Sunday, 9 December 2018

Cuckmere gulls again (09 December)

Sunday 9 December. Cookie and I spent about three hours (10:00-13:00) with the Cuckmere gull flocks, much of the time with CWM. The gulls were more distant than they had been on recent visits and at a less helpful angle in a NW wind than if it was SW. Bright low sun made it difficult at times as did most of the birds either sitting or standing in shallow water. I saw two possibly three adult Caspian Gulls, a smart second-winter (picked out by Christian) and another possible second-winter and at least six adult Yellow-legged Gulls, one or two argentatus Herring Gulls and about 500 Lesser and 800 Great Black-backed Gulls in two flocks. A Short-eared Owl was seen distantly on the opposite side of the river in front of Foxhole Barn and I heard a Raven but didn't stop scanning the gulls to look for it. Matt went down later and saw two smart looking first-winter Caspian Gulls and a different second-winter which rather made me regret not staying longer.
second-winter Yellow-legged (front left) and adult Caspian Gull (from right) in the Cuckmere
the adult Caspian Gull showing its snoutty appearance, long thin quite washed out bill and small dark eye
the adult Caspian Gull's bill appearing quite different when foreshortened
and the bill brighter when catching the sun
adult Caspian Gull showing its small head, bulging breast and drooping rear belly
adult Caspian Gull showing its long thin washed out bill, contrasting with some of the other images
the same or another adult Caspian Gull (front left) with a sleeping adult Yellow-legged Gull (front right)
adult Caspian Gull showing its washed out bill
adult Caspian Gull showing its small head, Yellow-legged Gull still asleep
adult Caspian Gull showing its long, thin bill
adult Caspian Gull showing its small dark eye and long thin washed out bill

adult Caspian Gull - a smaller bird in the seaward flock as I was leaving
it promptly sat down and then tucked its head in and went to sleep
second-winter Caspian Gull (front centre) picked out by Christian
another good sized bird
note darker mantled adult Yellow-legged Gull rear left
second-winter Caspian Gull showing small white head, dark bullet hole eye, dark hind neck streaks and elongated rear
note darker mantled adult Yellow-legged Gull rear right
a smart looking bird and the highlight of the visit
another more advanced second-winter perhaps a shade darker above looked rather like a Caspian Gull too?
I wasn't sure I could rule out Yellow-legged Gull on these views
adult Yellow-legged Gull (front centre)
the same adult Yellow-legged Gull
another adult Yellow-legged Gull
the same adult Yellow-legged Gull showing extensive black on the primaries
another adult Yellow-legged Gull
this one looked a bit Caspian like with small eye and long thin bill but the iris appeared pale and mantle a shade dark?
argentatus Herring Gull - large size, heavily streaked head and bright pink legs
the same or a different argentatus Herring Gull seen a bit later in a different part of the flock

Saturday 8 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Steepdown seeing 20 Sky Larks, a Stonechat and 15 Reed and 60+ Corn Buntings. In the afternoon I went to Pulborough RSPB where the White-rumped Sandpiper gave brief very distant views and flew a couple of times. Only my third in Britain and the first since 1981! Also 400+ Black-tailed Godwits on the North Brooks.
Corn Bunting at Steepdown
Wednesday 5 December. At high tide two Purple Sandpipers were on the wooden jetty in Shoreham Harbour with a Rock Pipt nearby but just 3 Greenfinches. Two pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers were on Widewater.
Two Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Harbour
Sunday 2 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham where we saw virtually no small birds at all in the woods, just Blue and Great Tits. The visit was salvaged by a distant ring-tailed Hen Harrier flying over Amberley Wildbrooks and 2 Mistle Thrushes in Parham Park. Later a red-head Goosander was a pleasant surprise during a low-tide visit to the Adur which also produced North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT again.
sleeping Goosander on the Adur
Friday 30 November. A Redwing was heard after dark as I cycled along Shoreham Harbour.

