Monday, 29 January 2018

Dungeness and Caspian comedy of errors (28 January)

Sunday 28 January. An enjoyable day out to Dungeness with John King and David Buckingham, the latter driving us. We arrived at Pett soon after dawn and it wasn't long before some grey geese dropped into the back fields. They included 12 White-fronts which gave reasonable but not close views. A good start, as was a Marsh Harrier although an even more distant Barn Owl was less obliging. We moved on to Scotney where we saw another Marsh Harrier and hadn't been there long looking at the large flock of feral Barnacles when 200 Greylags flew in. Most landed on the water and I was checking through them when JK picked out the 2 Tundra Bean Geese on the bank. We stopped briefly at Boulderwall Farm where we saw 9 Tree Sparrows, two Marsh Harriers (inlcuding a fine male) and a Great White Egret before moving on to the fishing boats. Here in a flock of roosting gulls was the regular first-winter Caspian Gull, sitting back on but revealing its black primaries, thin white fingernail tertials and white head. I worked my way around for a side on view but it remained sitting. Martin Casemore arrived and I went back for a chat. He threw out some bread but none of the gulls were interested. The Caspian stood up and walked over the brow but I was talking to Martin and missed it. I again worked my way around and moved a little closer but it didn't move. I waited for some people to pass on the other side before moving a bit further but before I could do so all the gulls took off without me seeing it. We seawatched for a while seeing hundreds of Razorbills and fewer Guillemots but little else. Walking back to the car in another gull flock I saw the Caspian Gull standing up and took some hurried photos. We then tried the patch but no sign of the Glaucous Gull (Martin had failed earlier) or much at all and visited Lade where we saw the Long-tailed Duck before going onto the reserve. We checked the gulls roosting on Burrows Pit, in the hope the Glaucous might have been there but it wasn't. We saw a couple of North Thames Herring Gulls (R6XT and what was probably T8BT) but the rings were very hard to read at distance and through a glass window. DB then saw a yellow-ringed gull, X595, but it was walking and so unreadable when I got onto it and immediately took flight. Frustrating but we thought little of it at the time. We walked around the reserve seeing 3 Smew, 6 Goosanders, a Slavonian Grebe before returning to look through the gulls. This time a Norwegian Great Black-backed Gull JA803 caught our eye. Hanson Hide overlooking the ARC pit produced the Black-throated Diver and Chris Ball pointed out a Firecrest with 2 Chiffchaffs in brambles just outside his window. Nice. I then realised I'd left my notebook in Firth Hide while reading gull rings and we headed back for it. It had gone but returning to the car Martin approached with it. I mentioned we'd read a few colour rings and he checked them against his database to see if he'd seen them. Much to his amusement and to a lesser extent ours the yellow ringed 'Herring' Gull was almost certainly a Caspian (he'd seen X594 at Dungeness this winter). Oops. Note to self, spend more time looking at birds rather than the rings on their legs, not that it gave very long for either. We headed back home over Walland Marsh seeing a flock of Fieldfares but only Mute Swans although at our final stop as the light was going DB thought he heard the Bewick's calling in the distance. CB had 19 come into roost on the ARC at 17:10. Back at home I looked at my images of the Caspian Gull and realised I had seen two. The one seen after the seawatch was a different first year. It had a yellow ring on and although very distant and most of the ring was obscured it started with an "X". So not only had we overlooked X595 being a Caspian Gull when we'd seen it on Burrows Pit I'd also failed to notice earlier that our second Caspian Gull sighting was of a different bird to the first - not least because it had a large yellow ring on I'd completel failed to notice! Note to self, spend more time looking at birds rather than photographing them. Not that this episode did anything to detract from a very enjoyable day.

Bean Geese at Scotney before we ventured into Kent, showing typical bill pattern when awake
first view of the regular,and very smart, first-winter Caspian Gull by the fishing boats
a bit more obvious when its head is more visible
nice although my digiscoping efforts tend to underemphasise colour differences
more accurate colours with Canon Powershot rather than digiscoped
finding it hard to stay awake

first-winter Caspian Gull standing, digiscoped so colour contrasts not great but not looking so clean and with its yellow ring just about visible on its exceptionally long thin legs
ring mostly obscured but "X" just about visible

Smew at Dungeness. There are some very smart ducks around but male Smew takes a lot of beating 
Saturday 27 Janaury. An hour and a half in Rewell Woods with Meganand Cookie produced a Marsh Tit, a Mistle Thrush, 3 Redwing and no finches at all. Disappointing, but Cookie needed ot be walked somewhere.

Friday 26 January. Nothing at all at Shoreham Fort.

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