Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dungeness Caspian Gull (29 December 2011)

Having had no success with Caspian Gulls in Sussex I decided to try for the first-winter that has set up residence on the beach at Dungeness. I met Martin Casemore on site and was guided straight to the bird - brilliant! It fully lived up to my expectations being very distinctive and giving very good views I felt a new bird deserved. It was mainly sitting down in the strong wind which is perhaps why it allowed such close approach, but it did stretch it wings an stand up a couple of times before flying around and landing on the shingle for a few minutes before heading back towards the lighthouse. We then left and checked the ARC pit and Hanson Hide seeing 2 Great White Egrets, the leucistic Grey Heron, 3 Smew, 8 Goldeneye, a Marsh Harrier and 15+ Tree Sparrows. The Long-tailed Duck couldn't be found and the reserve was apparently very quiet so we returned to the beach where the Glaucous Gull had appeared and two colour-ringed Herring Gulls were seen but not well enough to read although one was certainly a North Thames bird. It was great to see Martin and even better to be guided around Dungeness by him but I reluctantly left to give myself time to check Scotney and Pett. The former was quiet with most of the Greylags asleep, my excuse for not finding the pink-billed bird. About 60 Barnacle Geese and the Emperor hybrids looked particularly plastic. At Pett a Bar-headed Goose was associating with a flock of Canadas, 4 Pink-feet and 9 White-fronts were rather distantly on their own and an adult and possible second-winter Scandinavian Herring Gull were with the high tide gull flock. A brilliant day that really made me wonder why I bothered looking for gulls in Sussex at places where good views are almost impossible! No more, until the next time ...

Caspian Gull at Dungeness, as I'd always imagined one would look and a very welcome but long overdue British/World tick - 513/6254 or thereabouts
white underwing, tail pattern and dark secondary bar just about visible
I'm very sure I've not overlooked one as distinctive as this before, at least not in daylight!  The long thin legs show to good effect too.
tail showing well
reluctant to move in the strong wind
only subtle differences from other gulls but when put together a very distinctive 'package'
too close to fit it all in

Great White Egret from the Hanson Hide

Glaucous Gull on the beach at Dungeness, now in its second winter
its got legs too
back in Sussex (Pett Level) so views rapidly deteriorate, centre-left gull identified as argentatus Herring Gull due to noticably darker mantle (even to one who is grey-shade challenged), extensive white tip to p10, dull bill and large size.
even worse views of Pink-feet (back) and White-fronts from the sea wall at Pett Level

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