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

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