James had to vacate his house by Sunday and I had been commissioned to bring home the bulk of his stuff on the Thursday. The problem was that he would not be back at his house from teaching until 4.00pm. So what was I going to do for six hours? In such situations I would normally go to Stodmarsh and try to photograph the Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits, but today was different. There was a Bonaparte's Gull calling me at Oare Marshes.
I had only been to Oare Marshes once before, about 25 years ago, to see a Long-billed Dowitcher, although it is only across the Swale from Harty Marshes where Stuart and I go every year for the raptors. Apparently, the bird spends most of its time at low tide on the nearby Oare Creek, only coming on to the freshwater lagoons at high tide, which today was at 4.00pm. However, just in case it had broken tradition, I had a quick scan of the marshes.
There were several bird on the islands including a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, many summer-plumaged birds, amongst the Black-headed Gulls. For those of you with good eyesight there is a male Teal in front of the central Grey Lag Goose, and a summer-plumaged Ruff in the water on the extreme right.
No luck there, so on to the sea wall by the creek where it would be expected to be. A quick scan along the shore-line revealed just a few Black-headed Gulls, although I did come across a gathering of small black and white fluffy things - a family of baby Shelducks. I don't think I have ever seen Shelduck ducklings so small.
So on to the hide at the intersection of the creek and the Swale itself. There were a few Black-headed Gulls strewn across the mud, but there was one particular individual which caught my attention. The Black-headed gulls were either full adults or obvious 1st summer birds, but this was a much smaller bird with a very smokey head and a particularly dark patch behind the eye. This was the 1st summer Bonaparte's Gull.
A vagrant from North America, the Bonapart'e Gull is slightly smaller than the Black-headed Gull, is a much neater bird, has a shorter black bill and shorter pinkish legs.
This photo shows the size comparison with a Black-headed Gull.