Tuesday 24 March 2020

seawatching and gulls (21-24 March)

Tuesday 24 March. With restrictions now in place I sacrificed the prospect of a decent seawatch at Seaford and stayed local, visiting Widewater instead. I social-distanced from 06:25-09:25 and wasn't nearer than 75m from any of the few people seen while out. Flying east were 254 Brent Geese, 6 Shoveler, 333 Common Scoter, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Oystercatchers, 54 Black-headed, 4 Little, 7 Mediterranean and 33 Common Gulls, 24 Sandwich Terns, 15 Red-throated and 7 unidentified divers and 2 Gannets. Enjoyable but as expected Matt did a lot better at Seaford. 
Brent Geese passing Widewater

Mediterranean Gulls off Widewater, all seven seen were adults
Little Gull off Widewater
four were seen, two very distant and two, including this one, virtually along the beach as I was about to leave
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
for the twelfth consecutive day
Monday 23 March. I seawatched from the beach at Widewater from 06:40-09:10. Again it was very clear with a cold wind, now strong rather than moderate but at least from the East. Flying east I saw about 70 Brent Geese, 93 Common Scoter (sadly didn't manage to pick out any Velvets), 3 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Oystercatchers, a Whimbrel, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Sanderling, 38 Black-headed and 17 Common Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns, 4 divers, a Gannet and a distant Peregrine. Back to the Adur at low tide where a North Thames Herring Gull seen the previous week was present and, eventually, two Mediterranean Gulls kept my run going.
Herring Gull M9XT. A five year old ringed at Pitsea Landfill in Essex and seen on the Thames and at Beddington since.
this adult Mediterranean Gull dropped in when I was beginning to think my run of seeing the species on the Adur on eleven consecutive days was coming to an end
adult and first-summer Mediterranean Gulls on the Adur, not that I could identify the latter from this view
first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur 
Sunday 22 March. An hour seawatching at Widewater from 06:25 was very quiet with two Red-throated Divers and single Fulmar and Gannet seen flying east and two Great Crested Grebes and my first Guillemot of the year on the sea. Not too surprising with a very clear horizon and a cold NE wind. Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie was a slight improvement with a Sparrowhawk and two Buzzards seen as well as Sky Lark and Chiffchaff heard. My low tide visit to the Adur was disappointing with just a single adult Mediterranean Gull seen.

Saturday 21 March. Megan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill. We heard single Sky Lark and Chiffchaff and saw two each of Linnet and Goldfinch, hardly worth the effort although the views and fresh air are always nice. Later a low tide visit to the Adur to check the gulls didn't find that many although 29 Lesser Black-backs were notable and my run of seeing Mediterranean Gulls reached ten consecutive days with a second-summer and a second-winter.

an exotic-looking visitor to our new bird table
second-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

second-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
eye-catching second-summer Herring Gull on the Adur
Friday 20 March (update): Lesser Black-backed Gull 1V0C, seen on the River Adur north of the A27, was ringed as chick on Horse Isle, off Ardrossan, Ayrshire in July 2012 and seen at Meiras, Valdovino on the NW tip of Spain on 27 July 2013, Angeiras, N of Porto, Portugal on 17 August 2013 and Pinto Landfill in Madrid on 25 March 2017.
Lesser Black-backed Gull on the River Adur on 20 March

Friday 20 March 2020

more gulls and poor seawatching (17-20 March)

Friday 20 March. I seawatched from Shoreham Fort for an hour. It was marginally better than yesterday with 6 Canada Geese, 2 Scoter, 2 Oystercatchers and 5 Red-throated Divers flying east and a Gannet west. Of more interest was a summer-plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit on the harbour arm although it didn't stay close long enough to photograph. Nothing was then seen at Widewater. During a low tide visit to check the gulls on the Adur I saw 3 Mediterranean (an adult and 2 first-summers), 500 Common (including Norwegian J1Z5) and a colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed.
adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
the same or the other first-summer Mediterranean Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1V0:C, initial investigations suggest it was ringed on the Clyde
Common Gull J1Z5, again
not the white bird I was hoping for amongst the gull flock

