Sunday 31 December 2017

Dull December

Sunday 31st. More poor weather, Megan and I visited Widewater with Cookie and walked to Lancing Beach Green and back, just returning as the heavens opened. The Knot was still present, a male Red-breasted Merganser and a Stonechat while the pair of Mute Swans hadn't chased off their 4 youngsters yet. My good intentions to make the most of 10 days off work over Christmas had amounted to almost nothing - a combination of poor weather, apathy and some family commitments.
Knot at Widewater
Saturday 30th. Megan and I took Ruth and Ollie to Ovingdean where we walked the undercliff to Saltdean and back. In places, before the tide dropped, some big waves were breaking on the undercliff and being sent 20 feet into the air. With a westerly wind most then came down vertically and we mostly kept dry. Cookie wasn't keen though. We saw a smart male Black Redstart, at least 3 Rock Pipits and 6 Fulmars effortlessly prospecting along the cliffs. Also a Stonechat near St. Dunstan's. At low tide I visited the Adur where there were about 1000 Herring Gulls gathering before dark. They included a North Thames bird that I had not seen before.
Black Redstart on the undercliff at Ovingdean
Herring Gull X2HT on the Adur
Thursday 28th. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort but forgot her lead so we didn't go to Widewater as well. Two Purple Sandpipers were on the inner pier while single Red-throated Diver, Gannet and auk flew west. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill seeing a Goldcrest and 6 Long-tailed Tits.
Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Harbour
Wednesday 27th. A visit to the Adur with Cookie in the hope of something interesting amongst the gulls but the tide wasn't as low as expected and few were present. I did see 3 Ringed Plovers and 56 Dunlin (my highest count this winter). 

Tuesday 26th. We saw a Buzzard over the A23 while driving up to London to see Anna and family.

Monday 25th. The female Goosander was on Widewater first thing while I couldn't pick anything out amongst the 800 Herring Gulls on the Adur at low tide.

Christmas Goosander at Widewater
Sunday 24th. Just 5 Turnstones and 3 Meadow Pipits at Shoreham Fort with Cookie and 600+ Herring Gulls on the Adur.

Saturday 23rd. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk around Steepdown seeing Green Woodpecker, 7 Sky Larks, a female Stonechat, 20 Goldfinches, 40 Linnets and 12+ Corn Buntings. I then returned to Sovereign Harbour where, after an hour of looking, I saw the Black Guillemot. Also Kingfisher and Black Redstart. I called in at Arlington on my way home seeing 3 Black-tailed Godwits and adult Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gulls (the latter not the white-winged gull I was hoping for). I then got a bit bored and counted Great Crested Grebes (82) and Wigeon (584) during the course of which I saw 8 Gadwall. Perhaps I should have revisited the Cuckmere instead of Arlington as I had originally intended although it was nice to have a good chat with Chris Ball and hear what he'd being seeing on the levels. Neither of us could find the Great Northern Diver although we were not looking too hard.

Corn Bunting at Steepdown
Black Guillemot inside Sovereign Marina

a clue as to where it had come from and how it might have arrived?

adult Yellow-legged Gull at Arlington,maybe not a 100% identification as I never saw its legs
leucistic or flavescent Wigeon at Arlington
Friday 22nd. I took Cookie to Sovereign Harbour where we spent nearly three hours looking for the Black Guillemot without success. I later discovered we'd been concentrating on the wrong area and it was no longer in the outer harbour. We also visited Princes Park, where 2 Tufted Duck were the highlight, and spent a couple of hours with the gull flock in the Cuckmere. This was a very frustrating affair with two birds I thought at the time were probably Caspian Gulls. Closer looks at my poor images of them raised a few questions and perhaps they were hybrids. Other than gulls (there were 800 Great Black-backs present) I saw Green Woodpecker and Raven.
this second winter had a small head, bulging neck and its mantle colour and tertial pattern looked good but the bill didn't really impress, at least not in my images although I never managed one side-on.

it looked a bit more snouty here but it may be just the angle (or wishful thinking)

the wings appeared long, I'm not sure I ever saw much of its legs
this bird I took to be a fourth-winter due to the black marks on the bill. To me it looked good structurally (small head, bulging neck/breast, long legs and trailing vent).
it had long wings and the leg colour looked good although perhaps the mantle was a shade pale?
it had a small dark eye and a reasonably long bill and I was beginning to feel confident it was a Caspian, until it raised its wings ...
no black bar on p10, pity but it had been that sort of a day
 Wednesday 20th. Shoreham Fort with Cookie and nothing amongst the 300+ Herring Gulls roosting by the yacht club, at least not that I could see before another dog walker flushed them. Eleven Greenfinches by the Fort and later in poor visibility a Green Woodpecker at Caste Hill while Nessa was in Woodingdean.

