover the sunlight remained a problem throughout. The sightings, each time involving a single bird, varied with respect to distance from the observer but the patrolled flight line remained very similar and in this regard does point towards the same bird being seen throughout the morning ie a 1stw Little Gull.

Consideration must be given to the separate birds being involved in any of the sightings. It would be possible to generate a description from my original sighting which due to my confidence at the time and features noted could possibly go on to be accepted as a valid record? However, I won't be submitting this record because enough doubt remains in my mind that there is a possibility my original identification of the earlier bird was misjudged. This could be for good reason or due to introduced doubt following the later sightings of a Little Gull? It is very frustrating to have to backtrack on an earlier claim but the accuracy of the record must be the dominant factor here.

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