Thursday 22 October. Megan and I took Cookie up to Southwick Hill after visiting the tip. We saw a Jay, 8 Sky Larks, a Chiffchaff (2-3 others heard) and I had a fleeting glimpse of a small greyish warbler with white outer-tail feathers that might have been a late Lesser Whitethroat. Before the tide came in too far I cycled down to Town Quay and up the Adur towards Cuckoos Corner seeing 13 Oystercatchers, 43 Lapwings, 19 Turnstones, 6 Redshank and on/from the Old Toll Bridge Black Redstart and Rock Pipit. Nothing caught my eye scanning through the 400 or so gulls seen although Common Gulls were just into double figures. Later while mowing the lawn a Buzzard flew over the house.
Grey Heron on the Adur, partly responsible for there being fewer gulls about than usual
Wednesday 21 October. News late the previous evening of a presumed Stejneger's Stonechat at Medmerry found by Peter Alfrey had me departing pre-dawn in fairly heavy rain. I drove to Earnley, missing the turning and ending up in East Wittering before realising my error. Turning back I missed it again and when I finally arrived was a bit surprised to find the car park empty and no other birders present. I wandered around in the rain for half an hour before becoming concerned that I was on my own. Checking the bird's 'dropped pin' on my phone I couldn't reconcile the field shapes and quickly realised they weren't by the Stilt Pools car park at all. Not a great start, I'd come to the wrong place! I quickly drove around to the Easton Farm car park, not somewhere I'd been before, and found a rather bedraggled looking Matt Eade and Jake Everitt with locals Bart and Sarah nearby. There had been no sign of any stonechats in their preferred field but the rain wasn't helping. Jake reluctantly left for work and Matt and I wandered along the bank. We saw a Dartford Warbler fleetingly but little else. After half an hour the rain eased somewhat and a few Stonechats appeared in the field. Matt soon picked out the putative Stejneger's Stonechat at the back of the field. Despite the rain it was easy to pick out from the other stonechats - its rufous rump and dark upperparts contrasting with pale underparts and white throat looked very convincing. It also appeared much more active making regular flycatching sallies of 10-15m before returning, often to the same perch. Matt put the news out, damp fingers prevented me from unlocking my phone, and after obtaining some record shots we returned to to our cars to dry off lenses etc. With the rain easing off again we returned to improve on our photos and Matt was now on DNA alert, currently the only way to officially differentiate Eastern Stonechats. I watched the bird for another couple of hours although it went missing for part of that time following a Sparrowhawk flythrough. Matt was determined to retrieve a DNA sample and I left him to it. He was finally successful after eight hours, an excellent effort. Very nice find by Peter Alfrey too. Birders have done their bit, now it is over to the men in white coats ...
|Stejneger's Stonechat at Medmerry (subject to DNA analysis). This image shows the contrast between upper and underparts and its rufous rump|
|dark axillaries just about visible, more colour on the breast too|
Tuesday 20 October. A morning low tide visit to the Adur looking for the very smart looking Caspian Gull seen at dusk the previous day by Matt Palmer was unsuccessful but an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two colour-rings (one new and one a repeat sighting) made the visit worthwhile. I then met Megan and Cookie at Mill Hill where a single Swallow was the only migrant seen. The adult Yellow-legged Gull was still present when I returned to the Adur as was a rather more puzzling individual I took to be a near adult. Two Grey Plovers were also seen.
|Great Black-backed Gull JC56Y|
|It was ringed as a chick at Store Vengelsholmen, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway in July 2020|
|adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur|
|presumably a male as it is a large individual|
|what I assumed is a near-adult Yellow-legged Gull. It was very similar to the adult apart from its leg colour, being noticeable smaller (a female?) and with a bit more head streaking and dark on its bill|