Thursday 31 December 2020

2020 ends with a whimper (25-31 December)

Thursday 31 December. An hour seawatching from Widewater from 08:00 produced on the sea an unidentified duck (possibly a Teal), 3 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Razorbills and 10 Red-throated Divers. In addition Oystercatcher3 Razorbills, 3 unidentified auks and 3 Red-throated Divers flew west with 12 Gannets offshore. Also seen at Widewater were a Brent Goose, the pair of Mute Swans and juvenile, 8 Little Grebes, 25 Ringed Plover and 8 Turnstones. Nothing was evident at Shoreham Fort, not even a Turnstone. A year I'm not sorry to see the back of as despite seeing some nice birds in Sussex and even finding a couple it was a case of what might have been with cancelled trips to India, Georgia, Brazil and Shetland. Maybe 2021 will be better, eventually. Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday 30 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Lancing Ring from where we walked around Steepdown. I saw a covey of 10 Grey Partridges, a distant Red Kite, Buzzard, 31 Sky Larks, 5 Long-tailed Tits, Stonechat, 11 Linnets, 2 Goldfinches and 5 Corn and 3 Reed Buntings.

Grey Partridges from Steepdown

Corn Bunting at Steepdown
unusual lighting at Steepdown

Tuesday 29 December. I met David Buckingham at Pulborough at 08:00 and we spent the morning walking around the RSPB reserve. Rough estimates of duck numbers present were 110 Shoveler, 1200 Wigeon, 400 Pintail and 1000 Teal. I also saw 2 Stock Doves, 1400 Lapwings, 950 Black-tailed Godwits, 6 Ruff (including the very white bird seen on our previous visit), 4 Buzzards, a Marsh HarrierGreat Spotted WoodpeckerJay, 8 Wood Larks, 15 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Goldcrests, 23 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a male Stonechat, 2 Bullfinches and 7 Greenfinches. We also heard Nuthatch. We separately drove to Rackham and spent until dusk walking around there and looking out over Amberley Wildbrooks. With telescopes we counted 33 White-fronted Geese. Other wildfowl counts were far less precise with very rough estimates of 300 Canada, 100 Greylag and 2 Egyptian Geese, 80 Shoveler, 500 Wigeon, 100 Pintail and 1000 Teal. We also saw 400+ LapwingsBuzzard, 2-3 Marsh Harriers (one a superb fully adult male and 1-2 sub-adult males), 3-4 Red Kites and several distant views of a Merlin.

Monday 28 December. Megan, Nessa and I took Cookie to Rackham and the west side of Parham Park. Amberley Wildbooks was flooded with loads of ducks. Teal (1,000+) appeared the commonest then Wigeon (200+), Pintail (100+) and Shoveler (20). Maybe 20 White-fronted Geese were mixed in with the Canadas and Greylags but I hadn't taken a telescope and probably overlooked some. I later learned 33 had been seen. We also saw Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Raven, 2 Coal Tits and 2 Mistle Thrushes.

Sunday 27 December. I seawatched from Widewater for an hour before walking along the beach to the Eastern Sands wader roost. A Great Skua flying east at moderate range was the highlight while a Kittiwake, 9 Common Gulls and 3 Gannets flew west. On the lagoon and beach were a male Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Little Grebes, 32 Ringed Plover, 18 Turnstones, 112 Dunlin and a Little Egret. Shoreham Fort was quiet but eventually produced a Purple Sandpiper with 10 Turnstones on/below the wooden pier. On the Adur at low tide I saw 19 Lapwings, a Grey Plover, 4 Redshank and 50+ Black-headed Gulls including one with a Dutch colour-ring before the light went.

Purple Sandpiper at Shoreham Fort (digiscoped)

Black-headed Gull FUC8 on the Adur
it was ringed as chick at Zoetermeer, Benthuizerplas (N of Rotterdam), Netherlands in May 2017

Saturday 26 December. Megan, Nessa and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where I saw a Kestrel and 2 Blackbirds.

Friday 25 December. Happy Christmas. Megan, Nessa, Josh and I walked around the Adur between the A259 and Old Toll Bridge with Cookie. I saw 13 Oystercatchers, 113 Lapwings, 4 Grey and a Ringed Plover, 38 Turnstones, 13 Redshank, 3 Little Egrets, a Kingfisher and 4 Meadow Pipits.

