Monday, 17 December 2012

an update on Caspo

I mentioned in my last post that Caspo the friendly gull (as he shall now forever be known!), was ringed on the left leg. Well from Dave Coopers excellent photographs, it transpired that the ring number was PEAA, and now, they've discovered that the bird was ringed at Zwirownia Zakole, Jankowice, Babice, Poland. See John Coopers blog for information. This area is in the extreme south of poland, fairly near to the Slovakian border, and a few miles west of Krakow (map here). 

There do seem to be a lot of Caspo's around at the moment! I think there are at least two in the Newhaven area, three or four here (the two adults yesterday, a third winter, and possibly a separate adult found my Matt Eade and Bob Self), and lord knows how many at West Rise Marsh! A second-winter at Arlington in late November was yet another bird, so we're left with what I'd estimate are between 6-10 in the area! The reputation of Cuckmere, Newhaven and West Rise for gulls has been slowly growing, but this is still a remarkable concentration! it remains to be seen how long they will hang around with us for! 

In other news, senor Gearty twitched the Casps today. The first words from his mouth were; 'I still hate gulls'. Poor deluded boy! 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

caspo the friendly gull

today was, by any standards, a truly wonderful day for gulling! a flock in the Cuckmere just north of Exceat had a few great surprises in it. Alongisde Dad and the Coopers, We found in the flock

  • c450 Lesser Black-backs. This total is derived from counting based on photos I took of the flock, and is a bare minimum as there were birds flying in and out fairly often. There were also quite a few intermedius among the graelsii, looking through the photos I could pick out an absolute minimum of 35, and a lot of the gulls were face-on in photos, not allowing mantle comparisons. However, I think the majority were Graelsii. Interestingly, while looking through the photos, I found just two first-winters, the vast majority were in adult or near-adult plumage.
  • 30 Great Black-backs. the second commonest gull, there was a single third-winter and four first-winters among the flock, but once again adults dominated. Typically Great Black-backs dominate the gull flocks in the Cuckmere, so it seems that a) there were less of them and b) far more Lesser Black-backs today. 
  • 6 Herring Gulls- there were really very few in this flock! There are other gull flocks at Newhaven too, so perhaps they prefer it there for some reason! two first-winters, one third-winter and three adults were all I picked out.
  • 2 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS. Patch ticks. Both birds were adults, identified by their square heads, intermediate coloured mantles (halfway between Herring and LBBG), shorter bills with obvious red gonys spots, and yellow legs. 
  • 2-3 CASPIAN GULLS. The two adults present were absolutely perfect! Both showed long and parallel-edged bills, a sloping forehead and small, beady, black eyes. The mantle shade was slightly darker than an argenteus Herring Gull to my eyes, and they both had extensive white on the primaries. One was seen in flight and showed a broad white tip to p10 and a large white mirror on p9, not unlike L. argentatus argentatus. Both had the classic pale yellow legs, and a heavily attenuated breast and long legs, giving them the classic jizz of Cachinnans. One showed a small amount of dark streaking on the rear crown, not a classic sign of this species, but everything else about it pointed to a Caspian Gull, so I'm happy with the ID myself. We were watching them for upwards of 45 minutes, amazing views of one of the most gorgeous gulls by far! There was also a possible 3rd-winter Casp, seen very briefly, that showed the beady eye and parallel-edged bill, and the typical posture. Sadly we lost this individual while gawking at one of the adults!
poor picture, but you can kinda see the bill, beady eye and leg colour! 

I did see a few Black-headed Gulls overhead, but all the birds in this flock were of the LWHG variety. Also feeding in the fields were 102 Canada Geese, 3 Greylag Geese (two showing an unusual plumage variation of a white band going horizontally accross the belly), the resident Bar-headed Goose, one of his love-children with a Canada, 30 Wigeon and 7 Teal. Aside from waterfowl, other species enjoying the flooded field were Little Egret(2), Rook, Moorhen, Woodpigeon, Oystercatcher (1), Curlew (20), Magpie, Carrion Crow and Jackdaw. A bright male Stonechat also briefly performed in one of the bushes by the side of the path before being chased off by a Robin.

*** note- one of the adult Caspian Gulls had a ring on the left leg, none of my photos leave it discernible but hopefully the birds will stay for the whole winter, and perhaps I might get a closer look at some point to read it? 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

two days, four dips

Fed up of those Waxwings!

