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

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