31st January – Southampton and Blashford   Leave a comment

Yesterday I only managed a short visit to Lytchett Bay, so today I opted for a full days birding.

This year has been remarkable for an influx of Iceland and to a lesser extent, Glaucous Gulls. These are high Arctic breeding gulls, Glaucous has a circumpolar distribution, Iceland breeds in Greenland and eastern Canada (not Iceland!). As a scarce winter visitor Glaucous used to outnumber Iceland ten to one but in recent years it has been the other way round.

These two gulls have identical plumage characteristics and plumage successions as they mature so identification is made solely on structure. The first photo below shows two Icelands and one Glaucous Gull taken in Spitsbergen and shows the smaller size, daintier build, more attenuated shape, smaller bill and longer primary projection of Iceland. The second photo shows a 1st summer Glaucous, similar to juvenile except that the upperparts would be more universally biscuit coloured in a juvenile.

Bottom to top: 2nd summer Iceland, adult Iceland, adult Glaucous. Spitsbergen June 2009


Ist summer Glaucous: Spitsbergen June 2009


This January by far the biggest numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have occurred in western Ireland, the Western Isles and Shetland, indeed my friend Paul reported seeing 132 Icelands at the weekend in Shetland. Few Icelands have reached the south coast, by far the most reliable has been a second winter in the centre of Portsmouth that I saw on the 16th January. Over the last few days a juvenile Glaucous Gull has been roosting in the centre of Southampton then flying up Southampton Water to the Redbridge area, so this was where I headed this morning.

I first tried a search at Eling but most large gulls were up near the A35 at Redbridge. From the bridge the sun was in my eyes, so I negotiated a maze of footpaths and backstreets to reach Redbridge railway station and a way across the line. In spite of spending over an hour here I had no luck but whilst eating my lunch back at the car the juvenile Glaucous flew over. The views were brief as I didn’t realise what it was until it was flying away but I saw the diagnostic features. Soon afer Dave Unsworth, one of the participants on my Tibet trip in 2005 turned up and suggested I try Testwood Lakes which was in the direction the gull was flying. I had no luck there so headed home via the Blashford lakes where once again I failed to find Bramblings but did have good views of the adult Caspian Gull at Ibsley Water North.


With the A35, A36, M271 and two railway lines converging at Redbridge, access to Southampton Water is fraught with difficulty.


Lower Test Marshes where the Glaucous was seen heading northwards


I couldn't photograph the Glaucous Gull so I had to make do with photographing a 'glaucous' pigeon


Little to report at Testwood Lakes


At Blashford there were plenty of Chaffinches but still no Brambling.


Although we take them for granted now, Collared Doves were unknown in Britain prior to 1955


I find searching for rare gulls amongst the masses of Lesser Black-backs and Herring to be a major challenge.



Only fully recognised as a full species in the last few years, Caspian Gull has been shown to be a regular but scarce winter visitor from its breeding grounds in the Black Sea, Ukraine area. Note the slender, parallel sided bill without an obvious gondeal angle and generally attenuated look Photo from the Internet.






Posted February 1, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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