The 1st winter Laughing Gull continues to show well at New Brighton Marine Lake. As promised we are delighted to bring you the finders article from the three Manchester based birders who found the Gull.
The two Snow Buntings also remain on Wallasey Shore and also showing well.
A high tide sea watch on a flat calm day produced the highest numbers of Common Scoter of the week with approximately 7000 birds being recorded. Other sea duck included 6 Red breasted Mergansers, 19 Goldeneye, 27 Scaup, 14 Eider and several Red throated Diver.
Two skiens of Pink footed Geese, the largest of which numbered 170 headed North over the north shore mid morning
The adult winter Mediterranean Gull was again n the Gull roost at Hoylake whilst a Peregrine hunted the inner shore.
Although there was no sign today of yesterdays American Wigeon the Long eared Owl has returned to the reserve on the IMF side.
Winter birding on the Wirral, especially on calm clear days such as Tuesday 2nd Feb, is always a pleasure, with a range of habitats and birds amongst the best in Britain, so it is with target species of snow bunting, purple sandpiper, water pipit and long eared owl that myself, Heath Green and Mike Rutter set off from Manchester at 7am for New Brighton. On arrival, after a quick search of the tideline debris we achieved our first objective, delightful views of the two snow buntings in beautiful light, one handsome ad w male and a young female, shuffling quietly amongst the flotsam and jetsam, their plumage matching the habitat to the point where they ‘disappeared’ when they froze because of the proximity of a passing dog walker. Happy but chilly we set of for the excellent Seaside café opposite the marine lake for some ‘Full English’ refreshment , a quick scan of the pontoon there revealed small numbers of redshank, turnstone and herring gull, it was 45 minutes till high tide, when any purple sandpipers in the area would surely arrive to snooze and preen for a while. After a delicious breakfast, optics retrieved from the car, MR and I wandered toward the west end of the marine lake where, keen as always, HG had already set up his scope. It was at that moment HG looked up and said “take a look at this gull, I’m sure it’s a flipping laughing gull!”. We all hurriedly got on the bird in question, luckily the only small larid present, so grilling it was easy. All three of us has had several laughing gulls over the years but when you are twitching a rarity you have usually brushed up on all the plumage and jizz details beforehand, this bird had caught us on the hop, but sure enough, one by one, using our collective memory, all the field marks were identified, the mid-grey mantle, black primaries, long dark slightly droopy bill, thin white crescents above and below the eye, indistinct short hood, broad black tail band, longish dark grey legs and overall elongated profile confirmed we were indeed looking at a 1st winter laughing gull, however, just to be absolutely certain, I went and fetched the battered copy of the Collins field guide from the car, reading aloud from page 196 the last few pieces of the puzzle dropped neatly into place, grey areas on the flanks and breast and when the bird made a short flight from one end of the pontoon to the other, dusky underwing markings and a broad black band on the rear of the inner wing. Excitement then turned to worry, what if the bird cleared off before anyone else saw it?! Looking around I saw two people over to our left who were also watching the birds on the pontoon, this turned out to be a lady called Ruth Elsby and her husband, Ruth had a camera so we explained the situation and asked her to take some record shots and email them to myself and HG just in case. None of us could remember a twitchable laughing gull in Cheshire so we decided to phone the news in to Birdguides and set off for Neston to look for water pipits, and just for the record, there were 11 purple sandpipers showing well that morning. On arrival at Neston we bumped into local birder heading meaningfully for his car and asked him had he seen any water pipits? His immediate reply was “there’s a laughing gull at New Brighton!”. As we stood explaining what had happened previously his mobile phone rang twice, the first call was from another local birder who was at the marine lake saying he’d seen the bird briefly but it was heading out to sea, followed closely by the second call to say it had reappeared on the pontoon, relief! He continued on his way and we had excellent views of water pipit on the sewage works, along with two wintering chiff chaffs, unfortunately the long eared owl which had been showing well at Burton Mere wetlands centre the day before had gone, but we weren’t complaining. I’m sure there are many Wirral birders who frequent New Brighton far more regularly than myself, but that, to me, is one of the attractions of birding, anyone can be in the right place at the right moment and discover an exciting vagrant! The laughing gull is still being seen regularly as I write, I hope everyone who connects with it enjoys it as much as my friends and I did.
Good luck and great birding to you all.