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? 

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