Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Strugling with Cuckmere gulls (24 & 26 November)

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.
not the underwing of the thrush I dream of finding
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
almost back where I started, adult Yellow-legged Gull in Caspian pose, definitely time to give up ...
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).
Turnstone and 2 Purple Sandpipers in the gloom at Shoreham Fort
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.
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.

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.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Around Shoreham and Worthing (15-20 November)

Wednesday 20 NovemberI took Cookie to Brooklands where the Firecrest was still in the sallows favoured by last year's Pallas's Leaf Warbler. With a SE wind I had a faint hope there might be a repeat. Needless to say there wasn't with possibly the same 2 Chiffchaffs and Goldcrest seen there on my previous visit just over a week ago. Also a fast moving Tit flock with at least 11 Long-tailed and 7 Blue Tits. Eleven Teal and 4 Little Grebes were on the lake with lots of ordinary looking gulls (gulls always look pretty ordinary to me at Brooklands). I returned home then cycled down into Shoreham to do one or two chores coming back via the Adur as it was low tide. A Kingfisher was hunting from one of the boats south of the railway line and caught a tiny fish in one of the pools there. It hovered a lot as did one seen north of the railway line on 16th. Regretably I'd not bothered with a telescope so it was inevitable I would see, but not be able to read, a colour-ringed Herring Gull although it was almost certainly a North Thames bird. My Adur between railway and A27 remains at 249 colour-rings read involving 153 individual gulls of 8 species. Adult Yellow-legged Gulls were seen north of the Old Toll Bridge on the west bank of the river and on mudflats just south of it. Also 4 Oystercatchers, 7 Ringed Plover, 6 Dunlin and 4 Redshank
gulls on the Adur at low tide
adult Yellow-legged Gull north of the Old Toll Bridge
black on the bill quite noticable
adult Yellow-legged Gull south of the Old Toll Bridge, cleaner around the eye and neater bill
colour-ringed Herring Gull on the Adur, most likely a North Thames bird
Tuesday 19 November. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill which was expectedly quiet with 3+ Long-tailed Tits, 2 Goldcrests, 5 Song Thrushes and 2 Goldfinches 
typical November morning on Mill Hill
Monday 18 November. Megan and I took Cookie to Widewater and walked along to Lancing Beach Green. Very few birds were seen despite the sea being flat calm. Sparrowhawk and Kingfisher were the only noteworthy species.

Sunday 17 November. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury but it was disappointingly quiet. We saw both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 8 Long-tailed Tits, a Goldcrest and 5 Greenfinches with a few Song and several Blackbirds the only thrushes seen.

Saturday 16 November. Cookie and I walked around the Adur seeing 2 Oystercatchers, 69 Lapwings, a Knot, 9 Redshank, Little Egret, Kingfisher, 3 Sky Larks, 2 Rock Pipits and some gulls.

Knot on the Adur
Herring Gulls on the Adur
presumed intermedius Lesser Black-back

Friday 15 November. I took Cookie up to Lancing Ring where a small flock near the car park included 6 Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest.  We walked around Steepdown which wasn't too pleasant in a cold and sometimes damp wind. Birds were keeping low but we did see (mostly in flight) 7 Sky Larks, 22 Corn and a Reed Bunting.