Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 22 February 2018

West Ireland 16th-19th February, part two

Day three was an early start, as we drove down the west coast to County Kerry, and the extremely remote and atmospheric Inveragh Peninsula. With excellent gen from Rich B, the 150+ Common Scoter flock was located at Rossbeigh, and so began the process of picking out the long-staying drake Black Scoter.
Female Surf Scoter, Rossbeigh, 18/2/2018.

With the wind coming straight onshore, and rain with it, viewing a constantly diving flock among high waves was far from ideal. A female Surf Scoter was picked out fairly close in early on, but the main target remained elusive. Eventually the Black Scoter was picked out, with his bulbous, yellow-orange bill illuminating the dreich morning.

After a Full Irish, it was back north, and we stopped at Limerick to check out the gulls along the River Shannon. Clearly feeding them is popular with the locals, and a few people were by the river chucking bread, with Mute Swans, Feral Pigeons and even a Grey Heron getting in on the free food.

Juvenile Iceland Gull, Limerick, 18/2/2018.
There were around 100 gulls there, mainly Black-headed, but also a handful of Common and Herring. I also had my only Lesser Black-backed Gull of the trip here, an adult, as well as, much to my surprise, a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull, which flew down river.

The main attraction though was the 3 juvenile Iceland Gulls that showed pretty well. A Kumlien’s Gull has been reported here for some time, but despite one of the Iceland’s seeming fairly dark, and displaying a slight tail band in flight, I wouldn’t mark it down as kumlieni. Perhaps there was a Kumlien’s somewhere along the river, and I missed it.

We then deviated along the Clare coastline, and managed a few more wingers, including 2 Glaucous Gulls at Liscannor and an Iceland near the Cliffs of Moher. At the former site, one of the birds was a really stunning 2nd-winter bird, and it obliged for photos at close range. After another failed check at Kinvarra for the Forster’s Tern, where I met some friendly local birders, it was back to Galway for the night.

2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, Liscannor, 18//2/2018.
The final day involved a lie in, after a bit of a session on the Guinness the previous night. Most of the day was non-birding, but before our evening flight home we looped west to Achill Island, another end-of-the-world-esque place, in County Mayo. Here the target was a long-staying Semipalmated Plover, a difficult ID, and after passing a few Glaucous Gulls the mixed wader flock it associates with was located on the golf course at Keel.

In driving rain, picking out the subtleties of this Nearctic species was exceptionally tough. Sadly, I had to vacate the car and trudge through the damp golf course, being careful not to flush the birds (which consisted of Ringed Plover, Dunlins, Sanderlings and Turnstones) as I went.

Semipalmated Plover, Keel, 19/2/2018.
I managed to pick out the Semipalmated Plover, which certainly seemed that bit slighter in comparison to the Ringed Plovers it was with. The chest band was fairly thin, but there were young Ringed Plovers with similar bands on them, and the eye-stripe wasn’t notably weak – the key thing was the white extending above the gape line. This did stand out, even in the trying conditions, and is quite clear in photos I took. I compared and contrasted with the Ringed Plovers for a while, before, cold and wet, it was back to the rental Seat.

Ireland in the winter is really fun. As mentioned in the previous post, the combination of find-your-own and twitching is enjoyable, and you always have the feeling a rare gull is there to be found (sadly not by me). I’ll definitely be back one day.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

West Ireland 16th-19th February, part one

I’ve always thought the idea of a winter break to west Ireland would be good fun, and with few activities more rose-tinted than lobbing economy-value bread at gulls in freezing harbours, I decided a post-Valentine’s, long weekend with the beloved girlfriend on the Emerald Isle was on the cards in 2018.

Ring-billed Gull, Nimmo's Pier, 17/2/2018.
Whilst only a part-birding trip, the time in the field was an enjoyable combination of DIY, look for your own stuff in under watched areas, mixed with the odd twitch as you move about. I ended up with two Western Palearctic ticks (Black Scoter and Semipalmated Plover), and a ludicrous number of white-wingers, though sadly nothing rarer.

I’ll split the blog posts into two. Thanks must go to Rich B (who’d completed a similar trip the week before me, finding a Bonaparte’s Gull at Killybegs) for detailed gen and pointers on a couple of gulls I had. The 2 days, when birding, was primarily a case of driving around and checking all suitable harbours/ports/beaches for gulls in County Mayo, Galway and Clare, as well as spending some time scanning suitable looking Snowy Owl/Gyr habitat.

