Thursday, 30 January 2020

A wandering Mediterranean Gull (29 January)

Wednesday 29 January. The highlight of a morning visit to the River Adur with Cookie were two Mediterranean Gulls on the river bank by Ricardo's. One was colour-ringed - my 300th colour-ringed reading on the Adur between the A27 fly-over and the sea, involving 180 individuals of eight gull species. Otherwise it was quiet with 7 Redshank and 2 Little Grebes
Danish Mediterranean Gull 37L3 on the River Adur. A well travelled bird, it was ringed as a chick in Copenhagen in June 2013 and seen at two sites in Cork November 2013 and  March 2014, Gibraltar Point on 01 May 2014, another and one of the original sites in Cork in March 2015, Syddanmark in Denmark in August 2016, Antwerpen in Belgium in July 2018, a fourth site in Cork in July 2018, Sandwell Valley RSPB in West Midlands on 27 December 2019 and Upton Warren, Worcestershire on 16 January 2020. Thanks to Camille Duponcheel for a copy of its history by return of email.
this unringed Mediterranean Gull was nearby
Tuesday 28 January. I took Cookie to the Adur where we walked a circuit crossing the river by the Norfolk and Old Toll Bridges. The highlight was seeing again Polish Black-headed Gull TUXR although there were more birds around than usual. I also saw 6 Oystercatchers, 110 Lapwing, 7 Turnstone, 7 Redshank, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Raven (on the mud), 7 Sky Larks, Stonechat, Rock Pipit, 25 Linnets and 3 Reed Buntings.
Polish Black-headed Gull TUXR on the River Adur, my third sighting of this bird this winter. It was ringed as an adult 60km NW Lodz in June 2016.
Monday 27 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Shoreham Harbour and walked along the boardwalk. We couldn't find any Greenfinches but back at the harbour three Purple Sandpipers were feeding at the inner base of the western arm giving my best views this winter by a long way. Harbour Way had produced nothing on the way but on our return a Mediterranean Gull and Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE was again present. 
one of three Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Harbour

Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE at Harbour Way. My fourth sighting here or on the Adur since early December, it had been ringed as an adult at Koronowo, Kujawsko-Pomoroskie in May 2017 and I'd also seen it here in February 2019.
Mediterranean Gull at Harbour Way, always a nice bird to see around Shoreham
Sunday 26 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Brooklands, having only returned from Myanmar at midnight it was about all I could manage. We saw 8 Teal, male Pochard, a Little Grebe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I wasn't expecting much more although disappointingly the rough field bordering the A259 had been cut and so was devoid of  Stonechat and Reed Buntings.
Pochard at Brooklands, about as exciting as it got

Friday, 10 January 2020

Sussex (7-10 January)

Friday 10 January. I took Cookie to Cuckoos Corner and we walked to Botolphs and back. We saw 2 KestrelsPeregrine, 2 Sky Larks, 2 noisy Song Thrushes and a Stonechat.

my first Song Thrush of the year
Peregrine on Beeding Quarry chimney

Grey Heron by the Adur

Stonechat near Botolphs

Thursday 09 January. I visited Cuckmere Haven to look at the gulls. Major roadworks in Rottingdean and another holdup in Newhaven made it a slow journey. I'd like to say it was worthwhile but unfortunately not. The flock of large gulls numbered about 600 roughly split 75% Great Black-backs and 25% Herrings. Amongst them I picked out a Le Havre Great Black-back that I couldn't be certain of, 2 argentatus Herrings, 7 Lesser Black-backs and no Yellow-legs or Caspians. Three Brents and a Barnacle were with the Canada Geese.
Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull, either 63P, which was what I thought when it briefly raised its leg, of 83P which I'd seen in the Cuckmere in December

the only gull I thought worth a second look
perhaps my 0 Caspian Gulls should have been 0.1 but I do struggle with third-winters

looks more like 0 now
Wednesday 08 January. I took Cookie to Henfield and we walked south down the old railway line towards Streatham Manor looking for the Glossy Ibis. It wasn't obvious on the floods and I had given up and we were walking back when three other birders coming the other way said they'd seen it at the back of the floods. I returned with them and saw it playing hide-and-seek in the distant vegetation. One the floods I saw 8 Shoveler, 40 Wigeon, 30 Mallard, 7 Pintail, 100 Teal, 400 Lapwing and 3 Black-tailed Godwits. In a creek nearer to the Adur was a Green Sandpiper with single Nuthatch, Fieldfare, Stonechat, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer along the old railway line.
very poor image of the Henfield Glossy Ibis
Tuesday 07 January. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort and Widewater not realising/remembering there were roadworks on the Norfolk Bridge. There were 9 Turnstone, 3 Purple Sandpiers and 14 Greenfinches at the Fort and 6 Teal, 7 Little Grebes, Little Egret, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit at Widewater. Further along the beach a flock of roosting waders was made up of 37 Ringed Plover and 164 Dunlin (but no Sanderling) while 6 grey geese flew west over my head calling quietly which I thought most likely White-fronts. Returning home being stopped at the roadworks worked to my advantage as I was stationary on the small bridge by the Dogs Trust giving me a view of the Greenshank on the mud by the nearest Houseboats.
Purple Sandpiper at Shoreham Fort
another Purple Sandpiper at Shoreham Fort
and another
all three
Monday 06 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Arundel where we walked the Mill Stream and around Swanbourne Lake before leaving her in the car and walking around Arundel WWT. I counted 65 Gadwall on Swanbourne where a pair of Mandarin were glimpsed swimming under overhanging branches. Highlights in a quick walk around Arundel WWT
were Marsh Tit, Stonechat and Bullfinch.

