Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Saturday 30 November 2019

Cuckmere 30/11/19

After work I visited the Cuckmere as the lure of yet another day of easterly winds was too much to ignore. Driving down I noticed a large gull flock to the north of the road. It soon became clear there had been a good arrival of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and it didn't take many seconds to find a few Caspian Gulls. Overall in this flock (containing maybe 300 birds) produced nine superb Caspian Gulls. The majority were adults but there was a striking first-winter present to. Mixed in were plenty of  Yellow-legged Gulls of varying ages as well as several argentatus Herring Gulls. The views of all the Casps were brilliant and I enjoyed an hour scanning this flock.

I was keen to then hit the Lower Cuckmere as this normally holds more birds. Just prior to my arrival a large number of gulls took flight and headed out to sea. Much to my relief though was the presence of an enormous gull flock but frustratingly the flock I had just been watching had just joined them. I noticed at least one more different Caspian Gull, though I couldn't help but think I had arrived a few minutes too late to potentially find many more. The same first-winter showed well as did a couple of adults.

Totals as follows:

Caspian Gull - 10 (5 adults, 3 third-winters & 1 first-winter)
Yellow-legged Gull - ca. 15 (among many adults were 3 second-winters & 2 first-winters)
argentatus Herring Gull - ca. 30
Greater Black-backed Gull - ca. 2000
Lesser-black-backed Gull - ca. 750

first-winter Caspian Gull

three Caspian Gulls in this shot

third-winter Caspian Gull

adult Caspian Gull in flight;
1w Caspian & 1w Yellow-legged Gull
in the backround.

adult Caspian Gull

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Lower Cuckmere 27/11/19

A repeat of this time last year when I spent the majority of my time looking at the gulls in the Cuckmere. Today was no different with little else to get me motivated other than the large gull flock in the Lower Cuckmere. I had Jasper with me but he was very good and allowed me the time I needed to find a single adult Caspian Gull (different to the adult seen at the weekend and Monday) and a minimum of ten Yellow-legged Gulls that were spread from Exceat downwards.

The high tide was very exciting today as the water was passing over the riverbank, something that Jasper was not quite prepared for.

Adult Caspian Gull & 
adult Yellow-legged Gull

The small size and spread-wing shot 
indicates this as a different bird from previous days.

Saturday 23 November 2019

Splash Point & Cuckmere Haven 23/11/19

I started the day down Splash Point where there wasn't a great deal moving. The following were seen between 07.45-08.30:

Shag - 2 offshore then flew west
Gannet - 66 E
Red-throated Diver - 2 E
Auk sp. - 20 E

I then moved into the Cuckmere and came across a whole host of good birds. The Gull flock wasn't particularly huge today, but did include good numbers of both Caspian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls. I spent some time watching these before heading off along the river where I came across a Spotted Redshank feeding in one of the ditches; this being a mega bird for the area as it's only my second record. I wanted to continue my luck for the day and headed off for the meanders as Neil had kindly let me know of a Goldeneye there. I happily saw the Goldeneye which was my last 'sawbill' to see in the Cuckmere. On the saturated fields were many Rock Pipits with a minority looking good for littoralis, whilst another surprise came in the form of a Water Pipit feeding with them.

A total of five Caspian Gulls were found today, although it was more than likely six, but a brief adult just didn't get seen well before the entire flock took flight. At one time I could see three adults altogether with one of them performing very well for the duration. A total of eight Yellow-legged Gulls were present with all but one being adults.

spot the Caspian Gull

all of the same adult Caspian Gull

3w & ad Caspian Gull

Yellow-legged Gull (open-wing shot)
and ad Caspian Gull (far right)

3w Caspian Gull
ad Yellow-legged Gull

Spotted Redshank at Lower Cuckmere

Water Pipit at Cuckmere Haven

1w Goldeneye at Cuckmere Haven

Thursday 14 November 2019

Seaford Head & Lower Cuckmere 14/11/19

A calm morning followed on from a night of strong southerly winds. There was a small arrival of Crests, with Firecrests equalling the number of Goldcrests present. A surprise encounter when walking down Hope Bottom was a Water Rail that ran across my path. This is only the second Water Rail I've seen on the headland.

As I had time I decided to walk the Lower Cuckmere. I had only got halfway down the western path when a small bird flock stopped me in my tracks. A Warbler that certainly warranted a closer look was flitting around very low down over the ditch and acting suspiciously. I was disappointed in the fact that it wasn't a Dusky Warbler, but also pleased that it was clearly a Siberian Chiffchaff. I enjoyed prolonged views as it fed seemingly unconcerned of my presence, and at times was flitting underneath where I was standing and showing incredibly well. The bird responded very well when I played a short recording of Siberian Chiffchaff. A bog-standard Chiffchaff was also present for a brief time.

Siberian Chiffchaff at Lower Cuckmere

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Newhaven Harbour 13/11/19

After some distant views of the Great Bustard mid-afternoon, I noticed the tide was out and decided to spend the remaining hour of light at Newhaven Harbour. With not much happening I was then surprised to see a Caspian Gull flying in from the east. Its 'hooded' appearance was instantly recognisable from afar and it helpfully landed on the beach confirming my original thoughts. The Gull only stayed for five minutes and nothing else was found up until dark.

1w Caspian Gull

Thursday 7 November 2019

Lower Cuckmere 7/11/19

A redhead Goosander was among the large numbers of wildfowl in the Lower Cuckmere this morning. It was happily feeding along the channels closest to either of the paths that surround the Cuckmere. There were no yank counterparts of either Wigeon or Teal, and with that not much else of note either.

redhead Goosander at Lower Cuckmere

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Birling Gap - Great Bustard 6/11/19

After a long walk with Jasper around Seaford Head and the Lower Cuckmere, the exciting news of a Great Bustard at Birling Gap was put out on a WhatsApp group. It transpired that Simon and the SOS group had watched the bird fly in from the east and land in the sheep field at Birling. Despite the fact this was most likely going to be one of the Salisbury Plain birds, I was on site within 15-minutes.

The Great Bustard was still present upon my arrival and stayed in the area for another hour before flying off west being harried by a Greater Black-backed Gull. It was bearing a red ring on the left leg with the code '92'. The wings weren't in the best condition that one would hope from a wild bird and therefore I think it's best to assume this bird had been released from a few counties to the west of us.

Turns out this was the case as I received an email from Ruth Manvell who is director of the Great Bustard Group: 'The Great Bustard seen at Birling Gap today is a juvenile female about 5.5 months old from the Wiltshire project. She was released around Salisbury Plain area in mid-August and we last saw her about two weeks ago. She was hatched from an egg imported from Spain back in early May. The females are usually quite shy and nervous. She was released with others but she stayed around until recently and we are not sure where the others are at the moment.' 

juvenile-female Great Bustard
at Birling Gap

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Cuckmere Haven 5/11/19

A very uninspiring morning down the Cuckmere was enlivened by finding a Cattle Egret at the mouth of the river. Initially sat among the saltmarsh, it then flew and landed on the wooden fence joining some Black-headed Gulls. There are currently plenty of Little Egrets feeding along the river as the saltmarsh is flooded and no doubt providing plenty of food. It was no great surprise the Cattle Egret had joined this flock upon my return before taking off for good and flying purposefully north.

Cattle Egret at Cuckmere Haven
Of course my camera was left in the car
as the weather was grim.