Tuesday 31 December 2019

Mediterranean Gull on the Adur (27-31 December)

The decade finished with a Mediterranean Gull on the River Adur. It had me thinking about when I'd seen my first during a seawatch at Portland in April 1974, by then I'd been birding for 4 years. It took me until March 1980 to see one in Sussex (a second-winter at Shoreham, then only my 17th in Britain). How things have changed. Although I don't see them on most visits to the Adur this year I've seen about 50 including 37 on the Adur on 10 July. A little further afield I saw 514 flying east at Widewater in 10 hours of watching during 20-22 April, although my day record is 528 past Seaford in 9.5 hours on 23 April 2017 when I had to leave.

Tuesday 31 December. I took Cookie to the Adur by Shoreham Airport soon after low tide seeing a Brent Goose, 2 Teal, 128 Lapwings, 19 Redshank and a ringed adult Mediterranean Gull.  
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
a recovery opportunity lost by only fitting a metal ring (or not using a durable colour ring)
Monday 30 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Brooklands where we saw 4 Teal, Goldcrest, Stonechat and 6 Reed Buntings.

Sunday 29 December. I took Cookie to the Adur seeing 129 Lapwings, 11 Redshank and 19 Linnets. Later with Megan we heard a Song Thrush on Mill Hill.

Saturday 28 December. Megan, Nessa and I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort and along the boardwalk seeing 9 Turnstones, Purple Sandpiper and 37 Greenfinches. Later I dropped Megan and Nessa in Chichester and took Cookie to Hayling Oysterbeds. Highlights there were 2 Goldeneye, 24 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Black-necked Grebes and a Marsh Harrier. Forty-five minutes before dusk in the hide at Chichester Yacht Basin perhaps unsurprisingly failed to produce the hoped for Bittern or Bearded Tit. Three Egyptian Geese, 39 Pheasants and heard Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler were no consolation at all.
Black-necked Grebe from Hayling Oysterbeds
Friday 27 December. I took Cookie to do my Winter Downland Bird Survey west of the Burgh but it was a mistake as soon after we arrived some not so close shooting started. Cookie was not impressed and had to be kept on her lead to prevent her from running off. Highlights were 3 Barnacle Geese flying up the valley, over my square and back down again, 9 Grey Partriges, 23 Stock Doves, 2 Red Kites (and 5 more from the Triangle on our return), 15 Sky Larks, 51 Pied Wagtails, 32 Meadow Pipits, 73 Linnets and a single Reed Bunting.
Red Kite near the Burgh

Thursday 26 December 2019

More Cuckmere colour-rings (26 December)

Thursday 26 December. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort, Widewater and the Adur Saltings arriving at the latter about an hour before a big high tide. At the Fort we saw 11 Brent Geese flying E, 2 Purple Sandpipers on the wooden jetty and Cookie flushed 18 Greenfinches. Kingfisher and Stonechat were the best at Widewater where, given the rough sea, the lack of any mergansers was a disappointment. The rising tide at the Saltings put up 91 Snipe and revealed 34 Teal. Also seen were the Greenshank and about 60 Redshank (some slipped away while I was counting snipe) but the Curlew was not seen. I then left Cookie at home and drove to Seaford spending 13:00-16:00 with the gull flock opposite Harry's Bush. About 800 Great Black-backs were present in a rather straggly flock, I'd hoped for more given the high tide and strong southerly wind. Colour rings were seen on seven although two were only partially read. The flock included only about 10 Lesser Black-backs, fewer than 50 Herrings although they included one adult Scandinavian argentatus, and two adult Yellow-legged Gulls. One first-winter gull looked to have some Caspian genes but remained mostly hidden. Another first-winter was either a faded argentatus Herring or perhaps a Viking Gull (Herring x Glaucous hybrid) but was sleeping and didn't show its bill. Also seen were 14 Brent and 2 Barnacle Geese while a Buzzard flying low across the valley caused some of the gulls to raise their heads.
Greenshank on the Adur Saltings
Norwegian Great Black-backed Gull JA606. It was ringed as a chick at Ballastholmen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway in late June 2008 and seen at Dungeness in October 2008 and Mandal between April-June 2012, May-August 2013, April-August 2014, in early May 2015, May-July 2016, April-August 2017, March-September 2018, March-August 2019
Norwegian Great Black-backed Gull JU159. Its first sighting since being ringed as a chick at Lyngholmen, Lyngdal, Vest-Agder, Norway on 1 July 2014. Also read was JK24 but poor images of it were accidentally deleted. JK24 was ringed ringed as a chick at Stolen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway in late June 2006 and seen Dungeness in October 2006 and at Hirtshals Havn, Østmolen, Nordjylland, Denmark in October 2016
presumed Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull 83P. Also photographed but accidentally deleted was 80W while another from the same scheme ended in U, possibly 85U seen in Newhaven Harbour on 25 November 2018
Normandie Great Black-backed Gull starting S5, the final number remained unread despite it walking a few paces
the left hand bird appeared to have a completely faded colour-ring on its left leg
adult Yellow-legged Gulls
a closer image of the right hand bird
it might be the pose or the angle but the centre right bird's head had a Caspian feel to it, albeit a rather dirty one
the back looked rather heavily marked
I moved position to try and see it from a better angle but couldn't refind it
this bird was the size of a Great Black-backed Gull but never moved while I was watching it before disappearing unseen
faded argentatus or Viking Gull? Hard to make a judgement without seeing its bill 
Wednesday 25 December. HAPPY CHRISTMAS, not that I'm at all religious. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort where 2 Purple Sandpipers were on wooden jetty. At the Adur Saltings we had to leave before the tide covered them all although did see 26 Teal, 98 Lapwing, 49 Snipe, Curlew, Greenshank and 51 Redshank. A later afternoon walk with Megan and Cookie in Hove Park was expectedly birdless.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Cuckmere 24 December