Thursday 19 March. With a forecast change in the wind from SW to NE I seawatched from Widewater for an hour. The wind was very light and it was very disappointing with the only movement noted being 2 Brent Geese west and 4 Oystercatchers and a Red-throated Diver east. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were on the lagoon while a Shag and a newly arrived Goldcrest were seen at Shoreham Fort. Megan and I took Cookie to Buckingham Park where a Mistle Thrush was seen. Later a low tide gull trip to the Adur produced a second-winter Mediterranean and Norwegian J1Z5 amongst about 500 Common Gulls.
Goldcrest at Shoreham Fort, didn't stay long enough for manual focus
Mistle Thrush in Buckingham Park
Common Gull J1Z5 on the Adur
note the damaged ring taking out part of the 5
Wednesday 18 March. Megan and I took Cookie to Lancing Ring and walked around Steepdown. We saw 10 Sky Larks, a Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcaps, Meadow Pipit and 5 Corn Buntings. On a low tide visit to the Adur I saw a second-summer Mediterranean Gull amongst the 100 or so Common Gulls present, disappointing none were showing off colour-rings.
Corn Bunting on Steepdown
Sky Lark on Steepdown
second-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
it was soon feeding on a muddy patch by the airport
Tuesday 17 March. I too Cookie to Shoreham Fort where absolutely nothing was seen on land or sea. Later on the Adur at low tide we saw an adult and second-winter Mediterranean Gull, my second sighting in a week of Norwegian Common Gull JJ648, Buzzard and Reed Bunting.
adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
second-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Common Gull JJ648. Not the most interesting history, it had been ringed as an adult at Stavanger, Norway in June 2018 and not seen again until it was on the Adur a month earlier.
pink-legged Common Gull
Reed Bunting on the Adur

Monday 16 March 2020

First Wheatears and local gulls (08-16 March)

Monday 16 March. Megan and I took Cookie to Widewater and walked along to Lancing Beach Green. On our way reports of small falls of Wheatears along the coast were encouraging although we didn't encounter any until two males at the very western end of Widewater. For me one of the most special events of the year is the first Wheatear, especially if a male, which it usually is. We saw four Wheatears in total, and two Little Egrets. With the tide still a long way out I visited the Adur finding the largest congregation of gulls towards Cuckoos Corner. Here were two adults and a second-summer Mediterranean, 800 Common and 400 Herring Gulls with a colour-ringed individual of each species.
male Wheatears on a groyne west of Widewater
the first spring male Wheatear is hard to beat

Shoreham Power Station in the background

female Wheatear by Lancing Yacht Club
adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
I first thought this bird's ring was 2008 but closer inspection showed it to be 2C08 
It was ringed as a chick at South Binness in Langstone Harbour on 28 June 2017, so not as exotic as I had hoped
very bright legged (and billed) Common Gull on the Adur. In this plumage it is becoming one of my favourite gulls
this bird was one extreme, the bird to its right more typical
a blue-grey legged most likely second-winter Common Gull (taken the previous day)
Common Gull JE242 on the Adur. An adult female that I'd seen on 8 February. It had been ringed at Espevigheia, Lillesand, Aust-Agder, Norway in July 2017
North Thames Herring Gull M9XT
Sunday 15 MarchAnother visit to the Adur seeing four Mediterranean Gulls , one of the Estonian Common Gulls and a local colour-ringed Herring Gull. Later Megan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill where hearing a Sky Lark was the highlight.
gulls near Cuckoo's Corner
adult and first-winter Mediterranean Gulls on the Adur
first-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

second-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
adult and second-summer Mediterranean Gulls on the Adur
adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
Estonian Common Gull P43N on the Adur. My third sighting of this 23 year old female from the Kakrarahu colony, Matsalu Nature Reserve where it has bred every year
Herring Gull A6XY on the Adur. It was injured in Southwick and rehabilitated in 2010 when in its third-year. It is my ninth sighting of this bird in the last ten years. 
Saturday 14 March. Another visit to the Adur seeing three Mediterranean Gulls and my first North Thames Herring Gull since early January.
North Thames Herring Gull X2HT
first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
second-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