Friday 16th 
Juvenile Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Connemara
Smokehouse, 16/2/2018.

We took the long route down from Knock International (for anyone visiting this airport in the future note you have to pay a €10 development fee, per person, upon departure!), and snow was on the ground as we headed west at about 09:30.

From here we tracked the Mayo and Galway coast looping round to Galway city. This part of the world is remote, and subsequently very under-watched. Further south saw more gulls, and the first wingers were at the harbour at Clifden – a juvenile Glaucous and adult Iceland.

Several harbours and coastal towns were checked as the weather closed in – by mid-afternoon it was heavy rain and wind. This didn’t stop the gulls loving the bread throwing at Connemara Smokehouse, and a pretty repulsive looking juvenile Glaucous Gull and a juvenile Iceland were particularly showy here. This is likely a good spot, and the mixed flock was big, but we headed to Galway and our accommodation with the weather deteriorating.

2nd-winter Iceland Gull, Barna, 17/2/2018.
Saturday 17th 

The sun was out first thing, and the famous Nimmo’s Pier was top of the agenda. The gull numbers here were a little disappointing to be honest (Ross’s and American Herring some of the species found here before), and I managed just a single Ring-billed Gull (adult) and Iceland Gull (juvenile). Nearby at Mutton Island, a juvenile Glaucous Gull flew over.

We then worked the south Galway coast, from Nimmo’s to Rossaveel. This produced 6 Iceland Gulls, including a particularly attractive second-winter bird at Barna, and a group of 5 at Rossaveel. At the latter site a gull with extensive head and breast streaking, and a striking black tail band, had me ever so slightly pondering smithsonianus. However, it seems likely it was just an advanced, second-winter argenteus Herring.
Great Northern Diver, Mutton Island, 17/2/2018.

We worked back, through Galway and down to County Clare, stopping off briefly at Kiltiernan Turlough where distant views of the drake Ring-necked Duck were obtained. We then worked the harbours and beaches between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughen, where just the single winger (adult Iceland) was found.

That was that for the first full day. Since arriving I’d managed 12 wingers, but hadn’t found anything rarer, and dipped the Forster’s Tern at Kinvarra which was reported after my visit. The plan for Sunday was a long drive south, to County Kerry.

Monday, 12 February 2018

5th-12th February

It’s been a decent past week on patch, with a few new additions to the year list, as well as a mixed supporting cast of local scarcities. The showstopper was no doubt a singing Woodlark at Brookwell yesterday, just the third site record, and a particularly dreamy encounter in fine pre-dawn sunshine. A Barn Owl found by Matt P was a rare moment of grippage here, and a great record given how hard to see this species is around Thorncombe Street. Other highlights included a drake Pochard, a flock of Crossbills and a few ever so subtle suggestions of spring.

Drake Pochard, Rowe's Flashe, 7/2/2018.
5th-8th February

With the days growing longer, brief pre-work visits are once again possible, and I managed to fit a couple in last week. The cold spell has seen wildfowl numbers typically increase, and February through to late March is always a prime time for Aythya movements and influxes.

With a Ferruginous Duck turning up at a private site not far from here in January, and a Pochard x Fudge hybrid present at Beddington even more recently, this species was (ambitiously as ever) on my radar. In the end I had to settle for a smart drake Pochard on Rowe’s Flashe on the 7th, (2nd 2018 record) and a rising number of Tufted Ducks (which peaked at 13 on Saturday). 44 Teal at Mill Pond on the 8th is also a year high.

9th February

Having gone out for food on Friday night, a clear sky resulted in a slight deviation on the way home, and a better late than never hunt for a 2018 Tawny Owl. The end result was at least 3 calling around the Juniper Hill/Great Brook area, and one low over the road near Nadia’s Hill. Sadly there was to be no Barn Owl though Matt P, who was driving through the site later in the evening, managed a bird flying north at Palmer’s Cross, in the far south-east of the recording area.

