Sunday, 11 November 2018

Mainly Goldcrests and Gulls (4-10 November)

Saturday 10 November. I took Cookie to Seaford Head and we walked down to Harry's Bush on our way to check the gull roost. The lower part of Harry's Bush was full of Goldcrests with at least 60 zipping around. While looking through them news came through that Paul and Gareth James had found a Pallas's Warbler at Brooklands but despite renewed efforts I didn't advance on 2 Chiffchaffs and 10+ Long-tailed Tits. The lure of a decent sized gull flock (c1000 birds) dragged me away and I spent the best part of two hours (10-12) going through them, the last hour with sharp-eyed Matt Eade who had been watching from slightly higher up the valley. As usual the flock was a bit too far away to see fine plumage details or obtain decent images of the birds, some of the more interesting birds were sat down, often asleep, or walked through the flock quickly, disappearing into hollows or behind other birds. So not a precise science but despite this Matt recorded adult, third-winter, second-winter and a first-winter Caspian Gull (see which has decent images of most of them). To these I could add a second adult, but only because at one stage before Matt arrived there were two standing together. I briefly saw what looked good for a second-winter before it disappeared into a ditch and later photographed what might have been it, although one image looks more like a third-winter, perhaps a different bird. The first-winter I photographed didn't appear as clear cut as in Matt's images although my digiscoping (and perhaps telescope) leaves something to be desired. So at least five Caspian Gulls, four of which were different to the four Matt had seen the previous day. We saw a couple of Caspian Gull contenders but they didn't look quite right and could well have been hybrids. Two of the estimated 950 Great Black-backed Gulls had unreadable colour rings, one a Norwegian one and the other I could only read the first characters of (white X02 on a blue ring) and can't trace the scheme. One of the 100 or so Herring Gulls was huge with a darker mantle and heavily streaked head suggesting it was an argentatus and the flock only held only about 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls but 8 Yellow-legged Gulls (mostly adults). I dragged myself away (Cookie had been restive for a while) and drove to Brooklands where I saw the Pallas's Warbler briefly soon after arriving and again better a couple of hours later. Also 2 Chiffchaffs and a brief Coal Tit that looked rather too clean for ours.
adult Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere
white head, small dark eye, long thin washed out bill
long thin legs, darker than argenteus mantle
small head and bulging neck

and then there were two
soon to be none
first-winter Caspian Gull in a not very helpful pose
two minutes later presumably the same first-winter Caspian Gull standing up, but it didn't stand still for long ...
white underwing, white head and underparts
the same bird, or is it, a minute later
it sat down (centre right) but the bird rear left might have been the original first-winter
one or the other then flew and by now I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep tabs on what I had seen. Reviewing images only added to my confusion ...
advanced second or retarded third-winter Caspian Gull
I thought it a second-winter at the time
the same bird sitting looking perhaps more like a third-winter (appearing similar to images of Matt's earlier third-winter)
I wasn't sure what to make of this second-winter which looked a bit of a mess
second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, although its mantle appears a bit pale in this image
adult Yellow-legged Gull top right, third-winter gull bottom left structurally looking a bit Caspian-like but a bit dark around the eye
another adult Yellow-legged Gull
and another, note darker mantle and pale eye with red rim. I didn't see it move
one of the above or another adult Yellow-legged Gull
assumed argentatus Herring Gull centre, the third-winter from above again bottom left
looking back at the Cuckmere from near Harry's Bush
the gull flock
Friday 09 November. Colin Winyard came over from Winchester and took Frank Lambert and me over to Beachy. There was a large loose flock of Goldcrests quickly moving around Belle Tout Wood, 75 would be a cautious estimate. Colin saw a Coal Tit (presumably Continental), Frank a Treecreeper and I saw a Brambling but missed the 1-2 Chiffchaffs seen by the others. Otherwise there only appeared to be a couple of Blue and Great Tits with them which was disappointing. Bob and Lawrence were in the wood when we arrived but didn't manage to dig anything else out either. We called in at Hodcombe where there were also a lot of Goldcrests. Roger estimated 60 and had seen a Firecrest. Many of the Goldcrests were very tame feeding on the lawns, something I'd not experienced before and perhaps for me the event of the autumn. Over 100 Goldcrests in a day was also a record for me - not enough East Coast birding obviously.
Goldcrests on the lawn at Hodcombe. They were being blown around almost as much as the leaves.

Wednesday 07 November. I took Cookie to Brooklands were we saw a Firecrest, 2 Goldcrests and 10 Long-tailed Tits.
Green Woodpecker at Brooklands
rainbow from Crown Road
Sunday 04 November. Megan and I took Cookie up along the Chantry Hill-Rackham Hill section of the South Downs Way. I saw 4 Red Kites, a female Marsh Harrier, 19 Red-legged Partridges, 150 Lapwing, 7 Yellowhammers and a Corn Bunting. Some distant clay-pigeon shooting had Cookie worried. A difficult time of year for nerevous dogs. Later I went down to the Adur by the Airport where there were 20 Ringed and a Grey Plover, 7 Dunlin, just 4 Redshank and 20 Great Black-backed Gulls. The latter included a 3CY Norwegian bird that had been seen by Matt Eade at Newhaven a couple of times last November. The section of public footpath on the East bank near the railway bridge remained closed despite works supposedly finishing in October, not that I was at all surprised.

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