Thursday 29 November. A morning around Shoreham with Cookie produced a Gannet off Shorham Fort, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers on Widewater and a French colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull and 2 Little Grebes on the Adur.

Great Black-backed Gull 83P on the Adur, most likely from Le Havre

Wednesday 28 November.
A low-tide visit to the Adur with Cookie where an adult Yellow-legged Gull was roosting with the commoner gulls. Also North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT, 2 Little Grebe, 120 Lapwing and 21 Dunlin.

North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT
Adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur


Monday, 26 November 2018

Mainly Gulls and Owls (11-25 November)

Sunday 25 November. I decided to check the Cuckmere gull flock and look for the Seaford Snow Bunting on the way, Cookie came too. I diverted to Newhaven Harbour on the way as the rising tide was still quite low. A few gulls were on the beach and included two colour-ringed Great Black-back Gulls. One with a Norwegian ring walked into the sea just far enough to submerge part of its ring and then flew. It looked to have been JC383 seen earlier in the month on the Adur and by Matt at Newhaven the previous year but I couldn't be sure of the second character. The other a Le Havre bird was at an angle that only the bottom of one of the characters was visible, either an O or U, and then immediately flew. I waited for 20 minutes as the tide covered half of the exposed beach but neither returned. Frustrating. I then failed to find the Snow Bunting in 45 minutes of looking and headed to the barn on Seaford Head. We headed down to Harry's Bush and the nearer of two gull flocks, noting Matt walking in our direction from the further larger flock. Our flock held just an adult Yellow-legged Gull but Matt had seen an adult Caspian in his, and four White-fronted Geese had dropped in near them. Matt had also failed with the Snow Bunting but had recently seen 85U at Newhaven, the Le Havre mystery solved. I followed Matt back to the larger flock and we spent an hour scanning from a raised track, Cookie being very patient throughout. We picked out five Caspian Gulls (2 adults, a third-winter and two first-winters) that we were happy with and six Yellow-legged Gulls (5 adults and a second-winter). During this time Neil and Chris appeared and we pointed out to them the Caspians that were on view (and the White-fronts). After an hour and as there seemed little movement amongst the gulls we gave up. I had a final look through the smaller flock on the way back seeing a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull. Checking my phone back at the barn I saw that the Snow Bunting had been seen after we'd left but another half hour there on the way home drew another blank. Back home while checking my photos I discovered they were all over-exposed, not that they would have been very good to start with but inadvertently taking them at +2/3rds hadn't helped.
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing thin dark bill, white head and underparts, small eye, streaked rear neck, greyish mantle (more obvious in the field than this over-exposed image) with a few darker feathers, black tertials with white thumb-nails, black primaries and tail, thin legs
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing among other features its small head
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing among other features its bulging chest, sagging rear belly
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing among other features its white rump and tail base with only light flecking
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing among other features its whitish underwing
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird A) showing among other features its long thinnish legs and thin all dark bill
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird B) showing its all dark bill, small white head and underparts, greyish tinged mantle brownish coverts, dark tertials with white thumb-nails and black primaries. Birds A and B were both visible in different parts of the flock at the same time.
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird B) showing among other features its black tail tip, lightly flecked white rump and upper tail and thin legs.
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird B) showing among other features its typical white, grey, brown and black plumage, long parallel bill, thin legs and snouty appearance
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird B), the bill appearing a little heavier in this image
First-winter Caspian Gull (bird B) showing among other classic features its hanging rear belly and long wings. It briefly flew showing a whitish underwing.
Third-winter Caspian Gull (bird C) showing snouty appearance, small eye, clean white head, mantle a shade darker than argenteus Herring Gull, brownish tinge to rear greater coverts, predominantly black wings and elegant appearance
Third-winter Caspian Gull (bird C) showing a small white subterminal tip to the outer primary and small dark eye
Third-winter Caspian Gull (bird C) showing among other features its long thin legs and
Third-winter Caspian Gull (bird C) showing among other features its elongated rear end and  bulging breast

