Kumlien's Gull at Fendrod and Black-throated Diver at Cosmeston

Saturday, March 29, 2014 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


This past week has seen us enjoying a well-earned break down in Cornwall exploring locations around Lands End and Lizard Point. From our first ever self-found Glaucous Gull to Turnstones close enough to touch the birding certainly exceeded all expectations and that's not forgetting of course the miles of stunning scenery and fascinating industrial remnants. Needless to say I've got a mountain of photos and video to sort through during the next few days but that's not to say we can't dive in right away. After all I've been back for at least a couple of hours now and unpacking just doesn't appeal.

Boring journey? Add a White-winger

Normally travelling to and from a holiday destination involves miles and miles of boring motorway driving so for this trip we thought we'd spice things up a bit by stopping off at a couple of locations along the way. The first of these was just a few miles down the road at Fendrod Lake in Swansea where last week a Kumlien's Gull had been visiting fairly regularly. Given my increased interest in rarer Gull species of late this was too good an opportunity to miss so with a gentle rain falling we jumped out of the car full of expectation. However a quick scan of the water told us that luck may not be our side as other than a few Herring Gulls the lake was pretty much deserted. Not wanting to leave empty handed I decided that a quick walk around its perimeter was just what we needed (to stretch the legs of course) but even this failed to locate any white-wingers. What we did find however was perhaps even better with a single Swallow and at least four Sand Martins zipping low across the waters surface, our first proper spring migrants of the year. Against a backdrop of several calling Chiffchaffs it really did feel much later than March, an illusion only broken by another heavy rain shower making its presence felt. Pace considerably quickened we made it back to the car just as a couple of larger Gulls appeared seemingly attracted by a child feeding bread to the ducks (I'm assuming they were interested in the bread not the child). Initially these looked to be more of the same but Emma was quickly onto a paler individual which turned out to be the sought after Kumlien's! Through tree branches I managed decent if not stunning views though they were plenty good enough to be sure of the ID. Sadly any chance of studying the plumage in more detail was soon last as the Kumlien's drifted off over nearby industrial units and was lost to sight. Lifer number one of the day and we were up and running.

Diving at Cosmeston

Back on the road and a short detour into Cardiff found us at Cosmeston Lakes hoping to catch up with a Black-throated Diver. Of the three main Diver species this is the only one I've never seen at close quarters and indeed my only previous 'tickable' bird I now consider dubious at best given distances involved and my inexperience at the time. As a result this bird, if found, would in reality equate to another life tick. Fortunately our luck held and it didn't take long to locate it out on East lake.

P1070121 - Black-throated Diver, Cosmeston Lakes

P1070124 - Black-throated Diver, Cosmeston Lakes

Initially distant I managed to find a slightly closer vantage point to take the record shots above though given the bright sunlight and my limited equipment they're not going to win any awards. This really wasn't a concern however as on this occasion any pictures were very much secondary to the simple enjoyment of watching the bird go about what turned into a very rigorous preening session. On its back, standing up or even running across the water all kinds of behaviour were on offer and I resorted to video to try and capture some of the action. As always ensure you turn the quality up to maximum when watching.


After about twenty minutes I had to tear myself away, conscious of the miles ahead of us still to cover. As you can imagine this was with some reluctance as how often do you get a chance to observe one of these birds at such close quarters? After this the M5 unsurprisingly seemed even more boring than usual.

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