Harlequin at Arundel WWT, only beaten by Scaly-sided Merganser as my favourite duck in the collection

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Chasing swans in the Arun (3-5 January)

Sunday 05 January. A morning in West Sussex started with a Barn Owl flying south across the A27 before Poling. Not the greatest view but nice to see my main target before arriving at the site. Watching from the Black Rabbit car park with Gareth James two more Barn Owls were seen hunting on the opposite side of the Arun and crossing the river, one looking a shade or two darker than normal. Leaving the Arundel WWT roost we saw two Marsh Harriers and a Little Egret, but not the Hen Harrier Matt Eade saw from further down the river bank. A Woodcock flew over us but not Matt which evened things up a bit, not often I can say that. A quick look around the north side of Swanbourne Lake produced 4 Mandarins before I left for Burpham. The three Bewick's and two Black Swans had flown SW from Pulborough that morning and I was hopeful they'd be visible from Burpham Church. They were, scanning over the brooks I immediately saw the two Black Swans and in front of them were the three adult Bewick's. Not close but very welcome all the same. At least six Common and a smart Siberian Chiffchaff were feeding along the fence at the sewage works with a Grey Wagtail briefly in the tank. Two Ravens flew over and 40 Fieldfares and 2 Redwing were in nearby trees. I continued on to Patching Pond where I joined others looking for the 'Northern' Treecreeper. After about 90 minutes Dave Sadler called me over, it had been found in a hedge to the NE of the pub. Its underparts were very white and the supercillium flared but from what I could see it lacked any frosty tones to the upperparts. It left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed and my expectations hadn't been high to start with. Also in the area were Coal and Long-tailed Tits, a smart Firecrest and a Nuthatch. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie to the Adur seeing 7 Oystercatchers, 9 Ringed and a Grey Plover, 7 Dunlin, 11 Redshank and a Stonechat on a Norfolk/Old Toll Bridge circuit. There was nothing of note amongst the gulls today.
Black and Bewick's Swans (and Greylag Geese) from Burpham Church
all three Bewick's, is this it for this winter?
Siberian Chiffchaff showing nicely its very distinctive buffy face
to my eyes the upperparts are more brown than grey

Saturday 04 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury but it was almost birdless although a pair of Stonechats along a fence on the southern approach were nice.
Stonechat at Cissbury - into what light there was on a dull day
Friday 03 January. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort. Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE was along Harbour Way, on the mud near the Sailing Club. The tide appeared too low for Purple Sandpipers although 2 Turnstones were present. A half an hour seawatch produced  5 Brent Geese, 4 distant auks, 3 Great Crested Grebes, a Red-throated Diver and 3 Gannets. Stopping at the Adur on the way home about 200 Black-headed, 400 Common and 150 Herring Gulls were present as was a single Brent Goose. Spending a couple of hours with the gulls I saw 4 adult Mediterranean Gulls and 2 repeat North Thames Herring Gulls. A Common Gull had a metal ring, which in itself was annoying, but I realised was standing on one leg. It put its other leg down revealing a white ring with 4 characters but immediately sat down and went to sleep before I could read them. Earlier another Common Gull standing in a bit of a creek had at least three slim uncoded colour rings on one leg: white, red and purple. It walked a short distance, confirming it only had the three rings on that leg and a red ring on the other, before moving out of sight. Initial thoughts that it might be Estonian were incorrct, suggestion now is its Polish. After lunch Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham where brief scans from Rackham Mill and viewpoint produced a ring-tailed Hen and at least three each of Marsh Harrier and Red Kite but not the hoped for Bewick's Swans. The woods were quiet with a Nuthatch and Coal Tit (heard) all I could come up with.
Polish Black-headed Gull T5PE, my third sighting of this bird in the Shoreham area this winter following one here a year ago
my first uncoded colour ringed gull although I'm struggling to find out where this Common Gull came from
North Thames Herring Gull G2JT on the Adur. It was ringed as 1CY at Pitsea in Essex in November 2014 and seen at Shoreham Harbour in January 2015, Pitsea and Beddingham in October 2015, on the Adur on 15th and back at Beddingham on 19 November 2015and January 2016, Pitsea in February 2016, the Thames Barrier Park in August 2017 and most recently the Adur on 04 December 2019
North Thames Herring Gull N2HT on the Adur. It was ringed as 1CY at Pitsea in October 2013 and seen at Beddington in March 2014 and on the Adur on 05 November 2015 before reappearing today
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
another Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
a third Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Saturday, 4 January 2020

