Saturday, 19 January 2019

Glaucous Gull in the Cuckmere (19 January 2019)

Saturday 19 January. A combination of a high tide and rough weather made looking through the gulls in the Cuckmere a reasonable option for a miserable day. I took Cookie and met JK in the car park at the barn just after 08:30. We walked down past Harry's Bush and spent until just after 11:00 going through the gulls from the footpath. As is usually the case in rough weather Great Black-backed Gulls predominated with at least 1200 present in two separate flocks. There was also a flock of about 300 Herring Gulls around the small pool slightly to the north with 20+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls scattered throughout. We scanned the flocks and soon saw a partially obscured dark mantled, dark-eyed white-headed Herring Gull type in amongst the Great Black-backs. It immediately raised hopes of it being a Caspian Gull but its bill and tail were obscured by the gull in front of it. While waiting for it to move we continued scanning the flock and soon picked out the juvenile Glaucous Gull on the far bank of the pool. Both birds were on view for at least an hour and were pointed out to a couple of passing birdwatchers. The gull in front of the putative Caspian eventually moved showing it to have a long thin washed out bill which for me firmed up on it being a Caspian Gull. We kept scanning seeing at least five and probably several more argentatus Herring Gulls but could not find any Yellow-legged Gulls. We also saw what was probably a third-winter Caspian Gull but views/photos were not really good enough to be sure. We left just after 11:00 and while walking down to the sea all the gulls got up and flew. Most in the two Great Black-backed Gull flocks settled further out in the field and were joined by some of the Herring Gull flock, the majority of which flew out over towards Seaford Head. We assumed the Glaucous had gone with them as we could not find it amongst the remaining gulls. A very enjoyable couple of hours in not particularly pleasant conditions, most of which I regretted not taking an umbrella.
juvenile Glaucous Gull in the Cuckmere. Photos all digiscoped but not great due to dull day and water on lenses 
most likely a female as it was not a particularly large individual
it appeared very dark below suggesting a first-winter

its bill was its main 'stand-out' feature, identical to DC's Viking Gull recently on Unst
with argentatus Herring Gull, identified on large size, dark mantle, extensive white on p10 and bright legs. I'm not sure if this says more about the Glaucous being small (a female) or the argentatus being big (a male?)
first view of the adult Caspian Gull, it was raining at this time
not a lot to go on but pure white head, small dark eye and darker mantle (c.f. Herring Gull top right)
its long thin washed out bill was a clincher for me, forward placed bullet hole and sloping forehead good too
with eye closed
more of the same
straw coloured legs, quite long although not appearing particularly thin
possible third-winter Caspian Gull, the small headed dark-eyed bird looking straight at me
hard to make out much detail at this range although small headed and pale billed
brownish cast to the coverts
hard to make out much more detail
although the overall feel of the bird was good

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