Third-winter Caspian Gull (bird C) showing among other features its parallel sided bill, small head and dark eye
Adult Caspian Gull (bird D) showing its long thin rather washed out bill, small clean white head with small dark(ish) eye, heavy breast, mantle a shade darker than the argenteus Herring Gull to its left, impression of thin legs, and long wings with a large white tip to primary 10.
Adult Caspian Gull (bird D) showing extensive white on the underside of p10
Adult Caspian Gull (bird D) showing its long thin washed out bill
Adult Caspian Gull (bird D) showing among other features its bulging breast and hanging rear belly
Adult Caspian Gull (bird E) giving very little away - clean white head, slightly darker than argenteus Herring Gull mantle (not as dark as the adult Yellow-legged Gulls in the flock) and long thin pale fleshy legs. An excellent piece of spotting by Matt and just as well it was standing up.
Adult Caspian Gull (bird E) showing its all dark eye. Sadly it never did any more in the time we were watching, although there were too many distractions in the flock to spend overly long on it.
one of the four White-fronted Geese in the Cuckmere
Stonechat in the Cuckmere


main gull flock Cuckmere from Harry's Bush
Saturday 24 November. Two Turnstones and 15 Greenfinches at Shoreham Fort with five Razorbills on the sea but I soon gave up due to poor weather.
Friday 23 November. Seventeen Fieldfares flew east over Mill Hill while I was up there with Cookie. Three Redwings were with them and another was in the bushes. Later we visited Beeding Brooks with Megan seeing 3 Short-eared Owls mainly in the same area (over towards the Small Dole road) as last week, 40+ Fieldfares and 2 Reed Buntings.


Wednesday 21 November. A late afternoon visit to the River Adur produced an adult Mediterranean Gull, 9 Redshank and 2 Dunlin, one of the later appeared almost as dark as a Green Sandpiper. Earlier on the way to take my car to the garage a Sparrowhawk flew over.

dark Dunlin on the Adur at dusk!
Sunday 18 November. A visit to Pulborough and the Burgh with DB was quickly curtailed when I realised I had a flat tyre. I then couldn’t get the jack to work, the one I’d been given with the car was for an opal not a Fiat and had a different head. I borrowed Megan’s, for a Kia, which seemed to fit better but still didn’t seem to work so called the RAC. They put on the space saver but I was reluctant to drive far on it. They punctured tyre had a screw in the outside of it and was not repairable so I decided to wait to take it into the garage later in the week. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie behind the Power Station seeing a Peregrine sat near the chimney, 5 Turnstones and a Rock Pipit.
Peregrine at Shoreham Harbour
Saturday 17 November. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 2 Grey Herons sat in the middle of a stubble field, 2 Buzzards, 4 Song Thrushes, 4 Goldfinches and a Linnet. Autumn is certainly over.

Friday 16 November. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort seeing a Meadow Pipit and 21 Greenfinches so wasn’t best pleased to later learn that two Black Redstarts were seen there later. We called in at the Adur seeing 5 Ringed and 3 Grey Plover, 17 Dunlin and 12 Redshank but very few gulls. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie to Beeding Brooks where 3 Short-eared Owls were a welcome sight. Also 6 Fieldfare and 600+ Jackdaws gathering before roosting.
Short-eared Owl on Beeding Brooks, ther closest I came with the camera
Wednesday 14 November. I took Cookie to Brooklands on the off-chance the Pallas’s Leaf Warbler might still be around but it had gone overnight. We saw an adult Mediterranean Gull on the lake and 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrest and 11 Long-tailed Tits in the bushes. Later as the sun was shining we went with Megan to Beeding Hill where the Little Owl was sunning itself. Also 24 Fieldfares and 6 Redwings were my first winter thrushes.
Little Owl at Beeding Hill



Mediterranean Gull at Brooklands
Sunday 11 November. Poor weather stopped me going further than a dog walk in Buckingham Park where 60 Goldfinches was the only notebook entry.
rainbow over Buckingham Park