Saturday, 17 December 2016

Gulls and mist in the Cuckmere (17 December 2016)

Saturday 17 December. I decided to try the Cuckmere for gulls, stopping at Seaford for a seawatch first.  The Ouse had been misty and it extended some way out to sea although it was reasonably clear directly out from Spalsh Point. Between 08:20-09:20 the following moved east: 2 divers (one ID'd as Red-throat), 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Gannets, 34 Brent Geese (swimming!), a single Common Scoter and 5 auks. The latter included a Guillemot (my first in Sussex this year!) and a Razorbill. At one point I shared the groyne with a Rock Pipit. I headed up to the barn from where I could see that it was misty in the Cuckmere. A walk down to Hope Gap produced 40 Meadow Pipits and by the time I returned to the footpath to Harry's Bush the Cuckmere had cleared. A flock of 700+ mostly black-backed gulls was just opposite and quite close but a scan through them revealed only an argentatus Herring and a couple of colour rings I couldn't quite read. There was a smaller more distant flock of about 100 birds further up the valley with more grey mantled birds which included a good looking adult Caspian Gull. I took some distant images until another gull obscured it. Rather than head right over there I thought it best to go through the nearer birds more carefully while they were there. This allowed me to read the colour rings but I couldn't find anything else amongst them before they flew although over 100 were Lesser Black-backs. .Most returned but some joined the distant group. I headed in that direction but before I reached the the mist rolled in again. I could just about see the birds and did pick the Caspian Gull out a couple of times, once when virtually all the other gulls flew and it didn't, but I couldn't focus in it through the camera (many of my recent digiscoping efforts are blurred enough as it is). Frustrating. No Yellow-legged Gulls or anything else of note was apparent, but conditions were very difficult. In the afternoon I took Cookie for a walk. Thick mist along the Adur meant Beeding Brooks was out so I tried Beeding Hill. It was clear all the way there but we hit the mist again and had a walk in the gloom seeing nothing.
Seven Sisters and Belle Tout from Hope Gap, a classic view
Gulls in the Cuckmere, the further flock were just behind and to the left of the centre left pool in the middle distance
gulls in the nearer flock, if only the Caspian Gull had been with them ..
Belgian Lesser Black-backed Gull 6W
Great Black-backed Gull looking to be wearing a North Thames ring UK0T but only the first three characters were read
the travels of UK0T, ringed as adult at Pitsea on 03/12/11, seen Hjelmsoybanken (offshore), Barentshavet South, Arctic Ocean 31/05/12. Does it commute from SE England to the Arctic Circle every year? Thanks to Paul Roper Secretary of the North Thames Gull Group, it is in the hope of returns like this that makes colour-ring reading so addictive

adult Caspian Gull, far right. Just about imaginable are small white snouty head, dark eye, long thin washed out bill, slightly darker mantle than left of centre Herring Gull, long thin straw coloured legs and white tip to p10.
preening, showing long thin legs better
showing slightly darker mantle

best image of its washed out bill and small dark eye
Friday 16 December. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk from Chantry Hill west seeing a pair of Stonechats, Fieldfare, 23 Redwings,4 Ravens, 15 Yellowhammers and 2 Corn Buntings. It was quite murky on the Downs although we could see distant patches of sunshine near the coast.

Wednesday 14 December. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk around Steepdown seeing 15 Sky Larks, a Stonechat and 20 Corn Buntings. In the afternoon I returned to Beeding Brooks with Cookie in the hope of seeing some more owls. Dave Sadler, Bernie Forbes and Dave Buckingham were in situ but we saw no owls at all.

Sunday 11 December. I visited the Burgh, first walking back towards Burpham from the triangle to scope the 5 adult Bewick's Swans in the valley. They were quite distant.  A circuit of the Burgh produced 7 Red Kites, Marsh Harrier, 8 Buzzards, Peregrine, 5 Grey Partridges, 22 Fieldfares, Mistle Thrush, 70 Linnets and 3 Corn Buntings. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie onto Beeding Brooks where we saw 2 distant Barn Owls sitting in the sun in a hedge near the river. I later discovered Dave Sadler had seen 4 Short-eared Owls there soon after we'd left.
Red Kite at the Burgh

distant Barn Owl in the afternoon sun

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