Tuesday 24 December. An afternoon visit to the Cuckmere with Cookie where the gull flock opposite Harry's Bush numbered about 850, well down on recent visits. About 700 were Great Black-backs including two with colour-rings (an unread Norwegian and a Normandie bird), 100+ Herrings included a North Thames colour-ringed bird and two Scandinavian argentatus while one of 30+ Lesser Black-backs was ringed in Suffolk. In a little over two hours watching the flock I saw just two Yellow-legged Gulls (first-winter and adult) and, after over an hour and a half of looking, a third-winter Caspian which was a somewhat disappointing return compared to recent visits. The only other species I noted were Wigeon, a Stonechat  and 25 Meadow Pipits.
Normandie Great Black-backed Gull T64, looking like the terminator
North Thames Herring Gull K0CT
Suffolk Lesser Black-backed Gull APAJ. It was ringed as a chick on Havergate Island, Suffolk in July 2009 and subsequently seen in Malaga, Spain in January 2011, back at Havergate in July 2012 and Dungeness on 19 December 2017 and 19 and 21 December 2018.
this first-winter had me interested

but looked more Yellow-legged than Caspian
this one looked better
third-winter Caspian Gull with stilt-like legs
small head, dark bullet-hole eye and long thin bill

Sunday 23 December. We went to Brooklands which the recent Pochard and Teal seemed to have deserted. We saw 2 Little Grebes, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, single Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. Another low tide that wasn't visit to the Adur with Cookie produced just 2 Redshank and a handful of common gulls.

Saturday 22 December. Nessa was down for Christmas and we went to Petworth. After a walk in the park she and Megan visited the house while Cookie and I went around the lake. No Goosander was disappointing with 4 Egyptian Geese, 12 Pochard and 34 Tufted Duck little compensation. The park was almost birdless, no thrushes or finches seen and only enlivened by a Green Woodpecker and Stonechat.

Friday 21 December. Another abortive low tide visit to the Adur with Cookie where we saw a Little Grebe, 90 Lapwings, 12 Redshank and few gulls.

Thursday 20 December. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort where three Purple Sandpipers were on the inner arm. Later a visit to the Adur at low tide produced just 50 Lapwings and 11 Redshank. There were very few gulls, not helped by the lack of exposed sand bars as the river was heavily in flood. They did include what I took to be a large looking second-winter Lesser Black-back.

spot the Purple Sandpipers, Shoreham Harbour
gulls on the Adur

Thursday 19 December 2019

More gulls (17-19 December)

Thursday 19 December. A morning wander around Cissbury looking for the Great Grey Shrike sparked into action when DS found it in the SW corner. I was nearby but it had flown north before I reached him. DM then saw it flying north again and fortunately I caught up with it soon after when BFF picked it up sat out on gorse then dead branches near the trig point. We approached but were over 200m away when it took flight and was eventually lost flying west in the direction of Findon. Otherwise Cissbury was fairly quiet with Stock Dove, Green Woodecker, Jay, Goldcrest and 2 Mistle Thrushes seen and Grey Partridge and Raven heard. The shrike was too far away to photograph although I managed record shots of a grey, white and black plastic bag on a very distant tree. A no gull day in so far as the tide was too high by the time I returned to Shoreham, I still spent all afternoon sorting yesterday's images which involved a fair amount of head scratching.

