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.

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