Saturday, 8 February 2014

best day this year?

Saturday 8 February.  With the rain pounding on our roof at 07:00 it was tempting not to get up at all - even going down to the river seemed like too much effort.  The heavy shower soon cleared and I decided to try Newick to look for the over-wintering swallow.  Passing a parked SWT van with a swallow painted on its back door I took to be a good omen and the swallow was flying around the sheltered side of the tall leylandii for half an hour before disappearing off south.  Also Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer.  I headed down to the Cuckmere where I saw the 3 White-fronted Geese and Spoonbill before John King arrived.  We searched the gull flocks above and below the A259 without success and couldn't relocate the geese although we did see 2 Brents.  We were alerted to a probable Kumlien's Gull at Littlehampton which John headed off for.  I wasn't sure whether to go or not but was heading home anyway.  I stopped by Hove Lagoon and saw the first-winter Glaucous Gull flying over the fishing boats at the end of Southwick Canal.  Another text convinced me to go on to Littlehampton (thanks Paul) and I did so after a brief call in at home.  From Littlehampton West Beach during an hour or so I saw 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Little Gulls (1w & 2w), the adult Glaucous Gull and the first-winter Kumlien's Gull.  The latter wasn't quite what I was expecting but I'd only seen one before. Kumlien's is very variable and thought to have evolved from hybridisation between Iceland and Thayer's Gulls, although the later is of somewhat uncertain taxonomic providence itself.  If the previous Kumlien's I had seen was definitely towards the Iceland Gull end of the spectrum then this one was firmly at the Thayer's end being large and very coarsely marked.  John King and I then went on to see the 2 Whooper Swans not far off the Bognor-Chichester road (thanks again Paul).  An excellent day and the 30th anniversary of my starting work at Sussex University.

White-fronted Geese near Exceat Bridge
all three were there
sleeping Spoonbill near Exceat Bridge
Glaucous Gull over Southwick Canal
auto-focus not working as well as one might like (probably the operator's unsteady hand rather than the camera)
adult Glaucous Gull at Littlehampton

Kumlien's Gull at Littlehampton

more auto-focus issues
sharpening out-of-focus images may have made the barring appear courser than it really was

Whooper Swans near Banwell
by now the light was fading fast

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