Fieldfare, Bonhurst Farm, 10/2/2018.
This species is very elusive here, and whilst word among the gamekeepers suggests a pair have taken up residence near Combe Farm it seems likely that Barn Owls remain visitors, with pairs at various places outside the patch boundary (Hascombe and Smithbrook Kilns). I haven’t missed a patch year tick since 2015, so I better track one down soon! The species is Matt’s 114th here, a fine haul.

10th February

Fairly grim weather was forecast, so I targeted the dry but cold morning window for a casual session. There wasn’t loads to report, and the Ridge was in fact pretty disappointing – no sign of the Mealy Redpoll (only 5 Lessers seen), 0 Bramblings and just a handful of Linnets and Reed Buntings.

Some consolation came via a small group of Crossbills, seemingly flushed up from somewhere within Thorncombe Park. The first two were individuals, calling like crazy as they flew over my head and to Furze Field. Then, at around 08:30, another 4 exploded up from somewhere and flew west. Crossbills are scarce here, and in what’s been a quiet winter nationally for the species it’s certainly a surprise that this is the third record of 2018 already – the same total as the whole of last year.

11th February
Common Buzzard, Wintershall, 10/2/2018.

Despite a notable hangover I was up with the lark on Sunday (literally), and on patch before sunrise (!). A Christmas tree plantation between Brookwell and the A281 has been set-aside for a couple of years, and is an ideal, scrubby area that’s lacking elsewhere here. Sadly, access isn’t easy, so I rarely bother to check it out.

For some reason I decided that this was a good morning to, and this proved to be an excellent call as the distant, flutey notes of a Woodlark were heard almost immediately. This is one of my favourite songsters, and I eventually found the individual sat up on a telephone wire quite some distance from the path. With the sun coming up over Winterfold to the east, the lark was bathed in a glorious, golden-amber dawn glow as it let rip its beautiful melody.

Even if this species was regular here I’d always take the time to appreciate it’s song, so the fact this was only the third site record (following birds in 2016 and 2017) made for an even more special moment. Certainly, enough to make a weekend, and a real pointer to spring.

Woodlark, Brookwell, 11/2/2018.
The sense that the seasons are switching up soon was heightened post-breakfast, with the sun continuing to shine, and in fact often getting the better of an occasionally bitter west/north-west wind. A sky-watch was on the cards, and several raptors were up, to the backdrop of singing Skylarks and a Yellowhammer at Tilsey Farm. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull drifted high north over Hascombe Hill too – maybe it wasn’t on its daily winter commute the reservoirs of south London, and was on its way to breeding grounds further north?

A productive weekend leaves the year list at 83, a very good total and in fact one ahead of this time last year (though I'm on 82 having missed the Barn Owl). A couple of bits should be ticked off in the next one or two weeks (Water Rail a notable year list absentee), and woodpeckers too are high on the agenda, before March and it’s many hopes and joyous offerings commence.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

30th January-4th February

A fairly quiet weekend, with a few more rather frustrating moments, though some teasing signs of spring made the time in the field worthwhile. The best bits were today, and in a repeat of last Sunday came via Crossbill and Hawfinch sightings. Elsewhere plenty of species are now in song, not least Skylark, which was a welcome year tick today with birds over the Ridge and at Tilsey Farm.
Raven, Junction Field, 4/2/2018.

Saturday 3rd

Thorncombe Street and Wepham

The weather yesterday was pretty poor, so I managed just a brief circuit. At Mill Pond wildfowl numbers remain low, though a calling Firecrest was good value. Bonhurst Farm had the impressive winter thrush and Starling flock, but that was about it.

With rain set in for the day, I decided to head down to the Arun valley and the water meadows between Warningcamp and Wepham. Here, the 4 adult Bewick's Swans showed nicely from the road, with 5 Mutes. I also noted a single Little Egret, and a pair of displaying Common Buzzards.

Sunday 4th
Lesser Redpoll, Ridge, 4/2/2018.

Joined by David C, an entire morning on patch was achieved, though the results were more steady than spectacular. The first port of call was the Ridge, and in glorious winter sunshine plenty of Common Buzzards, Red Kites and Ravens were up, with a male Sparrowhawk joining them later on.

The main focus for us was the finch and bunting flock, which didn't quite perform as hoped. However, we still tallied 5+ Bramblings, 20+ Lesser Redpolls, 2+ Reed Buntings and 20+ Linnets, and David saw what he thought was probably the long-staying Mealy Redpoll. A Skylark flew east, calling - a year tick for me, and if we want to be eager, perhaps a sign of a bird on the move back to its breeding grounds (this species is very scarce on this part of the patch).