a different second-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Friday 13 March. A walk with Megan and I took Cookie for a walk along the boardwalk from Shoreham Fort. I was hoping for an an early Wheatear but was disappointing with just one Turnstone, nine Meadow Pipits and two Linnets seen. Later a second-summer Mediterranean Gull was seen on the Adur but no colour-rings.
an extension to the boardwalk to Beach Green is almost complete
Megan and Cookie heading back to the Fort
Thursday 12 March. Just a visit to the Adur where there were three Mediterranean Gulls and a Norwegian ringed individual was all I could pick out of amongst 1300 Common Gulls.
spot the Meds, smaller gulls on the Adur
first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
two second-summer Mediterranean Gulls on the Adur
the more black-headed of the two
Common Gull JJ648 on the Adur. The first sighting since it was ringed as adult at Jåttåvågen, Stavanger, Norway in June 2018
Wednesday 11 March. The day started with a Great Black-backed Gull on the roof behind our garden where a pair unsuccessfully bred last year. An early sign of spring. We also welcomed the first visitors to Megan's new bird table, a pair of Stock Doves, the roof putting off other pigeons. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort and Widewater seeing just a single Turnstone at the former and where we saw eight Red-breasted Mergansers. At low tide amongst 1000 Common Gulls on the Adur were two with colour-rings, a new presumed German bird and my fifth sighting since 1 February of Norwegian J1Z5.
Stock Doves on our new bird table
not as easy to access as our previous unroofed table
Red-breasted Merganser on Widewater
one of eight present (four males and four females)
Cookie and me being watched at Widewater

Common Gull A3T1 on the Adur, probably a German bird.
Great Black-backed Gull attempting to eat an eel
while I wasn't looking it swallowed it all
but didn't have quite enough room for its tail 
Tuesday 10 March. With the Garganey at Pulborough having been seen for two or three mornings running I decided to give it another final try. I arrived at about 08:00 to be told it had been seen out from West Mead Hide where it took about 30 minutes for it to appear, or for me to stop overlooking it! Fourth time lucky and views could certainly have been worse. Also seen were Green Woodpecker, 3 Coal Tits and 6 Bullfinches while 2 Wood Larks were flushed by RSPB surveyors from a nearby field, although they didn't see them. I bought a bird table for Megan and spent the afternoon putting it together. Another low tide visit to the Adur to check the gulls produced  a second-summer Mediterranean and a Polish and Norwegian colour-ringed Common Gulls.
male Garganey at Pulborough

male Bullfinch at Pulborough

Kestrel at Pulborough
colour-ringed Black-headed Gull on the Adur, just too far away to read
a different colour-ringed Black-headed Gull, also unreadable
Estonian Common Gull P77U.
Common Gull J6K4. It was ringed as a first-calendar year at Tveitevannet, Bergen, Norway in August 2011 and seen in Norway in April 2015 and July 2016
second-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
and doze
Monday 09 March. I cycled to my dentist in Hove hoping there might be a very early Wheatear on the beach but it was no surprise that there wasn't - I'd only ever seen one this early before, in 1977. A Buzzard drifting west high over the lock-gates on my way home was some compensation. A late afternoon visit to the Adur at low tide was disappointing despite good numbers of commoner gulls being present. No rings or Meds and inconclusive views of a probable first-winter Yellow-legged.

Sunday 08 March. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort and the Adur Saltings on the rising tide seeing 3 Purple Sandpipers at the former and 14 Teal, 3 Common Snipe, 7 Dunlin, the Whimbrel, 32 Redshank, the Greenshsank and 2 Reed Buntings at the latter. Late afternoon on the falling tide the gull roost included 1250 Black-headed, an adult and second-summer Mediterranean and 1000 Common including two Estonian birds.

low tide on the Adur
Estonian Common Gull P43N, a bird I'd seen on the Adur on 18 February and now in its 23rd year
Estonian Common Gull P77U. 
P77U was ringed as a breeding female in the Kakrarahu colony, Matsalu Nature Reserve in June 2017. In 2018 it was seen in The Netherlands in late March and back in the colony in June.
second-summer Mediterranean Gull with P43N on the Adur
Mediterranean Gull with P43N on the Adur