Saturday, 23 April 2011

what an Ice day

A VERY early wake-up (05:00hrs!!) got me up and listening to the beautiful sounds of the dawn chorus. It seemed like every Blackbird in Sussex had descended on our little corner of Seaford, the racket was that loud! There were also singing Goldcrest, Dunnock, Robin and Great Tit and a veritable concert of Herring Gulls.

The sky had been very clear overnight, meaning my early rise would not suit Seaford Head very well. But it may just have been good conditions for the first movements of waders heading back to Siberia (I heard a Whimbrel flying over last night to reinforce this view.)

In the Cuckmere, waders were; two Bar-tailed Godwit and two Whimbrel on the ground, plus three Whimbrel and two Dunlin heading north. Other birds were quite limited, but there where two pairs of Wheatear on their usual breeding area. Whitethroats and Linnets were everywhere, there were two separate pairs of Stonechat, and a few Swallows were overhead. There were also pairs of Shelduck and Oystercatcher, which will hopefully breed this year.
Canada Goose in the early morning mist

Whitethroat in similar conditions

one of two Bar-tailed Godwits along the river

oneanthe oenanthe 
singing Meadow Pipit

I attempted to upload some video here but it wouldn't work. maybe at a later date...

after this, I headed to Splash Point for a while, where I met up with some of the regulars seawatching. I arrived at about 8.45, and was lucky enough to jam an Arctic Skua right away. But for the next half an hour it was positively dead, with a handful of Sandwich Terns and two Red-throated Divers heading east.

I would have left pretty quickly if not for developments at Selsey Bill. Sid, one of the regulars, had recieved news from his pager that a juvenile Iceland Gull had passed Selsey at 8.22am. I decided to wait around just in case this would appear. I wasn't expecting it to be seen, it would probably stop somewhere along the coast before it reached us. But there were plenty of gulls on the undercliff at Splash Point, I thought. Why can't it stop there?

well, amost on cue, at 9.28am, the shout went up. 'WHITE-WINGED GULL!' I got onto it after about 10 seconds, and got some crap flight views that were just about enough to tick it as an ICELAND GULL. Clearly a WWG, and it looked too small and long-winged for a Glauc. I followed it's flight and, low and behold, it stopped down, joing 50 or so Herring Gulls on the undercliff just where I'd hoped it would! Sometimes birding can be so good!

Unfortunately, from the groyne at Splash Point, distance, heat-haze and the fact the gull appeared to be hiding in one of the many crannies in the rock-pools made it completely impossible to find. However, I sent a few texts out to Dad, Matt Eade and Jake Everitt telling them the bird was here.
After about twenty minutes of fruitlessly trying to see them bird from where we were, we must have had a brainwave to walk up onto the clifftop. No, we weren't that suicidal at the thought of not getting a good view, but we could get closer to and higher than the gulls, making them far easier to check through.

This plan worked very well in the end! The seawatch was abandoned and everyone got very good, if a little distant, views of this superb gull. We aged it as a presumed second-winter (well me and Dad did but I'm not sure what everyone else though of it). But it was a beautiful, beautiful bird that made the whole day completely worthwhile! 

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