Fieldfare, Bonhurst Farm, 3/2/2018.
We then completed a loop of New Barn to Tilsey Farm, during which time the best bird was probably a flyover Crossbill, calling but not seen, over Hive Field. At Tilsey Farm, at least 1 Skylark was in voice - this is the first I've heard this year, and it's always a particularly heart-warming sign of early spring. 

A Hawfinch flew south, a few Herring Gulls trickled east and 4 species of raptor (Kestrel and the previous 3 species) were up and at it.

After David raced to twitch Teal and Gadwall at Mill Pond for his Thorncombe Street list that was that, and I look forward to further signs of spring developing in the next few weeks. Saying that, this spell of northerlies that's forecast could produce something interesting in the next week or so.

Monday, 29 January 2018

24th-29th January

A mixed weekend on patch, with a couple of year ticks and decent birds for the site mixed in with a hugely frustrating encounter with a probable Merlin on Saturday. The year ticks came in the shape of Lesser Black-backed Gull and Crossbill, and the continued presence of Hawfinches throughout the site was pleasing.

female Reed Bunting, the Ridge, 27/1/2018
Saturday 27th 

Ridge 08:50-10:30 

1 Mealy Redpoll, 1 Falco sp. (south-west c.09:40), 4 Bramblings, 2 Yellowhammers, 2 Egyptian Geese (east), 30+ Lesser Redpolls, 40+ Linnets, 1 Sparrowhawk, 10+ Reed Buntings, 60+ Common Gulls, 3 Fieldfares (east), 10+ Redwings, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Ravens, 6 Red Kites, 10 Greylag Geese (north) and 3 Buzzards.

A lengthy spell on the Ridge, with lots going on. On the walk up a Hawfinch sat up nicely in a tree in the garden of Raggetts. Once on the top, the finch/bunting flock was very much in evidence, and it didn’t take too long to pick up the Redpoll group, this time feeding in the north crop. After a little while a few flew into the hedgerow on the east side, and here the Mealy revealed itself, showing very well and at close range for an all too brief period of time.

Lesser Redpolls, the Ridge, 27/1/2018
It was seen twice more, both in flight, when it’s massive white rump could be seen. A little later about half the flock flew up into the trees on the edge of Furze Field, and a particularly weird looking Lesser had me head scratching for a bit, as I pondered if it was another Mealy. As can be seen from the photos (left-hand bird), it had next to no streaking on a very pale breast/underparts, a pale-ish rump and, most oddly, a striking white wing patch (that seemed more than extreme fade, perhaps more some form of melanism?).

Presumably this is just a very worn individual, and Wes A suggested it was a 1st-winter female type. At this time of year Redpolls begin to wear and become paler in some places, and the red develops around the head and breast. In all, this makes them even harder to ID!

A real moment of frustration came when I was watching the Mealy in flight. Having lost it, I turned around, and to the west, over the south crop, I saw the silhouette of a small and slender falcon disappear over the hedgerow and towards Slades, mobbed by a Carrion Crow as it went. The jizz screamed Merlin, and it probably was, but I just didn’t see it long enough.

I raced down to the top of Slades but couldn’t see the bird, and indeed it didn’t reappear in the next 45 minutes. Very annoying. Not quite classic Merlin habitat here, but with the Ridge teeming with birds as it currently is one could easily drop in, much like the Hen Harrier in December.

female Kestrel (bearing two metal rings), Unknown Farm,
Sunday 29th

Ridge 07:50-08:30

1+ Bramblings, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd-winter south 08:11), 5+ Reed Buntings, 30+ Linnets+, 25+ Lesser Redpolls, 11 Red Kites, 4 Buzzards, 11 Herring Gulls (south) and 33 Common Gulls.

Another attempt to connect with and ideally photograph the Mealy, but in blustery conditions and low light I soon gave up. A gentle southerly trail of gulls included the first Lesser Black-backed of the year, in with several Herrings, and this movement continued throughout the morning.