Sunday 17th. Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham and Parham where we saw 3 Red Kites, 2 Buzzards, 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 10 Song Thrushes and a Redwing.

Saturday 16 December 2017

Gulls in the Cuckmere (16 December 2018)

Saturday 16 December. I decided to try my luck with the Cuckmere gull flock again. A high tide and a northerly wind seemed reasonable conditions and so it proved. About 1500 mainly Great Black-backed Gulls were in a fairly tight group opposite Harry's Bush. I arrived at about 10:00 having seen the Newhaven Great Northern Diver on my way over. I scanned the flock from halfway down the hill. They were very distant but I soon picked out a brute of a first-winter Glaucous Gull. I took a few digiscoped record shots and not realising how bad they were walked down to the lower footpath. Halfway there all the gulls flew (in several directions). I didn't manage to pick out the Glauc in flight and although most gulls returned it did not. In two hours of scanning the flock I saw a first-winter and two adult Caspian Gulls and an adult Yellow-legged Gulls but even though many gulls were standing, and the NW wind had them mostly side on, the more interesting adult gulls spent most of the time sitting asleep and unidentifiable, the occasional head stretch not coinciding with my photographic efforts. Later a Goldcrest was the only notable bird seen while walking Cookie at Mill Hill.

awful image of first-winter Glaucous Gull in the Cuckmere
another useless record shot - I wish now I'd reviewed them before moving closer

Glaucous centre top, interesting adult gull not noted at the time centre bottom
First winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere
looking less contrasting plumage wise than it was

these colours were a more accurate representation

some or all of the following were one or other of the Caspian Gulls seen

gulls in the Cuckmere

Friday 15 December. A low tide visit to the Adur produced the 'Widewater' Goosander and Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull 40T.

Goosander on the Adur

Great Black-backed Gull 40T, ringed as a chick at Le Havre in 2015, seen on the Adur twice that November and at Boulogne in April 2016

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Back to a wet and windy Sussex (6-13 December)

Wednesday 13 December. Nice to be back to a normal working week with Wednesdays and Fridays off. Megan and I took Cookie to Widewater during a brief break in the weather. It was still unpleasant but female Goosander, male Red-breasted Merganser, an adult Mediterranean Gull and a pair of Stonechats made it very worthwhile. I wasn't so good at finding a weather window for an afternoon low-tide visit to the Adur were the only bird worth mentioning was a North Thames Herring Gull. 
Goosander at Widewater, a returning individual from previous years?

male Red-breasted Merganser at Widewater, not so unusual here in winter after rough weather

adult Mediterranean Gull at Widewater
still present when we walked back
confiding male Stonechat at Widewater

Herring Gull Z9HT on the Adur opposite Ricardo's. The fifth time I have seen tis bird on the Adur in just over a year. It was ringed as a first-year at Rainham in November 2013 and was seen at Beddingham in May 2014.
Sunday 10 December. Gale force winds and periods of driving rain greatly reduced my birding options but given Matt's success with Caspian Gulls in the Cuckmere a few days earlier it seemed worth a go. The gull roost is often bigger in rough weather when few gulls are at sea. About 1200 Great Black-backs were present, in three flocks opposite Harry's Bush and a little to the North. A few other gulls were with them but most were sitting down, packed in close together, and those in the closest and biggest flock sitting head on making picking out anything different a lot harder. I saw a brute of an adult argentatus Herring Gull, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls, one briefly standing to reveal its yellow legs and the other openiong a red-rimmed eye. I saw what I took to be an adult (or possibly third-winter) Caspian Gull. On both occasions it was seen I attempted to digiscope it only for it to have sat out of sight or flown when I looked through the viewfinder. Its possible appearance in another image is inconclusive. Rather frustrating and after a couple of hours of getting wetter I gave up. I called in at Newhaven on my way home but the sea was very rough even in the harbour with no sign of the Great Northern Diver.


gulls in the Cuckmere, cobnditions were worse than these images suggest
Saturday 9 December. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk along the Adur and were very pleased to see that part of the eastern footpath had been reopened. About time. A flock of 20 Linnets was the highlight, few gulls and nothing notable amongst them.

Wednesday 6 December. 2000 Starlings flew west along Hove seafront as I cycled to work. After being in Bolivia for four weeks I was a bit behind and was working extra days to catch up. Rather tiring after a year of three-day weeks (or less).