Wednesday 18 December. With an afternoon high tide and the wind freshening from the SSE I went over to the Cuckmere spending 13:45-15:45 scanning the gull flock opposite Harry's Bush. About 2400 large gulls were present, roughly 2000 Great Black-backs, 250 Lesser Black-backs and 150 Herring including at least 9 argentatus.More notable were 6 adult and 2 third-winter Yellow-legged Gulls and a third and 2 first-winter Caspian Gulls. I also saw but incompetently photographed what looked good for an adult Caspian Gull but it was rather distant while another third-winter or near adult looked good too. One of the first-winters was almost certainly the bird MRE had seen earlier in the week. The other, despite the range, was the best looking first-winter I've seen in Sussex. It took me half an hour to notice but was then visible in the roost, with a bit of moving around, until I left. Earlier in the day a low tide visit to the Adur with Cookie produced a puzzling first-winter gull showing features of several species. The tide wasn't low enough and the river too full for much of a sandbar to form but a Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull 45N was in the small roost there while t he Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE was seen again opposite Ricardos. Other birds seen were 100 Lapwings, 12 Redshank, and a Buzzard feeding in a field by the fly-over. 

after half an hour scanning through the flock I suddenly came across this
an absolutely classic looking first-winter Caspian Gull with very white, virtually unmarked white head and underparts
its head and bill were all one could ask for too
four coloured plumage, nice tertial thumbnails, very obvious sagging vent, long legs
long thin all black bill, small bullet-hole eye
one of the smartest Caspian Gulls I've seen
plumage similarities to Great black-backed Gull
another stretch
then amazingly I caught a flap showing almost pure white tail with solid black tip
that pure white underwing just blew me away
a superb bird, I was almost dancing around at this stage
it the sat down and went to sleep
a second first-winter was also present, looking very much like Matt's from earlier in the week
another smart bird but with a more heavily patterned mantle and dark neck shawl

nice long thin legs, almost impossible to see in the poor light
I watched it hoping it would fly as other gulls around it did
despite Caspian Gulls often appearing very mobile it resolutely stood its ground. Eventually it was the only gull left in its part of the flock and it still didn't fly, until I looked away for a minute and it was gone
third-winter or near adult Caspian Gull in the flock
this bird had a brownish tinge to the coverts, a collar of neat dark streaks on the hindneck. Not specific to this age are its bullet-hole dark eye in a pear shaped head, long, thin pale bill, long thin washed out legs 
the gull flock, even birds towards the front were quite distant
argentatus Herring Gull and very dark headed Lesser black-back
another argentatus Herring Gull, the nearer bird a preening third-winter Yellow-legged Gull
distant unidentified third-winter or near adult gull, argentatus Herring Gull to its right
at this range it had the look of another Caspian Gull
the head and mantle seemed to fit
it then sat down before I could see its legs, another one gets away
third-winter Yellow-legged Gull (definitely not the same bird)
a different third-winter Yellow-legged Gull
adult Yellow-legged Gull, another that initially looked a Caspian contender although quite dark mantled from the outset
small head, bulging neck but it was all downhill from here

rather thick bill and pale looking eye
 no paler tongue to the underside of p10 and yellow legs
adult Yellow-legged Gull in one of its favoured poses, the other is asleep/sitting
another adult Yellow-legged Gull, at least showing a pale eye
the same or another adult Yellow-legged Gull
earlier on the Adur this gull caught my eye, the colour scheme looking good for first-winter Caspian
hanging vent too but rather heavily marked on the mantle and dirty below
not the head I was hoping for with dark around the eye and a small bill
dark underwing not helping its cause
Caspian x Herring hybrid or first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, not for the first time I was left scratching my head
structurally this image threw Lesser Black-backed Gull into the mix
with long thin legs back to looking quite Caspian like, apart from its head, unidentified
Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE
Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull 45N
Buzzard feeding on the ground almost below the A27 fly-over
Tuesday 17 December. I visited the Adur opposite the Airport with Cookie seeing a pair of Teal, 90 Lapwings, 12 Redshank and an adult Mediterranean Gull. Amongst 100 or so Herring Gulls were two bearing North Thames colour rings. One was R7LT which I'd seen there seen in May 2018, it had been ringed as a 4CY at Pitsea in January 2015 and was seen in Hove in June 2016. The other was more distant and started N4 but walked into shallow water before I moved closer to read the rest of its ring. There it stood, ring obscured, for 20 minutes before swimming to mid river and eventually being lost amongst other gulls. Rather frustrating, especially as its first two characters did not match any I'd seen before.
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

North Thames Herring Gull R7LT
North Thames Herring Gull N4xx