Scotsland Brook to Tilsey Farm 09:00-10:35

20 Hawfinch (18 south over Hive Field 09:05 and 2 west over Juniper Hill 10:25), 2+ Crossbills (south over Coldbourne Copse 09:17), 1 Firecrest (Scotsland Brook), 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (adult and 1st-winter south over Hive Field c.09:00), 5 Herring Gulls (south), 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Kestrels, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 4 Buzzards and 6 Red Kites. 

Hawfinch, Raggetts, 27/1/2017
A nice stroll on a favoured circuit of mine, not done for a few weeks. A single flock of 18 Hawfinches was a surprise – it seems birds are flocking together locally, presumably as food sources diminish. If any hang around to breed on my patch, it’ll be in this area. A further 2 Lesser Black-backs moved south, with some more Herrings, and a Firecrest was singing at Scotsland Brook.

The birds of the day were the 2 Crossbills that were initially picked up on call, flying south over Coldboune Copse. There’s been no records since March, in what’s been a poor winter for them, but there’s possibly a few knocking about in Hascombe Hill. During the day a site record 18 Red Kites was tallied, surely indicative of a local roost.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Kiss From a Rose?

I figured the below should be out there, for clarification purposes for anyone interested.
On 1st June this year I found what I’m almost certain was a female-type Common Rosefinch. Many boxes were ticked – I heard the bird, and observed some key features through my telescope. However, the light was bad to appalling, with the sun right behind the bird in question. Furthermore, after only 10 minutes the individual flew off, and I failed to get a definitive photo.
The bird in question - at least the photo quality can
provide a laugh

At the time, having referenced guides in the field, and studiously gone over the perched bird, I was happy with my identification. I’ve seen this species before in places like Estonia and Poland, but here, in land-locked Surrey? Surely not. I called a couple of friends explaining that I was pretty certain I’d seen a Rosefinch, and set off on a fruitless 6-hour search to relocate it.
I’ve always associated that day with huge frustration. Whenever I think back on it, I recall the annoyance at not getting a clear photo, and the deflation of not re-finding it. Why? I’d been thorough with the ID, and was confident on what I’d seen.
As time went on, I began to feel like, deep down, there has been a tiny percentage of doubt. I remain almost certain it was a female-type Rosefinch, but the emphasis here is on almost. For a bird this rare in Surrey, with the imperfect views and lack of hard evidence brought away from it, I felt like I had to let it go.
Female Common Rosefinch (Wikipedia)
One of the key instigators in reversing my decision was the flyover Pipit I had on 8th October – even though I wasn’t sure that was Red-throated, the moment remains as electric and exciting as the Montagu’s Harrier, Cattle Egrets etc before because, whatever it was, it was definitely something special. The Rosefinch encounter lacked that clarity.

I don’t regret calling it at the time – I was 99% sure (and still am). Maybe I should have left it, and submitted the record. However, I don’t believe learning in birding (or at all) is static, and opinions, influences and just raw gut feeling can shift. For the time being, it remains my most frustrating birding experience.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

18th-23rd January

It was back to the patch after my recent spell in the eastern Med, and the grim weather over the weekend was a stark reminder of the season here. It was wet on both days, and on Sunday it even snowed for a bit (though it was predominately sleet), making for pretty tough field conditions. Nevertheless, I managed to get a couple of good sessions in, one of which resulted in the confirmed identification of the probable Mealy Redpoll, which has been on the Ridge with a large Lesser Redpoll flock for over a month now.

Mistle Thrush, Bonhurst Farm, 20/1/2018
Patch - 18th-23rd

After an unsuccessful search for Water Rail at Winkworth at dawn, I was up on the Ridge, and rain was just beginning to fall. It seemed the finch/bunting flock was largely on the north crop, and along the hedgerow that flanks the east of it. 45+ Linnets were easy to locate, as were at least 10 Reed Buntings, and it didn’t take long before I heard the first buzzy notes of a Brambling – there was at least 5 present, and it’s nice to have this species back here after a blank 2016/17 winter.

I couldn’t initially locate the Redpoll flock (just a couple in the hedgerow), but one of the beaters that was around flushed them from the small paddock between the north crop and Furze Field, and they flew up to the exposed trees on the west side of the latter woodland. As the group flew, again I noticed the obvious, large and pale individual, and it showed a really quite striking white rump in flight.

