Wednesday 5 April 2023

Bonaparte's Gull at Hayle Estuary, Cornwall April 2023

 On the 5th April, the wind direction changed overnight from North East to South West and conditions were typically mild and wet. Reuben Veal visited Hayle Estuary early in the morning and found a first winter (second calendar year) Bonaparte's Gull on the estuary, easily viewable from the causeway bridge.

Being of American origin, this species seemed out of place among the many Mediterranean rarities that turned up in Cornwall on the 4th and 5th. The most notable were six Black-winged Stilts at Walmsley, three more at Gunwalloe, Alpine Swift at St. Ives, Hoopoe at Perranporth, Black Kite nr Hayle, Woodchat at Nanjizal, two Purple Herons at Chapel Porth and Rosemullion and a Serin at Pendeen. Quite a tally.

Back to the Bonaparte's.  There are at least 40 previous records in Cornwall and 283 acceptable records in the UK. The last accepted record in Cornwall was 2020 when a first winter roosted at Padstow (9-12th Feb) though there was one off Roskilly in January 2021 (which I saw). Presumably this one hasn't been submitted by the finder.

The species breeds in the boreal forests of Southern Alaska and Arctic Canada and south towards North America. It winters on both coasts of North America as well as inland.

In Cornwall, the most popular sites are Hayle Estuary, Mounts Bay and Drift Res. March is the most frequent month though nationally, April is the most likely time to find one.

Well done Reuben. A great find while on Easter holiday!

Pictures below by Mike McKee.

First winter Bonaparte's Gull, Hayle Estuary, April 2023 (pics courtesy Mike McKee).

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