Friday, 2 November 2012

phylloscopic frustrations!

is 'Phylloscopic' a word? if not then it should be! By the way, this is a write-up of yesterday (1st November), so apologies for it being a bit late!

I started with low expectations, but I did hope the strong South-westerlies that had now been blowing for two days might have brought a Sabine's Gull or a Shearwater into the channel. as it turns out, in 40 minutes my totals were;

Black-headed Gull- about 20W

and that was literally everything! Not even a Common Scoter, a Gannet or a Brent Goose! It's a good thing skua's are such a decent bird, and november is such a good month for them! otherwise I would have considered this rather a wasted 40 minutes.

Another good bird seen was a SCANDINAVIAN HERRING GULL that did a flyby of the groyne at Splash Point. (I know I should have been in the shelters on such a miserable day, but it had been so crap I actually moved onto the groyne thinking I was somehow missing everything from where I had been!) The gull perched down on the concrete path briefly, allowing a fairly good study through the scope, before flying off towards a roost on the beach to the east. I noted

  • a darker mantle shade than  typical argenteus. However, I think this was quite a pale Argentatus, as it was very flat light and the mantle was lighter than some definite scandi's I have seen in bright sunlight! It was quite blueish grey as well
  • increased white on the primaries with big white tip to p10, and a tip-black spot-mirror pattern on p9 (see bad drawing below). 
  • in flight, the deeper breast gave it a more front-forward appearance than a british herring gull (and I checked by looking extensively at the rooftop gulls on the way home to compare!)
  • the head was fully moulted into winter plumage, unlike most of the argenteus that are currently about halfway through (Argentatus on average moults slightly earlier)
  • it had a heavy bill and big, brutish expression, more so than Argenteus

In my ultimate show of professionalism, I used Paint to show the primary pattern of an Argentatus! As a btief and interesting anecdote, I actually did a paint drawing to help get a Glossy Ibis accepted a few years back! I will have to dig that out one day!

On my way home, besides some gull-grilling on the rooftops, I also saw a Redpoll on Southdown Road, Seaford, and 4 Siskin flew north over the house. Both decent November records! Dad then told me about a Firecrest he'd seen in Blatchington Churchyard, which I decided to check out. A fateful decision! 

the Firecrest was calling almost immediately, and there were several Goldcrest, Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird in the churchyard. I heard a crest flock move off, so I followed them, and positioned myself so they would all be moving right in front of me to go from one tree to the next...

The first bird that dropped into view, I put bins on and thought, "bloody hell!"- it had a supercilium and a strong double wingbar! the super was too dull for Pallas's, so was it a Hume's or a Yellow-brow? It had an overall greyish cast and a very dull supercilium, just like the Hume's Warbler I'd seen in Belle Tout two days previously! But I didn't hear it call, and despite a lot of searching yesterday and today, haven't yet managed to see the bird again! 

However, in looking for it, I managed to see the following around Seaford; 

  • BRAMBLING calling over the Churchyard, the first I'd seen since 7 Oct, and completing the trio of winter finches for the day! 
  • a late HOUSE MARTIN flew over the Churchyard as well, my latest by seven days! 
  • 3-4 Chiffchaffs in Seaford, including one by Seaford Primary School with pluamge looking good for an eastern bird. wouldn't claim it without the call though
  • probably the same Firecrest in a tit flock by Seaford Primary School, giving gorgeous views in someone's garden!
  • one, or possibly two, Mistle Thrushes around Blatchington Hill and Seaford Primary School. 

The mystery warbler was of course frustrating, but it was put into perspective a bit when Jamie and Peter, two great birders from the Brighton area, found a probable YELLOWTHROAT on Scilly, but couldn't quite confirm it! From Peter's description it sounds the genuine article! However Jamie found a Red-eyed Vireo on Scilly last autumn, so it would be rather greedy for those two to claim another yank passerine this autumn!! 

1 comment:

  1. Liam,

    the Reverend Dennis,Rectoe of East Blatchington church in some part of the 1800s wrote an excellent bird diary which he published - perhaps the library have a copy. Well worth reading and with notes on the arrival of breeding birds in Seaford. He would have loved to have seen a yellow-browed...

    Best Wishes to all the Brighton birders

    Andrew Grace