It, and the flock, sat up in the trees for around 10 minutes, and this individual was much more pallid than the Lessers it was with, and had less streaked underparts - the wingbar was bolder too. I’ve seen a few Mealy’s before, including birds in the hand, and I must say this one really does stand out amongst the Lessers it hangs around with (to the point Arctic ran through my mind, but it’s not that white, and the beak isn’t all squashed in!).

Little Egret, Eastwaters Pond, 19th January 2018
If anyone wants to try and see this bird, here is some information. For starters, the flock (at least 25 birds) is flighty and elusive, typically. Unlike the rest of the finches/buntings on the Ridge at present they rarely feed in the crops, and instead prefer a small strip of sunflowers and teasels in the aforementioned paddock (between the north crop and Furze Field at roughly TQ 00460 42264), which can’t be viewed very well from the footpath.

Here they feed on the ground and are basically impossible to see, but on occasion they will flush/fly out, and perch in the trees on the west side of Furze Field. Here they’re easily viewed from the path and approachable to the point you can stand right underneath them. The Mealy is fairly striking, and on Saturday it stood out as soon as the flock flew, due to the obvious rump.

I tried again on Sunday, in far worse conditions, and unsurprisingly few finches or buntings were showing their faces. It was a better situation elsewhere mind, with a Chiffchaff and Little Owl at Winkworth both year ticks, and a very pleasing tally of 152 Fieldfares at Bonhurst Farm. With the Fieldfares were 87 Redwings and 84 Starlings, and a Hawfinch flew over.

Also on Sunday, a new site record 99 Greylag Geese (including a single flock of 81 at Wintershall) were tallied throughout the site. A Little Egret was at Eastwaters Pond early on Friday, continuing the fine start to the year for this species.

Coward’s Marsh - 21st 

Stilt Sandpiper, Coward's Marsh, 20/1/2018.
With the weather as poor as it was on Saturday, further patching and football was scratched off the agenda, and so I decided to finally pay a visit to the wintering Stilt Sandpiper in Dorset. This individual has been moving about a bit, and even on the day of my trip down it relocated from Stanpit Marsh to Coward’s Marsh, a cute little area of flooded field north of Christchurch.

The 1st-winter bird was quickly picked up, but despite being pretty flighty it never came too close. Also of note here was a Spotted Redshank, a roosting Knot, 2 Oystercatchers and 150+ Lapwings. The sun occasionally shone too, and with snowdrops already out on the patch, and birdsong increasing, the faintest scent of spring can be detected.

*2017 Thorncombe Street Area Bird Report* - a reminder to anyone who missed the news that this is now available, though a surprising number have already shifted and only a handful remain. Please check out thislink for details.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Cyprus part two: gulls

One of the things I was most looking forward to ahead of my trip to Cyprus was spending time with the winter gull population. For starters, Armenian would have been a lifer, and Caspian are said to be numerous and approachable. On top of that there’s the chance of digging out something rare, such as Heuglin’s, or even Great Black-headed. All of the above is made much easier (for a novice like myself) by the lack of Herring and graellsii or intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gulls!

A: Adult Caspian Gull, Larnaca sewage farm, 17/1/2018.
The revered Lady’s Mile was where I planned to do my gulling, about half an hour from where we were staying and known for it’s large concentration of various species. I also checked beaches and harbours when I could.

Sadly, numbers were far lower than what I’d hoped, and the lack of gulls this winter was reaffirmed by local birders. Amazingly, I had no Caspians at Lady’s Mile, and never more than 15-20 Armenians there. I ended up venturing to Larnaca, where plenty of gulls were found.

Below is a species breakdown of what I saw, with some brief comment on the plumage and features I noted.

Caspian Gull

I only saw this species at Meneou Pools and Larnaca sewage farm/south pools, but here it was the commonest gull by far. There were probably at least 150 knocking around, though sadly none were very close – I’d hoped to have Casps come to bread at Lady’s Mile, so the lack of them there was a touch disappointing.

The jizz/structure of all ages easily separated them from the Armenians, even at range. For a species that generally has ‘classic’ features when picked up in the UK, I was amazed at the variation within the birds here. Some individuals were extreme – the bill length on the bird in the photo (A) is one such example.

Yellow-legged Gull
B: 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.