The First Hundred (Norfolk 1-2 January)

Wednesday 01 January. A new decade and a trip to Norfolk with David Buckingham who I met in Steyning at 05:00. He drove to Lyndford Arboretum near his home town of Thetford, arriving just after dawn. We were soon watching 3 Hawfinches and 3 Marsh Tits while noisy flocks of 60 and 30 Pink-footed Geese flew over. We drove on to Sedgeford somewhat anxiously as there was no news about the tschutschensis Eastern Yellow Wagtail on the Information Services. Our concerns were soon a distant memory as it was on view on the dung heap when we arrived and was in view for most of our stay. It was a distinctive looking bird with its blue-grey head, prominent white supercillium flaring behind the eye and buzzing call although I only head the latter twice as some of the other visitors there were rather noisily talking about their year lists and giving directions to a Yellowhammer! Large skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying inland while we were there were almost as impressive, I estimated over 1500. We headed to Thornham on the coast where the flock of 20 Snow Buntings showed distantly. So distant that only the males were readily identifiable even in flight, although a few stood out on the saltmarsh including a very white plumaged individual. A flock of about 100 Linnets were almost as far away giving us no chance of picking out any Twite that might have been in amongst them and we'd have had to approach from Holme to get any closer. In a distant channel were a male Goldeneye and 12 frisky Red-breasted Mergansers while a Spotted Redshank feeding in a nearby creek was much more co-operative and the pick of the waders present. We continued along the coast to Titchwell which was absolutely packed. We were fortunate to find a space in the furthest car park, possibly the last one, and joined a steady procession heading down to the sea, dodging those on their way back. A selection of unexciting duck, an Avocet and another Spotted Redshank were on the pools but the reedbeds were silent although we saw 6 Marsh Harriers in the area including two males. Out on the sea were three superb male and a female Long-tailed Duck and a Slavonian Grebe although all were fairly distant. Time was against us and we headed to Holkham Gap for the remainder of the day. The car park was chaotic but this time birders were in the minority. We briskly walked to the roped off area between the dunes and saltmarsh where five Shore Larks were feeding, although they were right in the middle and I only saw four at any one time. At the far side the flock of 70 Snow Buntings were feeding but mobile and we'd not the time to walk around to them. Back at the car we drove a short distance towards Wells to look for the wintering Rough-legged Buzzard, although it had not been reported that day. There was no sign of it although we saw three more Marsh Harriers. We decided to head back west along the coast road, stopping by the road a couple of times to overlook the marshes. This paid off with Great White Egret and a superb Short-eared Owl hunting along a hedgerow. Nine Grey Partridges were feeding in the field at our last stop with perhaps 2000 Pink-footed Geese in the field behind us, an excellent finish to an enjoyable day. I'd seen 86 species, my third best start to a year in the UK. We returned to Thetford where we failed to find an open fish and chip shop there or in Brandon.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Sedgeford
considered of the race tschutschensis breeding from Siberia to Alaska and wintering in the Phillipines, Indonesia, South East Asia and now Norfolk

on the dung heap it looked long legged

its patchy underparts were quite bright yellow in places

skeins of Pink-feet over Sedgeford

Thursday 02 January. After some discussion we decided to spend the day in the Brecks, returning to Lyndford Arboretum where we saw a Crossbill in flight, 9 Hawfinches and 4 Marsh Tits. Santon Downham produced 3 more Hawfinches, Kingfisher, Water Rail,Treecreeper and a superb Otter. The otter was probably a young one and appeared to be eating a Moorhen. It was the first I'd seen away from Shetland. We went to Livermere seeing a handful of Tree Sparrows, mostly in flight, in scrub by the church and 4 Canada Geese on the lake, about one of the least memorable birds to see as my 100th species. Driving back north to Lakenheath we saw 6 Red-legged Partridges by the road but couldn't pick anything out amongst the gulls around the pig farms although most were quite distant. I'd not been to Lakenheath since there were Golden Orioles there and didn't recognise anything. DB picked out a Yellow-legged Gull amongst 1200 Lesser Black-backs on the main lagoon. They were not too far away but I was reminded of how I'm not keen on gulls on reservoirs, it is hard to get a feel of their structure and one has no chance of reading any colour-rings. We walked out towards the main reedbed flushing 2-3 Water Pipits and a Great White Egret but failing to even hear Bearded Tit. From a lookout we watched the Marsh Harriers coming in, seeing at least 19, and right at the death, 20 minutes after sunset, a flock of six Cranes flew in calling. We'd hoped they'd fly around and drop into the reedbed but they continued. It was an excellent finish to what until then had been a little disappointing day. Lakenheath was a superb reserve but with reedbeds, particularly in winter, one is heavily reliant on secretive birds like Bitterns appearing for you. Walking back in the dark the passing warden gave us a lift in this 4WD and told us the reserve had been created for the cost of a detached house in Cambridge. Unfortunately we didn't have a spare house (detachedor otherwise) to enable him to increase its size.

Otter at Santon Downham
it didn't seem too concerned by our presence on the opposite side of the river

viewpoint at Lakenheath