When a flock of 20 was reported from Tesco's in Lewes, on Monday, I decided to pay a visit the following day in my free period. I met up with Michael Blencowe (admin of Lewes Wildlife facebook page, well worth 'liking' for updates on wildlife in the area!), but sadly, we both failed to see anything resembling a Bombycilla. They had last been reportd at about 12:45, an hour before we arrived, and Michael had recieved a call a few minutes beforehand saying a flock of 20 had appeared in a garden on Malling Down, surely the same birds! A Starling flying over caught me unawares, but other than that not a sniff of anything Waxwing like!

The Tesco Car Park did hold plenty of Redwing and Blackbird, and a possible abietinus/tristis Chiffchaff. Very uniform brown above and lacking any sort of yellowish tones to the belly, overall colder coloured than a typical collybitta. Sadly it didn't call, and was present for about two minutes before it carried on out-of-sight on it's circuit, so I can only say it was 'interesting'! 

Having failed miserably to find those Waxwings, I did console myself with two patch ticks at Lewes Railway Land. a WATER RAIL Was squealing away in the Heart of Reeds, where a Reed Bunting was also an overdue bird for patch. It put me 64-60 ahead against Jake in our competition, though he pulled it back to 64-62 today. Also present on the patch, 4 Siskin, a surprising concentration of 14 Moorhen in the fields, and some early singers, two Robins and a Wren. I think it's more likely they are holding winter territories (though I haven't heard of this behaviour in Wrens before). 

Today, the trains were broken in the morning. A little bit of frost, and suddenly trains break, rails lose power and general pandemonium catches like wildfire- how british! It had a bright side, in that Dad gave me a lift to college. I attempted a drive-by twitch of the Waxwings at the Ouse Estuary Project, failing (dip number two), and then we briefly tried the Tesco car park, which held the usual Redwings and Blackbirds, but nowt else, (dip number three!). A short walk around Lewes Railway land after school found a Kingfisher fishing around the partly frozen pond in the woodland, excellent views, and probably the most notable bird I've seen on this part of the patch! 

Back in Seaford I had a look for yet more Waxwings, the birds reported from Alfriston Road yesterday, but I was ultimately frustrated in my searches for a fourth time! A fly-over Rook was the best bird, also around were a Sparrowhawk, and a few singing male birds; 3 Robin, 2 Dunnock and a Wren. All in all a frustrating two days- give me some Waxwings!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Frosty Days Birding!

At last had got out birding after feeling pretty ill these past two weeks! A nice frosty day at Pulborough today with a nice selection of birds seen around the reserve! As we left the visitors centre we were greeted to a Lesser Redpoll feeding close but on the thistle heads. In the courtyard we sepent around half an hour looking for the Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers along with a few others. No luck but there was a flock of Siskins overhead around 10+. Have been disappointed with the lack of Winter thrushes around the reserve recently this time last year it would have been easily 50+ Fieldfare and Redwing even reaching over the 100 mark today only 3 Fieldfare and 1 Redwing! Disappointing...

On to the North Brooks now where the Ringtail Hen Harrier put in an appearance along with a rather pale morph Common Buzzard. Other raptors sighted today 1 Kesterl and 1 Female Sparrowhawk. There was a Juv Bewick Swan on the North Brooks but was not relocated after a while and we did not see the bird. Another one of our Siberian friends was recorded today on the reserve (not by us) and that was a Whooper Swan which raised a few eyebrows and was later thought to be a Bewick.
The Male Peregrine was seen from the hanger view point along with various duck. Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Pintail. 

There was a report of a Brambling yesterday on the cafe feeders I personally hadent see one in a few years so was pretty eggar to see this bird. As we got there a nice couple informed us the bird was seen    Every 10 minuets so was pretty certain we would see it. Waited an hour and half and still no luck now these birds may not be "rare" but are certainly becoming more scarce so was very disappointed! Oh well there is always tommorrow! 

Last stop of the day as its getting dark so early was Amberly Wildbrooks to see the Bewick Swans. At the view point we were greated to 4 which was an added bonus at there was only three reported before hand. Later another 2 joined bringing the total to 6 Birds.

George Kinnard