Saturday, 6 December 2014

Geese and Gulls (6 December)

Saturday 6th. A day being chauffeured around by John King who came over to Shoreham.  We headed for Cuckoo's Corner and almost immediately saw the Bean Goose found by Briget James the previous evening.  I wasn't really expecting it to still be there as it didn't seem a very likely place for one to stay, especially as it was often disturbed.  We watched it with Jake Everitt, alternating between the stubble fields north of the A27 (where it was disturbed by two foxes) and the river bank (where people couldn't help doing the same). JK was keen to see the almost certain escapee Cackling Canada Goose in the Cuckmere and a high tide was often good for gulls there so we dragged ourselves.  Nothing could be seen with the relatively small numbers of geese and gulls north of the A259 altough our second Kingfisher of the day put in a brief appearance.  Fortunately things were better south of the road.  We saw the Cackling Canada Goose (thanks to Tony Cook, Gordon Beck and Mike O'Shea) and 5 Barnacles (never an easy call where they might have come from but with a few wild geese and swans on the move I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.  The gull flock nearby didn't appear to hold anything so we tried further south, almost to Harry's Bush,where a much bigger flock was present.  They were mainly Greater Black-backs and not easy to view, being close together, mostly asleep with many sitting down.  After about half an hour I picked out a likely adult Yellow-legged Gull but it promptly sat down leaving just its darker than Herring mantle visible.  After a while it did show itself briefly before disappearing again.  What might have been it, or another Yellow-legged Gull, was later seen poorly after the flock moved around a bit.  Just as we were about to leave a likely adult Caspian Gull stood up showing its long thin very washed out bill and small pure white head.  It too spent most of its time sitting partly hidden before disappearing but I got some images.  I was happy from what I could see that it was a Caspian Gull but fully admit that I didn't see all the features one might wish to (no critical detail of its primaries) and was pleased that it wasn't a new bird.  We returned to Shoreham via Jevington where the Rough-legged Buzzard was still performing while low tide at Shoreham Airport was disappointing with just the regular Shelduck and Curlew seen.

Bean Goose in a stubble field near Cuckoo's Corner
about to be flushed by a fox ...

on the riverbank opposite Cuckoo's Corner
it kept returning to this area, presumably because of the succulent vegetation
yummy

 
Two of the flock of five Barnacle Geese very much against the sun in the lower Cuckmere
poor image of the Cackling Canada Goose, presumably the bird in the Arun earlier in the year and recently refound at Arlington by Jake Everitt
Yellow-legged Gull in the lower Cuckmere, yellow legs just about imaginable as is its clean head, heavy thick bill and darker-than Herring mantle.  Not much else is though.
presumed adult Caspian Gull in the lower Cuckmere. small head, small dark eye, long thin washed out bill, bulging neck and ventral bulge imaginable in the above image
wings appeared long but no critical detail was noted and my images are not helped by the bright sun
legs were always mostly obscured so in that respect it might as well have been on a reservoir
everything we could see on the bird appeared to fit Caspian Gull but there were features that we didn't note (mainly critical detail of its primary pattern)


this image shows its bill to best effect
we were happy with the identification of this bird as an adult Caspian Gull but couldn't hand-on-heart say we could definitely rule out a hybrid or that some of the features not noted might have gone against it had we seen it better.  Given the incidence of almost look-a-like hybrids it is not one I would have counted had it been a new bird,
playing with my new camera - a Canon Powershot SX60
Rough-legged Buzzard still at Jevington
Roger Charlwood having been to see it several times, it decided to return the complement yesterday with a foray to Beachy Head.  totay it flew off high in that direction but did a big circle around before returning.
hovering

Friday 5th.  Local Herring Gull red A4MF was footpaddling on the grass at the University when I was locking up my bike.

Wednesday 3rd.  A lunchtime walk to Falmer Pond but the Goosander appeared to have moved on.  Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Jay in the village on the way back made it a pleasant break from a busy week at work. 

Sunday 30th.  I took Ruth and Ollie, visiting form New Zealand, to Crowlink and we walked down to the sea, along some of the Seven Sisters to Birling Gap and Belle Tout.  Very atmospheric with low cloud and some mist enhancing the already brilliant scenery.  Few birds though with Goldcrests at Crowlink and in Belle Tout (4), Chiffchaff at Birling and 3 Stonechats.  We called in at the National Trust visitor centre at Birling (I've not been in before) and enjoyed the old photos showing where the cliff edge used to be.  Ollie also noticed thick white lines on the floor showing where it was predicted to be in the next 25 or so years.  An afternoon of overdue bike maintenance, mending a slow puncture and fitting new front brakes.  Hopefully it'll see me through the winter.
Belle Tout from the Seven Sisters
Seaford Head, Hope Gap and Cuckmere cottages from the Seven Sisters 
Seven Sisters from Birling
Beachy Head lighthouse from Belle Tout
Ollie and Ruth
Green Woodpecker at Birling

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