Monday, 4 February 2013

Shoreham, Princes Park and Southease (03 February 2013, recreated)

In correcting a date and adding a reference to Sunday's post of this title I managed, in two stages, to delete the whole posting.  I hit the back arrow on the web-browser before/rather than the undo button on blogger.  Very annoying but here is a recreated version, I'm not sure it is as polished as the original, although I'm probably remembering it to be better than it was.  Suggestions the post was removed for legal reasons are entirely misguided!

03 February 2013.  I spent two hours checking my usual areas around Shoreham without seeing a great deal.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station chimney from Shoreham Fort, 40 Common Scoter and a Red-throated Diver off Widewater where a North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull was on the beach and just 3 Grey Plovers and very few gulls on the Adur despite a low tide.  Megan and I then went up to Devils Dyke and walked along to Truleigh Hill and back.  Visibility was very good when we started but the strong cold westerly wind soon blew in low cloud and we’d only just returned to the car when it started drizzling.  While out I’d received texts from John King to say that the Bonaparte’s Gull was back in Eastbourne and Paul James about 11 Waxwings by the Old Shoreham Road in Portslade that we’d earlier driven past (many thanks to both).  A slow drive past Benfield Way produced identifiable views of 5 or 6 Waxwings and after dropping Megan at home I returned for better views, seeing all 11.  I watched them for five minutes before dragging myself away to drive to Eastbourne.  At Prince’s Park the Bonaparte’s Gull was still present and being watched although it took me a couple of scans of the lake to pick it out, the size difference not always being that evident.  A very good find by David Cooper, more so at a site where few would consider looking.  Although few of the differences from Black-headed Gull were great, when added together they made a very much nicer, more endearing bird that I very much enjoyed watching.  Superb.  I then headed for Southease bridge to look for the dark-breasted Barn Owl but arrived about half an hour earlier than I need have (should have spent longer with the gull).  Despite a strong wind and drizzle the dark-breasted Barn Owl appeared from the west, crossed the river and gave excellent views as it did a couple of circuits around the fields between the river and railway line before heading away south.  A distinctive bird although one that probably falls within the intergrade boundaries.  A ‘normal’ Barn Owl was also present taking my years total to a record (for me) 11 and it is only just February!  A very enjoyable afternoon that nicely complemented the previous day’s trip to Scotney and Dungeness.
one of the 11 Waxwings in Portslade (thanks for the text Paul)
Bonaparte's Gull at Prince's Park, Eastbourne, an excellent find by David Cooper and Brenda Kay
a rather hunched pose perhaps to keep out of the wind on the exposed part of the pond
the size difference from Black-headed Gull was usually always this obvious
differences from black-headed Gull were quite subtle although the small all black bill shows well here 
altogether a more delicate bird
a rather distant flight shot showing the distinctive underwing and pale pink legs & feet

still practising its butterfly stroke, perhaps nobody's mentioned that the Olympics finished at about the time it was first reported
even with a 1/250th of a second exposure there was some blurring of the moving wings, the still head is OK though
comment as above
even on this one, still at 1/250th, there is some bluring of the primaries
Ornithological fraud remains a concern to some and is not limited to the ‘what’s hit is history’ era with photographic fraud using digital images its modern day equivalent (see May 2012 British Birds 105:254-255).  A record of this species in Sussex in 2011 was considered to be Not Proven by BBRC (British Birds 105:625) when the supporting photograph was clearly of the species reported.  This appears to suggest that there was considered to be something not right about it?  I was therefore keen to try and get an image of a Bonaparte’s Gull at the same exposure for comparison.  ExIf data revealed this to be a very slow 1/15th second (see image and caption below).  In that respect I was unsuccessful although this very blurry image taken at 1/40th second was the best that I could manage.  The comparative blurriness is probably overstated due to the greater magnification (6x) although that would be offset somewhat by a faster exposure. 
Generally the faster the exposure time the less blurry an image is likely to be although there will be other factors.  One might therefore expect the sharpest image to be the one taken with the fastest exposure.  The ExIf data above from the image (posted at shows a Bonaparte’s Gull taken at 1/15 (0.06666667) seconds (relevant ExIf row highlighted in green).  Even accounting for some magnification effects the sharpness of this image is not matched by that above taken at 1/40th second or even those above above taken at much faster speeds of 1/250th.  Might this have been a consideration in BBRC reaching a Not Proven verdict on this record?  British Birds (105:256) suggests that 'the capacity of some people to design and execute sometimes astonishingly complex and technically difficult fraud ... is a proven fact'.  In the light of the above this might appear to have the hallmarks of another.  Note ExIf data reveals the exposure of the above still image to be 1/30th second,  no blurring evident, say no more ...
A famous face at Prince’s Park – Lee Evans relaxing after his third attempt to see the Bonaparte’s Gull was successful.  LGRE has little time for ornithological fraudsters too so it is just as well that neither of us were there that morning:-).  On a similar inconsistent ExIf thread, but a different American gull species, suspicious February shadows can be disproved (see I'll leave that one for another time should the need arise, and leave others to make up their own minds.

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