Saturday, 12 December 2020

Venturing into East Sussex, twice (09-11 December)

Friday 11 December. David Buckingham and I visited a flooded West Rise Marsh. It didn't start well for me when the first puddle revealed a split in my right Wellington and I had a wet foot for the rest of the day. At West Rise, trying not to venture into too deep water as we circumnavigated West Langley Lake, we saw 11 Pochard, 25 Tufted Duck, 20+ Common Snipe, 300+ Herring Gulls (including 3 argentatus), 5 Yellow-legged Gulls (of various ages), a Sparrowhawk, 5 Bearded Tits (keeping too low in the reeds for my camera to focus on them when they appeared) and 3 Stonechats. Several Water Rails and Cetti's Warblers were heard. At Sovereign Harbour the Velvet Scoter was showing well near the lifeboat and a Common Seal was in the harbour entrance. Arlington Reservoir was as flat as a mill pond making the Black-throated Diver easy to spot (when it wasn't under the water). Also there we saw 680 Wigeon, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a few Fieldfares and Redwings and a Grey Wagtail. Our final stop was High and Over from where we scanned the Cuckmere for geese. DB just beat me to finding a/the flock of 22 White-fronts tucked away close to the riverbank. An enjoyable day, apart from the wet foot. I've now two spare right wellingtons, one short and one normal. Hopefully the next boot to go will be a left.

an adult Yellow-legged Gull on West Langley Lake
near adult Yellow-legged Gull on West Langley Lake with striking white tips to outer primaries

third-winter Yellow-legged Gull at West Langley Lake

what I took to be a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on West Langley Lake. I find large gulls sat on the water difficult to say the least and am not so sure now. It wasn't seen to fly

Velvet Scoter in Sovereign Harbour
the best view I can remember ever having of one

reflections provided by the Eastbourne Lifeboat

Common Seal at Sovereign Harbour
adult Yellow-legged Gull on Arlington Reservoir

Thursday 10 December. Assisted by Cookie I seawatched from Widewater for an hour in a strong SSE wind but saw little. A Common Scoter, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Kittiwakes, 60 Black-headed Gulls, 2 unidentified auks, a close Guillemot and a Gannet flew E and a Fulmar, 3 Gannets and 2 unidentified divers west. A walk around Shoreham Fort produced just 6 Turnstones and we headed home. Later a low-tide visit to the Adur produced 2 Grey and a Ringed Plover, 49 Great Black-backed and 350 Herring Gulls (including a very distinctive argentatus) and two colour-rings. One of the colour-rings was new for me, a Le Havre Great Black-back, the other a returning North Thames Herring. I continued on to the Cuckmere in the hope the rough weather had produced a decent roost. It had with at least 2000 large gulls, mostly adult, present in two flocks south of the A259. However they were right in the middle of the fields, packed tightly together and mostly asleep so far from ideal viewing conditions. There were about 1450 Great Black-backs, 300 Herring and 200 Lesser Black-backs. The Herrings included several pure white-headed birds, more than I was expecting this early in the winter. Also at least four I was happy were identifiable argentatus but I wasn't keeping tabs on them and there could easily have been many more. In an hour and a half before the light went I saw about six adult Yellow-legged Gulls, most stood to allow their legs to be seen. There were a couple of sleeping white-headed, slightly darker mantled than argenteus, which it would have been nice to have seen standing but I never did. As far as Caspian Gulls went, at the time I thought I'd seen one and possibly two first-winters, a third winter/near adult and one or possibly two adults but at home the more I looked at what images I had, none of which showed much detail, the less confident I became.  

shingle moving on Shoreham Beach
argentatus Herring Gull on the Adur
Great Black-backed Gull 06V on the Adur
a Le Havre bird I've not seen before
gulls in the Cuckmere

argentatus Herring Gull in the Cuckmere
adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere (back bird)
adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere (centre bird)
two adult Yellow-legged Gulls
adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere and an interesting white head that I didn't notice at the time
a potential first-winter Caspian Gull that disappeared without revealing anymore of itself
distant first-winter Caspian Gull, possibly the bird above but seen over an hour later

third-winter/near adult Caspian Gull, it looked more convincing at the time
another bird it would have been nice to have seen more of

Wednesday 09 December. I took Cookie to Dacre Gardens and we walked up the Adur to Beeding Priory, crossed there and returned down the west side continuing to Coombes before returning. We saw a single Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel and 2 Goldfinches

smart new sign
Kestrel along the Downs Link

Greylag Goose
Kingfisher at Dacre Gardens
bonfire near Botolphs. The horrible smell of burning plastic, even at this distance, made me wish I was wearing a mask

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