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 ...

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