Saturday, 20 December 2014

Newhaven and Cuckmere (20 December)

Saturday 20th.  John King and I visited Newhaven and the lower Cuckmere.  There were 17 Purple Sandpipers at the former, my highest count anywhere since 1989.  They were on the East Pier as the tide was coming in but then all but one flew to the West Breakwater.  A flighty male Black Redstart was behind the harbour perimeter fence and a Stonechat on walk back to the Tidemills.  
Purple Sandpiper at Newhaven.  My highest ever count was 33 there on 27 February 1983.
In the lower Cuckmere we spent the best part of four hours going through the gulls.  The best position was level with Harry's Bush looking back north as we had the sun almost behind us and most of the birds side on, although we couldn't find anything of interest from this position.

interesting gull in the flock in the west side of the lower Cuckmere.  It went to sleep and wasn't seen again and we spent ages going through this flock without seeing it or anything further.  While this was the biggest flock a smaller one was present nearer the river bank and we decided to walk around
nice view of Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance as we reached Cuckmere Haven
the smaller gull flock seemed more productive but from the riverbank the light and distance was against us as were sleeping birds.  This one had a small dark eye, darker mantle and very long wings.  Annoyingly I wasn't watching it when it stuck its head out but JK saw a long thin pale bill ...
interest in the sleeping bird was soon transferred to a good looking first-winter Caspian Gull that walked past before stopping partly behind a bush (middle bird) and mostly facing away.  The light and distance wasn't helpful either
it had the typical four coloured plumage (not that obvious in these images), long legs and wings and a very distinctively shaped head
it soon flew south, showing a whitish underwing, and appeared to land in the main flock

We retraced our steps 100m or so and soon found it at even greater distance just in from the end of the flock but it immediately sat down and went to sleep.  It seemed worth heading back around to Harry's Bush but by the time we got there it had gone.  In the Cuckmere we also saw the 5 Barnacle Geese, a possible (sleeping) Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Kingfishers.

On my way home it was low tide so I called in on the Adur to look at some more gulls.  

Herring Gull A7PW on the Adur, not one I'd seen before but presumably local (A7PM seen there in December 2011 had been ringed in Portslade)
first-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

I had been hoping to try out my new camera but on switching it on at Newhaven a memory card error was displayed.  It wasn't immediately obvious how to reformat the card and I had not printed off the user guide so it had to wait until I got home (when it took 2 minutes to sort).

Tuesday 16th.  Received an email from Germany:
it confirmed that the Caspian Gull seen on the Adur on 5 October (see here) had been ringed as such.  Not that I had any doubts ... I'd even done a trait score (here)
significantly better than today's efforts

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