After ringing this morning Pete and I decided to spend the afternoon at Colliford Lake on Bodmin moor . Despite it being a rather daunting place to check ( it is Cornwall's second largest lake at around 900 acres) it has been kind to us in the last few years with records of Caspian Gull, Ring billed Gull, Common Crane, Lesser Scaup, Buff-breasted Sandpiper's and American Black Duck. So we arrived in high spirits and ever hopeful of finding something good.
Starting at the dam car park we soon noticed a large gathering of gulls on the opposite bank and quickly noted a Colliford speciality:
Adult Yellow-legged Gull : The yellow legs aren't the best thing to check or look for. Mantle colour is key; a bluish grey ( almost Common Gull like in colour) which is slightly darker than a Herring Gull's and lighter than a Lesser black backed Gull's mantle. Structure is also vital to learn, they tend to be large birds with a big square shaped head and a powerful hook tipped bill.
There is a Yellow -legged Gull in this picture, can you spot it?
Yellow-legged Gull is still a scarce bird in Cornwall but I think over the last 10 years their numbers have increased markedly . I would say Colliford is the best place in Cornwall to see one ( we had 3 adults and a second summer today) but any flock of gulls is worth grilling and once you get your eye in you will start picking the odd one out. A good tip is that Lesser black Backed Gull's seem to be a good carrier species rather than Herring Gull , possibly because of their more migratory instincts.
Whilst I was still scanning the gulls ( I have a problem! I am gull crazy!) Pete was busy scanning the shoreline for waders and soon picked out 2 Turnstone, 5 Dunlin and 5 Ringed Plover as well as 14 White Wagtail amongst the scores of Pied Wagtails. We also watched in awe as a juvenile Peregrine powered across the water in pursuit of a Dunlin only to be mobbed itself by a smart juvenile Hobby! Birding can be all or nothing sometimes!
Continuing around the lake with little else to note we arrived at Loveney and began to walk down to the waters edge. This has been the best place for waders all Autumn and after an hour or so of hard searching we had our yankee reward! A stunning juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper , a year tick for Pete and the bird of the day . Other waders included a Greenshank, 12 Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlin. All in all we spent 3.5 hours at Colliford and if you put the time in here you get a reward , a great afternoon's birding!