Monday 24 December 2018

Black Redstart at Shorham Fort, eventually (16-24 December)

Monday 24th. Christmas eve cheer at Shoreham Fort this morning where I finally caught up with the stunning male Black Redstart. Cookie doesn't like the Fort much so she was returned to the car to give me two free hands. At Widewater I saw 17 Little Grebes on the lagoon but no mergansers (too calm?). Offshore were 9 Red-throated Divers, 20 Common Scoter and about 50 auks. Most of ther auks were flying west at great distance but two on the sea were identified as Razorbills. Later I saw 7 Redshank during a walk down the Adur with Megan and Cookie but the tide was quite high with little exposed mud. The footpath down the airport side was still closed ...
male Black Redstart on Shoreham Fort


Sunday 23rd. Keen to try my new telescope on more gulls I took Cookie to the Cuckmere as the morning tide was a high one. It was misty from Newhaven and coming down from the barn the roost fields were quite flooded with gulls roosting in several scattered flocks. I could find nothing amongst the smaller more southern flock, likewise the central ones but the biggest flock was a little further north and gave a good side on angle of most birds. Even then it took almost an hour to find an adult Yellow-legged Gull and another 30 minutes before seeing a first-winter Caspian Gull. I spent almost three hours in the Cuckmere, part with Mike O'Shea, seeing two Caspian Gulls (first and second winters), three Yellow-legged Gulls (two adults and a second-winter), at least three adult argentatus Herring Gulls and two adult Mediterranean Gulls. There was also another gull I thought looked quite good for another second-winter Caspian Gull but views were inconclusive. Frustratingly I'd left my digiscoping camera at home and phone-scoped images left something to be desired (likely more to do with the phone or the operator than the telescope).

misty Cuckmere from Harry's Bush
first-winter Caspian Gull (centre, 104x with bridge camera) showing the expected structural and plumage features (small pear shaped head, long thin dark bill, predominantly white head and uinderparts, bulging breast, long thin washed out legs, black wings and tail, blackish tertials with white edges, brownish coverts and flecks of grey on mantle
the same bird phone-scoped making it appear less contrasting and more coarsely marked above

it had a pale underwing, not that this image quite reveals it 
large, long-billed second-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere (bridge camera at 104x)
phone scoped and the bill appears even longer, almost unreal
the coverts contrasted more than appears to be the casein these images, the black tail made me happy it was a second rather than third winter
this images shows the contrasting coverts better, and the long thin legs
not looking quite so large in this image
this bird looked quite interesting but didn't show long or well enough  for me to convince myself what it was
adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere
zoomed to the limit, and beyond
argentatus Herring Gulls in the Cuckmere (rear bird). The right hand bird looked a good contender too
Saturday 22nd. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill. It was expectedly quiet with a single Redwing seen in the scrub although two Peregrines were sparing over the car park. Later I took Cookie for a walk around Buckingham Park where three Goldfinches were the only birds of any note.
Friday 21st. I stayed in all morning waiting for a new telescope to be delievered. By the time it came there wasn't enough time to visit the Cuckmere so I took Cookie down to the Adur hoping there might be some colour-ringed gulls to try and read. The tide wasn't really low enough and 10 Lesser Black-backs were the most interesting gulls present but I was happy with the scope. 

first digiscoped image through my new Swarovski ATS80. I could have read most colour-rings if it had one.
Wednesday 19th. It took Cookie to Shoreham Fort (which she doesn't like) and Widewater at high tide. Two Purple Sandpipers were on the wooden jetty at Shoreham Harbour and a Rock Pipit nearby with seven Red-breasted Mergansers and two Coot on Widewater. Later a low tide visit to the Adur produced just six Redshank.

Sunday 16th. Hard going locally with a Rock Pipit at Shoreham Fort and 40 Lesser Black-backs on the Adur the best by far. Later Megan and I (and of course Cookie) picked up Ruth and Izzy in Hove and met Anna and Ian at Pyecombe. We walked up to Wolstenbury and enjoyed the view while remembering our parents at one of their favourite places. Thirteen Fieldfares were the only birds seen. We returned to the family home in Hove for the last time, removed a few more items we probably didn't have room for and departed together. Very sad.

Anna, Ian, Megan and Ruth at Wolstenbury
goodbye to the family home of over 50 years

Saturday 15 December 2018

Two Yellow-legged Gulls along the Adur (15 December)

Saturday 15th. Horrible weather hampered a tour of the local Shoreham sites. Seventy-two Dunlin, Curlew and lots of gulls on the Adur by the Airport at low tide included an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Frustratingly I failed to read two colour-ringed birds, a North Thames Herring Gull that walked behind others and sat down and a Norwegian Great Black-backed Gull that flushed with all the other gulls when a helicopter took off and flew low overhead. Later approaching high tide another adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the exposed mud at Harbour Way while a quick look at Shoreham Fort revealed nothing on the wooden jetty (or elsewhere). Four Red-breasted Mergansers on Widewater (one male and three red-heads - a different combination every visit) were all I could see without leaving the car.
Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur
Yellow-legged Gull (centre) at Harbour Way, this one had much duller legs

Herring Gull at Harbour Way. Some Herring Gulls are starting to show pure white heads making them appear more intersting that they probably are.
Friday 14th. A cold day in West Sussex with DB and JK. We started at Selsey where it was nice to see OM. We stuck the freezing wind for almost an hour seeing five Great Northern and 22 Red-throated Divers, 40 Common Scoter and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers. WE called in at Medmerry and after a lot of scanning DB picked up the Hooded Crow flying along the beach where we saw it distantly. My first in West Sussex. 50 Common Scoter were offshore while a Stonechat and Corn Bunting were the only other species of any note. At Church Norton the Whimbrel was near the new benches but the harbour appeared very quiet. We walked to the beach - nothing on the sea - and half way along the spit from where 17 distant Avocets were visible. We finished at Burpham seeing the six Bewick's Swans (three adults and three juveniles), a male Marsh Harrier and two Mistle Thrushes from the Church and four Red Kites from the Triangle. An enjoyable day despite the weather.
Hooded Crow at Medmerry

Thursday 13th. A Green Woodpecker flew over Sussex House as I was chaining up my bike at the University.

