4 Mar 16

Priorslee Lake: 07:15 – 09:30

Sunrise: 06:48

-2°C > +2°C. Fine, clear and frosty with band of cloud to NW gradually encroaching and cutting the sunshine off at 08:45; light / moderate W wind; very good visibility

(32nd visit of the year)

Today was an extreme example of a trend noted over the last week or so. Many of the Black-headed Gulls seen are not visiting the lake but unusually flying over in small groups – migrants heading back to Central Europe? Almost all the Lesser Black-backed Gulls pass straight over whereas the Herring Gulls come and look at the lake and often stay. At least 23 Herring Gulls today, just about all of them immatures of varying ages. Possibly many more in total as birds did seem to leave without the number on the lake changing that much – indeed it is rather bemusing as to how 23 large gulls can suddenly just ‘appear’ in the first place

- a brownhead Goosander flew W today, probably headed to The Flash
- not sure whether there were 13 or 14 Great Crested Grebes this morning: they really are frustrating to count
- the male Pheasant was flushed off the SW grass
- 4 different Redwings in the trees
- many fewer finches calling / seen around the roost areas: perhaps the very sunny start and earlier sunrise saw many of them leave before I arrived
- a few Siskins in the Alders again (as well as birds over). A male, at least, also seen on the ground

Counts of birds flying over the lake (in addition to those on / around lake)
- 2 Canada Geese (1 group)
- 1 (0♂) Goosander
- 84 Black-headed Gulls
- 13 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
- 3 Herring Gulls
- 2 Stock Doves
- 1 Collared Dove
- 18 Jackdaws
- 2 Rooks
- 8 Starlings
- 1 Greenfinch
- 2 Goldfinches
- 3 Siskins

The counts from the lake area
- 2 Mute Swans
- 5 (3♂) Gadwall once more
- 4 (3♂) Mallard
- 1 (1♂) Pochard remains
- 13 (9♂) Tufted Ducks
- 2 Cormorants
- 1 Grey Heron
- 13 (14?) Great Crested Grebes
- 22 Moorhens again
- 63 Coots
- 22 Black-headed Gulls
- 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull
- 23 Herring Gulls

One of up to 3 Mistle Thrushes that can be heard around the lake: this one alongside Teece Drive opposite the new Academy. On this species the breast is just spotty rather than with the spots organised in to lines as they are on the smaller Song Thrush. The songs are very different.

It is the season when the Coots are beginning to think about pairing up and establishing territories Here two at battle – and you would not want to get scratched by their claws.

“I'm bigger than you!”

“Oh no you’re not!!”

8 Moorhens and 1 Coot on the SW grass: sometimes as many as 19 Moorhens feed here early in the morning.

The only apparent adult Herring Gull this morning – I say ‘apparent’ as the (rather large) bill shows black marks which an adult should not. But I cannot make it in to anything more exciting, like a Caspian Gull.

A shot showing the against-the-light underwing of an immature Herring Gull. A Lesser Black-backed Gull would only show a translucent trailing edge to a few inner primaries and a few outer secondaries.

This is a rather odd-looking first year Herring Gull. It looks rather short and squat. I think this is because it has its head and neck turned slightly away from us and is likely ‘just’ a smaller female.

These immature Herring Gulls were disputing who should sit on the buoy as a result of which they both fell off.

Another scrap: two first-year Herring Gulls with a second-year between them.

A classic second-year Herring Gull, this one perhaps slightly more advanced in plumage as there is a hint of a white ‘mirror’ on the outer primary on the right wing.

Oh look – a headless gull! This shows the upper-side pattern of first- year Herring Gull to good effect with a few grey feathers in the mantle, the pale ‘window’ of the inner primaries and the spotted upper-tail.

I have noted before that Herring Gulls seem unable to resist buoys, especially orangey buoys, and will try and perch and / or peck them. It has been suggested that this is because as fledglings they are programmed to peck at the orange spot on their parents’ bill to get them to disgorge food. But this must be true of other gull species and I almost never see Lesser Black-backed Gulls behaving like this.

Dropping in for the kill?

And here is a different bird pecking at the buoy

And struggling back on having fallen off.


And the behaviour is not restricted to orange buoys. Looks like he might have trouble swallowing this one!

“well it is no good complaining to me”.

I’ve been puzzling the pale grebe on the right here for some days now trying to convince myself it is something different. It always looks strikingly pale and often rather smaller than the many Great Crested Grebes. The only likely candidate would be Red-necked Grebe but that is typically duskier than Great Crested Grebe – all the other UK grebes are significantly smaller. So it has to be a Great Crested Grebe still in winter plumage, and probably a first-year bird.

This was a bit unusual: on several occasions this male Siskin dropped out of the Alder in which it was feeding and fed from the ground – perhaps on seeds it had dropped? At the time I wondered whether it was drinking – Siskins need a lot of water to help digest the dry conifer seeds, but it seems not.

The same(?) male tucks in to a juicy(?)-looking cone – not!

Here we see a female Siskin amongst the Alder catkins with a few of last year’s cones still providing the seeds.

This profile shot shows the bill-shape to good effect.

If you want to walk along the N side – beware. It is as muddy, boggy and slippery as I can recall.

Daffodils out: must be Mother’s Day (strictly it is Mothering Sunday, but we won’t go there).

As the dark clouds encroached from the N the morning sun produced a good contrast with the still-bare trees.

The complete panorama.

(Ed Wilson)

On this day in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015
Priorslee Lake

Today's Sightings Here


Priorslee Lake
57 Herring Gull
154 Lesser Black-backed Gull
186 Black-headed Gull
1 Great Black-backed Gull
4 Cormorant
3 Great Crested Grebe
16 Tufted Duck
(Gary Crowder )

Priorslee Lake
5 Great Crested Grebes 
1 Little Grebe
6 Gadwall 
36 Pochard
55 Tufted Duck
 600 Black-headed Gulls
100 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
A leucistic Black-headed Gull
1 Great Black-backed Gull 
1 Common Gull 
1 Yellow-legged Gull 
7 Herring Gulls
(Ed Wilson, Mike Cooper)

Priorslee Lake
9 Tufted Duck
1 Bittern
1 Heron
1 Cormorant
7 Swans
c.400 Black-headed Gulls
1 Iceland Gull
c.700 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
c.70 Herring Gulls
46 Siskins

(Ed Wilson)

Priorslee Lake
Glaucous Gull
(Paul King).

Priorslee Lake
6 Great Crested Grebe
8 Pochard
81 Tufted Duck
3 Shoveler
1 Goosander
1 Cormorant
1 Water Rail
180 Lesser-black Backed Gulls
300 Black-headed Gulls
8 Siskin
2 Willow Tit
(Martin Adlam, Peter Parton)