Thursday 24 December 2020

Around Shoreham and a visit to the Arun Valley (19-24 December)

Thursday 24 December. The day started badly with my camera slipping off a chair in the dark and the telephoto lens mount breaking as it landed on the carpet 18 inches below. I thought it really bad luck but discover it is not unknown for Panasonic zooms to do this when attached to the camera body as mine was, perhaps too much strength in the metal was sacrificed to reduce weight? At least it should be repairable. I drove the the Black Rabbit at Arundel and saw 2 vocal Tawny Owls quite well and a fly-over Woodcock badly before/at first light. One then two superb Barn Owls appeared soon after and gave excellent views. Next stop Burpham Sewage Works where a male Marsh Harrier and a Red Kite flew over Burpham SF while I looking at the Chiffchaffs - colybitta 4 tristis 0. My South Downs Farmland Bird survey was rather quiet, the cold northerly wind wasn't ideal but it was dry and with Sussex imminently going into tier 4 it might be my only chance to do it. Seven Grey Partridges, 61 Fieldfares and 17 Redwings were the highlights but the only Red Kite seen was back at the car after I had finished - the first blank I can remember during a survey there. Another visit to Burpham SF produced presumably the same four Common Chiffchaffs. I then drove to Fairmile Bottom and hiked up to Sherwood Rough where I saw 8 Hawfinches and 9 Greenfinches. The former were good, if a bit distant, and appeared to fly into a roost tree at 14:05. I left soon after and drove to Arundel WWT for a look around prior to dusk but was thwarted as I arrived to find it had closed an hour earlier. I'd booked my entry the previous evening and the confirmatory email failed to mention this. Happy Christmas everyone. 

Barn Owl from the Black Rabbit - inadvertently digiscoping at 1/8th second
as above with unsteady hands

distant Hawfinch at Sherwood Rough
two pieces of low-strength metal that used to keep the lens firmly attached to the camera

Wednesday 23 December. I took Cookie to Cuckoos Corner and we walked up the Adur to Dacre Gardens and back. It was very muddy but we missed the heaviest showers. We saw 6 Redshank, 100+ Common Gulls, 7 Grey Herons, single Buzzard, Kingfisher and Redwing, 3 pairs of Stonechats, a heard only Grey and 24 Pied Wagtails and 29 Meadow Pipits.

Stonechat near Cuckoos Corner

Stonechat near Coombes

Tuesday 22 DecemberI went to Widewater and seawatched from 08:05-08:50 seeing just a single Common Scoter and 9 unidentified geese flying east. Another Common Scoter was off-shore and a few Turnstones on the beach. The pair of Mute Swans and their youngster were on the lagoon along with a male Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Little Grebes and 2 Kingfishers. There were 45 Ringed Plover and 196 Dunlins roosting on the beach at Eastern Sands, a bit of a surprise as the tide was quite low. Walking back along the beach small groups of feeding Turnstone took the days total to 31. Shoreham Fort was birdless as was Harbour Way. I then spent a couple of hours on the Adur, between the railway and Cuckoos Corner. I saw 62 Lapwings, 3 Grey Plover, 11 Redshank, 300+ Common Gulls (3 had metal rings but disappointingly none wore colour rings), an adult Mediterranean Gull, 500 Herring Gulls (including 2 seen on the Adur previously with North Thames colour-rings) and another Kingfisher.

male Red-breasted Merganser at Widewater

Kingfisher at Widewater

Dunlin on the beach at Widewater

and Ringed Plover

Kingfisher near the Old Toll Bridge

'hooded' adult Common Gull on the Adur

heavily marked third-winter Herring Gull on the Adur

Herring Gull G2JT on the Adur. My 6th sighting on the Adur, it was first ringed at Pitsey in 2014 as a first-year and has also been seen at Beddingham and the Thames Barrier.
Herring Gull X6NT on the Adur. Also my 6th sighting on the Adur, it was first ringed at Pitsey in 2015 as a second-year and has also been seen at Beddingham.
second-winter Lesser black-backed Gull on the Adur
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Monday 21 December. I took Cookie to the Adur and in the rain we walked up to Cuckoos Corner. There were few gulls in evidence, a combination of a bait digger and a not very low tide not helping. We saw 9 Dunlin and 7 Redshank and spent the rest of the day drying out. 

Sunday 20 December. Megan and I took Cookie to Brooklands where we saw 7 Teal, a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and a Goldcrest.

Coot at Brooklands
Moorhen at Brooklands
Teal at Brooklands
first-winter Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands

Saturday 19 December. I took Cookie to the Adur for low tide and we walked up to Cuckoos Corner looking at gulls. I saw 250 Black-headed, 2 Mediterranean, 400 Common, 20 Great Black-backed, 400 Herring and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single Grey Plover. They included Norwegian and probably German colour-ringed Great Black-backs and a North Thames Herring. During an afternoon trip into town I took Cookie to Town Quay where we saw a Curlew while Megan was in a shop.

