Wednesday 27 November. Another grim looking day, I took Cookie to Brooklands where between showers an excellent Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrests, 5 Goldcrests and a Mistle Thrush.Just 3 Teal and 4 Little Grebes were seen on the lake with 100 or so very ordinary looking gulls. Hearing a Pheasant on the rough ground between the lake and the A259 was unexpected.
Tuesday 26 November. A return visit to the Cuckmere where I spent 3.5 hours checking through a fairly static flock of about 900 gulls of which 700 were Great Black-backs. Several Yellow-legged Gulls were obvious and again I saw what I took to be a third-winter Caspian Gull although the one useful image I obtained of it, while perhaps not representative, was rather off-putting. It also added to my unease about the third-winter seen on Sunday so I'll have to try again. As well as this bird I ended up seeing at least 6 Yellow-legged Gulls (5 adults and a second-winter), 3 argentatus Herring Gulls, 2 colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls (too distant and in too long grass to read), a neatly hooded Lesser black-backed Gull, 8 Brent Geese and a Sparrowhawk.
|not the underwing of the thrush I dream of finding|
|gulls in the Cuckmere|
|preening gull I thought looked good for a third-winter Caspian ...|
|... until I saw this image (the only one of about 15 to show its head). Despite fleshy straw legs and its pale bill which is probably foreshortened it didn't look quite right.|
|sleeping adult Yellow-legged Gull|
|another adult Yellow-legged Gull showing a square head nicely|
|another adult Yellow-legged Gull |
|a larger looking adult Yellow-legged Gull|
|a snoutty, chesty looking adult Yellow-legged Gull but note pale eye and bright bill and legs|
|another or one of the earlier adult Yellow-legged Gulls|
|2.5 hours into my search the front right bird caught my attention with its pale bill|
|and small eye|
|but at times the head shape looked decidedly odd|
|its eye was pale|
|and wing pattern very much Yellow-legged Gull|
|another or one of the earlier Yellow-legged Gulls|
|second-winter Yellow-legged Gull|
|presumably the same bird two hours later|
|black colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull, probably Norwegian. Even if it had been close enough to read the half of the ring is obscured by grass|
|red colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull, probably ringed on the North Thames|
|large size, darker mantle and extensive white in primaries indicate argentatus Herring Gull, one of at least three similar birds seen|
Monday 25 November. Possibly my worst ever visit to Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie where I saw single Blue Tit and Robin and no thrushes at all. Followed at low tide by one of my worst visits to the Adur with Little Egret, 6 Redshank and 200 Herring Gulls.
|ignore the adult Yellow-legged Gull, it is the neat hooded appearance of the Lesser Black-back that caught my eye. Intermedius has a whiter head than graellsii which suggests it is the latter whereas I would have put it down as the former based on mantle colour|
Sunday 24 November. I spent from 08:45-15:30 in the Cuckmere, partly with Matt who had done really well the previous day when I had been put off by some early rain. I spent three hours checking at the gull flock which was very jumpy. Most obvious amongst at least 400 Great Black-backed Gulls were several Yellow-legged Gulls, mostly adults. Fairly early on I saw what I took to be a third-winter Caspian Gull but it soon sat down out of sight and despite much effort I never saw it again, presumably flying off and not returning during one of the regular scares. Later I met Matt and we went above the road to check what turned out to be a few gulls up there. We then tried the east side of the Cuckmere look for the Water Pipit he'd seen the previous day and again that morning but it wasn't in its usual place. I returned for another hour with the gull flock increasing my Yellow-legged Gull total to 5-6 adults, a third-winter and 2-3 second-winters. Other birds seen in the Cuckmere were a Bar-headed and 2 Egyptian Geese, Goldeneye, Kingfisher, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, male Stonechat and about 20 Rock Pipits. Checking my gull images at home I was disappointed to find that none of the few I had taken of the Caspian Gull had come out, unlike virtually all of my Yellow-legged Gulls. some of which follow:
|this was the most interesting Herring Gull I could find on the Adur, the unevenly darker upperparts caught my eye, making me wonder if it was an argentatus|
|second-winter Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere|
|adult Yellow-legged Gull, a rather Caspian stance but the bright bill, pale eye and yellowish legs suggested otherwise. Open wing not seen.|
|another of the adult Yellow-legged Gulls|
|a different, larger, second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, the apparent orange tip to its otherwise black bill belongs to a Great Black-back behind|
|the original or a third second-winter Yellow-legged Gull|
|a third-winter Yellow-legged Gull, age based on black on the bill, brownish tinge to coverts and indistinct wing mirrors|
|another adult Yellow-legged Gull|
|Yellow-legged Gull synchronised preening|
|the same two birds ten minutes later|
|thick-billed, bright legged adult Yellow-legged Gull|
|a different or one of the earlier adult Yellow-legged Gulls|
Saturday 23 November. I'd thought of trying the Cuckmere for gulls but early rain in Shoreham put me off. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort where two Purple Sandpipers and 2 Turnstone were roosting on the wooden jetty. The Greenfinch flock was still present and I estimated at least 45. Smart birds when one stops to look at them. The Greenshank and 25 Redshank were opposite the houseboats as the tide came in. Later a visit to the Adur at low tide to check the gull roost produced two North Thames Herring Gulls. A7HT was my 250th reading of a gull's colour ring on the Adur between the Railway Line and A27 flyover and not one I'd read before. My 4th reading of X6NT was my 251st, involving 154 individuals of 8 species (88 Herring, 36 Great Black-backed, 8 of both Lesser Black-backed and Common, 7 Mediterranean, 5 Black-headed and single Caspian and Yellow-legged).
|almost back where I started, adult Yellow-legged Gull in Caspian pose, definitely time to give up ...|
|Turnstone and 2 Purple Sandpipers in the gloom at Shoreham Fort|
Friday 22 November. Megan and I took Cookie up to Nymans in the afternoon when dogs are allowed on short leads. It was virtually birdless (so not much different from previous visits) with Buzzard, Nuthatch and 10 Greenfinches seen. Nice to see the array of autumn colours both there and on the journey.
|North Thames Herring Gull X6NT on the Adur, I'd previously seen it here in November 2015 when it was a second calendar year and May 2018.|
Thursday 21 November. Nice to see a flock of 40 Greenfinches at Shoreham Fort with Cookie, otherwise just 5 Turnstone on the rising tide. Later we walked a circuit around the Adur seeing 5 Oystercachers, 91 Lapwing, 2 Grey and 21 Ringed Plover, 11 Redshank and 8 Linnets.