Sunday, 21 October 2012

Stonechats and Sabine's Gulls

I was in an understandabl tired state this morning, having turned 17 and been out with friends last night! I woke at about 9.30 to Dad on the phone, saying he was watching the SIBERIAN STOENCHAT at Beachy Head! Being a very kind father (and probably still in birthday mode), he came back to pick me up, and about half an hour later we were stood with a crowd of 20+ other birders at Birling Gap, watching this gorgeous bird fly from perch to perch, in a set-aside field of thistle and kidney vetch. At times it came up to perch on the barbed wire fence on the side of the road, showing at a fantastic fifteen feet!

The white rump in flight was very distinctive, as was a larger white wing panel than on a nominate Stonechat. I was also surprised at just how pallid 1st-winter Sibe Stone looks compared to ours. I couldn't find my camera, but Peter Denyer has kindly donated me some photos to use... 

Also around at Beachy Head were 20+ Swallows moving through, 200+ Goldfinch, a few Skylark overhead and a tinkling of Goldcrests in Belle Tout. 

I thought this was going to be the highlight of my day- how wrong I was! Brian Cox (the birder, not the physicist or the thespian!), came over to say hi to the family/steal my birthday cake, and his pager alerted us to the reappearance of the Hove SABINE'S GULL seen yesterday. I sent a text to Jake Gearty who was still out, and him, Peter, Jamie Wilkinson and Luke Dray relocated the bird on the way back from the Stonechat. I got down there for 4.00, and met Jake, Luke, Dave Boddington, George Kinnard and the maverick himself along Hove seafront! The gull showed ridiculously well, down to about four metres! 

How to see; the bird is incredibly obliging, generally present along the seafront west of the burnt-down pier. it is often flighty but can allow remarkably close approach at times! It is apparently also a fan of chips, so birders, splash out a bit for some fabulous views! 

One feather on the left wing (not visible here) is also already moulted into it's winter plumage. If this bird hangs around for a while (which I hope it will) it'll be interesting to see whether it's moult develops any further.

thanks to Peter for letting me use his photos and Jon, Brian, Jake, Luke, Jamie, George and everyone else for a great day's birding! 

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