Wednesday 12th. A morning visiting the local Shoreham sites with Cookie. A first-winter Little Gull flew East at Shoreham Fort, at Widewater 7 Common Scoter were on the sea and 13 Little Grebes and two red-head Red-breasted Mergansers on the Lagoon. Frustratingly most of the gulls roosting on the Adur by the airport flew before two colour-ringed Norwegian Great Black-backed Gulls could be read. Before they flew Lesser Black-backed Gulls outnumbered Greater 60 to 40).

Sunday 9 December 2018

Cuckmere gulls again (09 December)

Sunday 9 December. Cookie and I spent about three hours (10:00-13:00) with the Cuckmere gull flocks, much of the time with CWM. The gulls were more distant than they had been on recent visits and at a less helpful angle in a NW wind than if it was SW. Bright low sun made it difficult at times as did most of the birds either sitting or standing in shallow water. I saw two possibly three adult Caspian Gulls, a smart second-winter (picked out by Christian) and another possible second-winter and at least six adult Yellow-legged Gulls, one or two argentatus Herring Gulls and about 500 Lesser and 800 Great Black-backed Gulls in two flocks. A Short-eared Owl was seen distantly on the opposite side of the river in front of Foxhole Barn and I heard a Raven but didn't stop scanning the gulls to look for it. Matt went down later and saw two smart looking first-winter Caspian Gulls and a different second-winter which rather made me regret not staying longer.
second-winter Yellow-legged (front left) and adult Caspian Gull (from right) in the Cuckmere
the adult Caspian Gull showing its snoutty appearance, long thin quite washed out bill and small dark eye
the adult Caspian Gull's bill appearing quite different when foreshortened
and the bill brighter when catching the sun
adult Caspian Gull showing its small head, bulging breast and drooping rear belly
adult Caspian Gull showing its long thin washed out bill, contrasting with some of the other images
the same or another adult Caspian Gull (front left) with a sleeping adult Yellow-legged Gull (front right)
adult Caspian Gull showing its washed out bill
adult Caspian Gull showing its small head, Yellow-legged Gull still asleep
adult Caspian Gull showing its long, thin bill
adult Caspian Gull showing its small dark eye and long thin washed out bill

adult Caspian Gull - a smaller bird in the seaward flock as I was leaving
it promptly sat down and then tucked its head in and went to sleep
second-winter Caspian Gull (front centre) picked out by Christian
another good sized bird
note darker mantled adult Yellow-legged Gull rear left
second-winter Caspian Gull showing small white head, dark bullet hole eye, dark hind neck streaks and elongated rear
note darker mantled adult Yellow-legged Gull rear right
a smart looking bird and the highlight of the visit
another more advanced second-winter perhaps a shade darker above looked rather like a Caspian Gull too?
I wasn't sure I could rule out Yellow-legged Gull on these views
adult Yellow-legged Gull (front centre)
the same adult Yellow-legged Gull
another adult Yellow-legged Gull
the same adult Yellow-legged Gull showing extensive black on the primaries
another adult Yellow-legged Gull
this one looked a bit Caspian like with small eye and long thin bill but the iris appeared pale and mantle a shade dark?
argentatus Herring Gull - large size, heavily streaked head and bright pink legs
the same or a different argentatus Herring Gull seen a bit later in a different part of the flock

Saturday 8 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Steepdown seeing 20 Sky Larks, a Stonechat and 15 Reed and 60+ Corn Buntings. In the afternoon I went to Pulborough RSPB where the White-rumped Sandpiper gave brief very distant views and flew a couple of times. Only my third in Britain and the first since 1981! Also 400+ Black-tailed Godwits on the North Brooks.
Corn Bunting at Steepdown
Wednesday 5 December. At high tide two Purple Sandpipers were on the wooden jetty in Shoreham Harbour with a Rock Pipt nearby but just 3 Greenfinches. Two pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers were on Widewater.
Two Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Harbour
Sunday 2 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham where we saw virtually no small birds at all in the woods, just Blue and Great Tits. The visit was salvaged by a distant ring-tailed Hen Harrier flying over Amberley Wildbrooks and 2 Mistle Thrushes in Parham Park. Later a red-head Goosander was a pleasant surprise during a low-tide visit to the Adur which also produced North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT again.
sleeping Goosander on the Adur
Friday 30 November. A Redwing was heard after dark as I cycled along Shoreham Harbour.

Thursday 29 November. A morning around Shoreham with Cookie produced a Gannet off Shorham Fort, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers on Widewater and a French colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull and 2 Little Grebes on the Adur.

Great Black-backed Gull 83P on the Adur, most likely from Le Havre

Wednesday 28 November.
A low-tide visit to the Adur with Cookie where an adult Yellow-legged Gull was roosting with the commoner gulls. Also North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT, 2 Little Grebe, 120 Lapwing and 21 Dunlin.

North Thames Herring Gull Z5MT
Adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur