Saturday, 28 January 2017

Gulls in the Cuckmere (27 January)

Friday 27 January. A morning high tide and forecast strong winds made a visit to the gull roost in the lower Cuckmere tempting particularly as one or two Glaucous Gulls had been seen there, one with some degree of regularity. I met John King at the barn at 09:00 and we walked down to Harry's Bush. About 1000 birds were present but an initial scan of the flock failed to produce a Glauc. We moved down to the footpath and at 09:30 started looking through the flock more carefully. We soon saw several colour-ringed Great Black-backs, then towards the back of the flock what appeared to be a near adult Caspian Gull which was on view for 20 minutes mostly preening wit its head out of view. At 10:20 a first-winter Glaucous Gull flew in and showed very well. At 10:55 a first-winter Caspian Gull flew in landing by the nearest pool where it proceeded to wash. It was constantly on the move, making it hard to get images, before walking into the flock and obscuring itself. About 15 minutes later the gulls all flew, most landing a bit further away in the field, but it couldn't be located. I increased my colour-ring total to 6 then we saw a third-winter Yellow -legged Gull and finally at 12:05 what I thought at the time was an argentatus Herring Gull appeared, albeit a very white headed individual. It was mostly sleeping but closer examination of images revealed it to be the original near adult Caspian Gull. It, the Glauc and the Yellow-legged Gull were still present when we dragged ourselves away at 12:35. While watching the gulls a couple of Ravens flew over calling, always a nice distraction.

first-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere on the only occasion it was still and unobscured long enough to photograph
to me it looked a classic showing in this image its small white head with dark eye, long thin bill, dark eye, predominantly grey mantle with some dark anchors, long black primaries, fairly plain brown coverts and long pale flesh legs.
the snouty headshape showing well while washing
showing predominantly pale underwing
very white underparts
mostly white rump just about visible

small head
long thinish legs, ventral bulge and recently eaten anaconda neck
most of the bird is hidden in this final photo of it is recognisable by its tertial pattern, gleaming white head and dark eye
presumed male adult Caspian Gull, its bill and hints of brownish on  the coverts suggesting it was not quite adult
it looked more convincing in this image with its long thin legs visible, a bulging neck, small head, dark eye and long thin bill
small head and eyes particularly noticeable here with ventral bulge just about evident
almost two hours later I saw what I thought at the time was an adult argentatus Herring Gull, albeit with an exceptionally white head. It appeared the same size as the nearer Great Black-backed Gull but perhaps that was a female as those behind look bigger.
not seeing a birds head and bill is never helpful
it was only when checking images, taken on a rare occasion when it moved, that I had a clear view of its bill and realised it was the near adult Caspian Gull seen earlier
that explained the all white head which I'd rather overlooked at the time
small dark eyes

long legs, small head and long thin bill
first-winter Glaucous Gull

its wings appeared very worn

head and shoulders above everything else
Great Black-backed Gull F8AT. A North Thames bird, not usually very exciting but my only other North Thames Great Black-back had been seen at sea off  Arctic Norway.
Great Black-backed Gull JA551. Ringed when a chick at Herreholmen, Lyngdal, Vest-Agder, Norway in July 2009 and seen in 2012 at Birling Gap in April (by John Cooper) and Saint-Vaast-La Houge, Manche, France in October.
Great Black-backed Gull JC328. Ringed when a chick at Hogeholmen Skjernoysund, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway  in June 2016 and seen Katwijk ann Zee, Zuid Holland in October and Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais on 31 December 2016.
Great Black-backed Gull JJ491. Ringed when a chick at Langholmen, Strand, Rogaland, SW Norway in July 2016.
Great Black-backed Gull JTY6. It was ringed when a chick in the far south of Norway in June 2001 and since then has been seen on Helgoland  in 2002, Rotterdam in 2002, 2003 and 2009 and Denmark in 2009.
Norwegian colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull. At the time I read it as JW795 but unless it as been hibernating since 2011 when it was ringed when a chick I clearly misread it. Unfortunately my image doesn't help at all.
third-winter Yellow-legged Gull, note straw coloured legs and dark mantle
opening an eye is as much as it moved
Barnacle Geese in the Cuckmere, there were nine
gulls in the Cuckmere, decent viewing from behind the edge
even from distance the Glaucous stood out like a sore thumb
Wednesday 25 January. An impressive movement of Razorbills off Shoreham Harbour with 630 west in 20 minutes from 09:00. It was then as if a tap had been turned off. Also 30 Razorbills and 11 Great Crested Grebe on the sea, 4 Red-throated Divers east, a Purple Sandpiper and 4 Turnstones on the harbour and 4 Gannets offshore. The only passerine seen was a Meadow Pipit. Megan and I then spent 90 minutes walking around an almost birdless Rackham and Parham Park (where the lake was frozen), seeing a single Nuthatch and hearing Green Woodpecker. A low tide visit to the Adur in the afternoon produced just 5 Redshank and hardly any gulls.