Common Gull A9TJ
it appears to have been ringed in Germany
Common Gull JE113
it was ringed as an adult in Klepp, Rogaland Norway in June 2018 but has not been reported since
a North Thames ringed Herring Gull, history awaited

adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Saturday 19 December 2020

More Caspian Gulls in the Cuckmere (18 December continued)

Friday 18 December (continued). With a strong S wind and an afternoon high tide it seemed worth trying the Cuckmere gull roost. I drove to the barn and walked down past Harry's Bush, arriving at about 12:15. There were two sizable flocks totalling about 2000 large gulls on the water meadows, fortunately closer than on my previous visits this winter, and I spent over 3 hours with them. I saw at least 8 Caspian, 11 Yellow-legged, 450 Herring, 520 Lesser Black-backed and 1050 Great Black-backed Gulls. I hardly looked at anything else but a couple of times I saw 2 Brent Geese walk behind the flock. Most of the Caspian Gulls were first-winters with six birds not being an unreasonable estimate. A second-winter and an adult also also seen. Another possible adult wasn't seen well enough. The Herring Gulls included at least two identifiable as argentatus and one with a North Thames colour ring. Two of the Great Black-backs had readable colour-rings, from Norway and Le Havre while another Norwegian bird was partly read. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls included one with a North Thames colour ring and another partly read and possibly from Jersey. Of the Caspian Gulls 

The first Caspian Gull seen today in the Cuckmere:

the first Caspian Gull seen was a first-winter, although I had to wait over half an hour when it moved to be certain. During that time a second first-winter was seen
the Caspian (lower left) with adult Yellow-legged Gull (top right) 
still sitting
half an hour later the wait was more than worthwhile
wow, that underwing

too much exertion, time for another rest ... I took my eye off it and it disappeared
over an hour later what is presumably the same bird reappeared in the flock
not for long
soon took off
and flew south
and was lost heading towards the coast

Other first-winter Caspian Gulls in the Cuckmere:

this first-winter Caspian Gull was seen at the same time as the first
it was a smaller bird with a less well marked mantle
another first-winter Caspian Gull
a well marked individual with whiter tertial and greater covert tips than the first two
a larger less-well marked individual with dark greater coverts, the fourth first-winter seen

this bird looked like the original first-winter although was seen half an hour after it had flown off
its tertials have whiter tips and the mantle marking appear more like V's than crosses making it a fifth first-winter
another large plainer mantled individual with irregular greater coverts, a sixth first-winter?
Caspian Gulls in the Cuckmere - second-winter rear left, and the first-winter from above rear right
first winter flying

first-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere, probably one of those above

another small first-winter Caspian Gull seen at the same time as the previous individual
less well marked on the mantle too and also probably one of the earlier birds
a small first-winter and an adult Caspian Gull, the first-winter probably that above

There are (groups of) images above of nine first-winter Caspian Gull encounters, allowing for some duplication I'd estimate six individuals were involved

Caspian Gull other ages:

second-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere
possibly the same second-winter seen 40 minutes later with the light going fast

adult Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere, with sitting first-winter

finally a good looking adult appeared right at the death, showing all the expected features without a wing-stretch

A few I thought probably were:

possible third-winter Caspian Gull showing a small dark eye
possibly the same as this more convincing bird (based on its legs) but looking more like a second-winter seen over an hour later

possible adult Caspian Gull

the same bird far left looking more convincing, one of the first-winters far right
with first-winter, extensive white on the underside of p10 just about visible and very thin legs

Other gulls photographed in the Cuckmere:

adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere
another adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere
and another adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere
Scandinavian Herring Gull (L.a.argentatus) in the Cuckmere. 
Le Havre Great Black-backed Gull 63X in the Cuckmere
shy Norwegian Great black-backed Gull JA463 in the Cuckmere. It has a life history as long as my arm, was ringed as an adult in May 2009 but the only non Norwegian sighting seems to have been a visit to Calvados, France in October 2010
Great Black-backed Gull in the Cuckmere, probably JTV0 from Norway
Great Black-backed Gull ?CN6 in the Cuckmere, possibly from Jersey
North Thames Lesser Black-backed Gull PB3T in the Cuckmere. It was ringed as 5CY+ at Rainham Tip in August 2009 and seen at Groningen, Netherlands in July 2010, Beddington January 2012, Groningen June 2013 and July 2014 and Bexley Tip, Crayford, Kent in December 2018 and 16 November 2020
one of the regular scares
fortunately they returned to pretty much the same area
it was good for the pack to be shaken up a bit to give one the chance of seeing birds that were hidden, but it did mean starting all over again and was this first-winter the same as a similar one seen earlier ...