13 Nov 2013

13 Nov 13 - Colour vs Monochrome

After the Diver party, it was back to regular birding. With the sunny & still weather, conditions were great for looking for birds along the bushes behind Studland's Southern beaches. The highlight was this cracking Firecrest. This is favourite of most UK birders, given they are so well marked compared to their commoner cousin, the Goldcrest (see Mystery Bird Photo). They are also even more hyper as they move around feeding. Studland usually has a few Firecrests overwintering in regular spots.
Next stop was Knoll & Middle Beaches. Studland is the most important wintering grounds for Black-necked Grebes in the UK. Currently, the numbers are still building up with their peak in January. In January 2011, Steve Morrison counted an 80 roosting together (along with several Slavonian Grebes). Most feed in the eel grass off Knoll, Middle & South beaches, but a few can often be found closer to the harbour mouth & in Brands Bay. Today, 29 of the 33 birds were off Knoll & Middle Beaches. normally, by late morning, they are well dispersed in small parties throughout the bay, so it was a pleasant surprise to find 26 in a single tight flock.
Black-necked Grebe: Panoramic view of half the flock with the Needles in the background
Keeping to the monochrome theme, this cracking Gull flew in & landed on the beach. About 10 years ago, Graham Armstrong had a flock of 5 of these birds on the beach which was an impressive total for Studland. Last March, I had a conservative count of 350 birds on the beach.

Here is a closer photo of a Black-necked Grebe off Pilots Point a few days later. To me, they always look like large Dabchick's rather than a Slavonian Grebe. Best told from Slavs by the high forehead, black extending in a curved patch below the red eye and the rounded rear end to the body. They are also smaller, with a more rounded, short body, thinner neck & thinner, more feeble bill (albeit these are more subtle features). In contrast, Slavs have a gently sloping head peaking well behind the eye, with have a much whiter face with the black in a straight border not extended below the eye and a more elongated rear end to the body.
Black-necked Grebe: Shell Bay, Studland (16 Nov)
Black-necked Grebe: Close up showing the head shape & pattern
Mystery Gull?
No prizes for identifying this as a Mediterranean Gull.
Mediterranean Gull: Adult winter bird
Colour ring studies have shown that some of these wintering birds originate from colonies in Holland, Belgium & France, although some will be birds that have bred locally in Poole Harbour.