Tuesday 24 January. A Peregrine on the Power Station on my way to work. It was too cold in the easterly wind to stop and get my binoculars out.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

frozen (18-22 January)

Sunday 22 January. A visit to Shoreham Fort, sunny and little wind but the car said it was -4C and it was easy to believe it. 12 Great Crested Grebe and 41 Razorbills were on the sea with another 10 unidentified auks further out. A nearer bird looked like a Guillemot but dived before I could be sure and I never saw it again. Only 5 Turnstones are around the harbour despite the tide being fairly high still and no passerines at all. The visit was salvaged by 2 Kingfishers on the inner jetty. A late afternoon visit to Beeding Brooks produced 2 Egyptian Geese, Water Rail, 20 Fieldfares, 2 Redwinngs, 4 Yellowhammers, 12 Corn Buntings and the hoped for, but rather distant Barn and Short-eared Owls.

Egyptian Geese flying into the sunset at Beeding Brooks
Barn Owl enjoying the setting sun on Beeding Brooks
Short-eared Owl on Beeding Brooks, one of three seen

Saturday 21 January. Megan and Nessa were visiting Petworth House to see the latest Turner exhibition. I'd seen an earlier one which was enough for me so i dropped them off and took Cookie for a walk in the park. Both Lower Pond and the main lake were frozen, the latter with a little open water around the edge of an island. Birds were few and far between with 2 Egyptian Geese flying over, a pair of Mandarins, 20 Redwings, 4 Mistle Thrushes and a Nuthatch.  Late afternoon I went to Burton Mill Pond. It was also frozen with just one section of the main channel ice free. It held at least 350 Mallard and about 20 each of Pochard and Tufted Duck. A Kingfisher flew across the pond, 30+ Pied Wagtails roosted in the reedbed but disappointingly no Bitterns had appeared by 17:15 when I was the last to leave, the light being too poor to see anything.
Mandarins on Petworth main lake

Friday 20 January. A morning keeping my mum company while my dad was taken too the eye Hospital. Late afternoon I took Cookie up onto the Downs above Shoreham where a Little Owl was sitting out in the sun. 
Little Owl in the sun

18 January 2017.  Cookie and I started at West Rise Marsh where the Long-tailed Duck was playing hard to see, spending twice as long under-water as above it. Walking around the pool and then the meadows and reedbeds to the south produced 2 Water Rails that we flushed into the reedbed, 6 Meadow and at least 2 Water Pipits (1-2 were seen quite well but not heard and two together heard but not seen well) and a Stonechat. We continued on to Seaford Head and, parking by Chyngton Farm, walked down into the Cuckmere to check the gull flock. There were at least 800 Great Black-backs roosting and not very good views of an adult that structurally looked good for Caspian but was perhaps a little pale mantled.  Our last stop was Newhaven Tidemills where we bumped into John King and didn't have to wait long to see the Serin. A walk to the east arm produced two Stonechats but no roosting Purple Sandpipers despite the high tide. 

a slim, long legged adult gull that I was disappointed not to see better
it was a small bird, so presumably a female, although its mantle appeared no darker than the nearby argenteus Herring Gull
it appeared small headed with a dark eye and rather upright. After a few minutes of hardly moving all the gulls flew, most landing again but I could not relocate it
Peregrine in the Cuckmere
one of a pair

Serin at Newhaven