I only saw a handful, and I think Yellow-legged Gulls are found more readily on the north side of the island. In my opinion I had two first-winters at Lady’s Mile, including the bird (poorly) photographed and shown here (B).

It stood out from the first-winter Armenians it was with for a number of reasons. For starters, it was a bit of a beast among them, notably larger and fiercer looking. The heavy bill was archetypal for Yellow-legged, and the pale eye was a key feature when ruling out Armenian. Furthermore, it was a darker bird with less bleaching, particularly on the coverts (which was notable among the Armenians). If I was in the UK, the tertials and eye mask would point towards 1st-winter Yellow-legged too.
C: 1st-winter Armenian Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.

There were also 2 or 3 adult Yellow-legged Gulls at Larnaca sewage farm, the pale eye and lack of a black band on the bill identifying them.

Armenian Gull

A very interesting species, particularly first-winters, with which I found a lot of variation. Typically they recalled 1st-winter Yellow-legged, but I encountered plenty that looked very much like 1st-winter Caspians.

D: 1st-winter Armenian Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.
Often, scapular and covert moult to second-summer had taken place (or was), with many 1st-winters having grey upperparts. This varied though, but is the case with the first Armenian pictured (C), which appeared particularly longer-billed than most. The second pictured (D) was about as ‘classic’ a 1st-winter as I could find – rather typical 1st-winter coverts, and a short bill, with the structure almost recalling Common Gull.

E: 1st-winter Armenian Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.
I had a bit of difficulty with a distant 1st-winter which was resting on the pools (E). At range, the bill and head looked OK for Caspian, but the mantle and scapulars not so much. When it flew, the white axillaries suggested Caspian, but the bill then appeared shorter, and there was no real shawl. I left it as an Armenian, and there were a few others that teased Casp features too.

2nd-winters were much easier, and you can see the almost Common Gull like appearance in the one pictured. I learnt that Armenians (and most eastern gulls) are prone to a lot more covert moult, and this is the case with the bird photographed (F) – it looks older than 2nd-winter.
F: 2nd-winter Armenian Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.

Adults, with their dark eye and bill band, were largely straightforward, even at range. Phew! Of course, there was the occasional oddity, such as a bird with a clear pale iris. The white spots in the primaries identified it as an adult (pale eyes are more frequent in third-year Armenians).

Heuglin’s Gull

Not one I expected to come across, so I was delighted to find two at Larnaca sewage farm, in with a large mixed flock. This relatively poorly-known gull is considered a subspecies of Lesser Black-backed, and breeds on Siberian tundra, wintering in the Middle East and southern Asia.

G: Adult Heuglin's Gull (right), Larnaca sewage farm,
First up was a beastly adult (G), larger than most of the Caspians nearby, and appearing very similar to a winter graellsii. It had a clean white head, but was too far for any observation of the late moult typical of this taxa. The upperparts were much darker than those of the adult Casps and Armenians nearby.

When I didn’t think it could get much better, what I reckon to be a third-year Heuglin’s appeared! This bird (H) had extremely dark upperparts, recalling intermedius or even fuscus, and this showed when the adult Heuglin’s drifted aside it. The other notable feature was the heavy streaking to the head and, in particular, the neck. 
H: 3rd-winter Heuglin's Gull (foreground, adult in
background), Larnaca sewage farm, 17/1/2018.

Some rather ropy footage of the 3rd-winter can be found here.

Baltic Gull (?)

One that will be left unidentified, not least because of the distance and poor light that hindered views, but a very interesting adult gull (I) on Meneou Pools with a huge Caspian/Armenian flock. It was distant, but the seemingly jet-black upperparts and structure strongly recalled Baltic Gull, with its small size possibly pointing towards a female.
I: possible adult Baltic Gull, Meneou Pools, 17/1/2018.

Fuscus is only a passage migrant to Cyprus, though a couple were reported on Lady’s Mile not long after I left the island. However, it’s worth remembering the size variation in Heuglin’s, which can sometimes appear small when next to Caspians.

Black-headed Gull

Hundreds at Lady’s Mile, some well on their way to summer plumage.

J: Adult Slender-billed Gull, Lady's Mile, 14/1/2018.
Slender-billed Gull

Just the one, an adult, in with the 300+ Black-headed Gulls at Lady’s Mile. It showed at close range (J).