Saturday, 13 December 2014

pipits, raptors and gulls (13 December)

Saturday 13 December.  Another very enjoyable day out with John King. These crisp sunny winter days are hard to beat, unless you are looking/driving into the sun.  We met outside Lewes and I drove to West Rise Marsh.  Here we concentrated on the area to the east and along one of the thicker reed strips 6 Bearded Tits came and investigated us before melting away.  They remained in the area but we never saw them again.  We saw and heard at least one Water Pipit but only in flight. We joined up with Simon Linington and John Gowers and saw it 7-8 times, often inadvertently flushing it.  It nearly always flew a long way before usually heading back showing little other than pale underparts and white outer-tail feathers.  We also saw Cetti's Warbler and a Marsh Harrier before heading for Hose-eye Level.  Approaching from the south was unfortunate as the road to Rickney was closed requiring a long detour.  John had seen the Richard's Pipit twice before, both times in the model aeroplane field (not that there was any evidence that the field was used as such). We arrived there, I put my scope up to start scanning - a fairly daunting prospect - and it was the first bird I saw - I didn't even have to scan to see it! It was on view for the whole 90 minutes of so we were there, often fairly close but then usually against the light.  Almost as good were a ring-tailed Hen Harrier and 2 Short-eared Owls.  We left at 14:00 and called in at the Rough-legged Buzzard at Jevington.  It was pointed out to us sitting on the distant hillside but it soon flew and landed in a more distant tree, right against the light.  With limited daylight we left and arrived at the Cuckmere at 15:00 with the shadows lengthening and temperature starting to drop.  A flock of about 400 gulls was in the first big field to the south. They were generally not that closely bunched together, the light was behind us (if a little bright)  and they were a manageable distance.  There were several interesting looking birds in the flock but it was a very frustrating experience as none gave prolonged good views and (perhaps because of the light) my images were dreadful.  I suspected there were two adult and a third-winter Caspian Gulls present but views were certainly not good enough to rule out similar looking hybrids and too soon they all flew off south, presumably to roost on the sea?  An adult Yellow-legged Gull was marginally better.  The five Barnacle Geese were still present despite most of the Canadas not being there (several hundred were seen flying distantly over Pevensey Levels) and a Kingfisher on the river by the car park was the perfect end to the day.

male Bearded Tit, one of my all time favourite birds

very adept at playing hide-and-seek in the reeds
no black in the tail is apparent but the black on the mantle suggests this is a juvenile.  If so the yellow bill makes it a male 

Richard's Pipit on Horse-eye Level, not at its est against the light
even worse
Rough-legged Buzzard at Jevington
this was the first interesting gull seen in the flock.  Unfortunately other than open its eye (it was dark) we never saw any more of it and it flew with that part of the flock without being seen.  Frustrating as the pure white head, darker mantle and long wings with white on p10 would have made it worth persueing.
a dark mantled third-winter that we never saw any more on, although did probably see later
what looked encouraging for an adult Caspian Gull (1/3rd in from right) that we never saw the wings or most of the legs of.  Its pure white head, small dark eye, long, thin paler bill (not very obvious from this image ) and darker mantle were all encouraging but couldn't rule out a hybrid.  Unseen by me at the time is a dark-mantled third-winter partly in shot on the extreme left.  This may be the bird in the above image and was probably what looked good for a third-winter Caspian Gull that soon after walked behind the adult.  It showed a long thin bill with black tip, small angled head, small dark eye and rather upright stance but my attempts to get images failed miserably and it sat down out of sight and remained that way until the flock flew.
another of the adult although from the views we had a hybrid could not be ruled out
adult Yellow-legged Gull, the legs were yellower than appears the case in this image
Barnacle Geese in the Cuckmere
Tuesday 9 December.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station chimney at first light.

Monday 8 December.  Herring Gulls A5HH (red on white) and A4AH (black on white) at the University. Neither were new.

Sunday 7 December.  Megan and I walked around Beeding Brooks with 80 Fieldfares, 30 Redwings and 10+ Blackbirds being the only birds of note.  We called in at Cuckoo's Corner as the light was going and after looking on the riverbank and fields to the south saw the Tundra Bean Goose on the riverbank to the north. 

 testing the new camera on a Starling in the garden
Beeding Brooks, unfortunately there was nothing at the foot of the rainbow by the time we got there
Tundra Bean Goose on the Adur.  60x in poor light with the new SX60 camera

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