Friday, 23 December 2011

23rd December 2011 Birling Gap Seawatch 8.15am-9.15am SW4 Overcast & Cuckmere

Red-throated Diver 1E, 1W
Gannet 150E
Brent 6E
Merganser 1W
Scoter 3E, c.18 on sea
Auk sp. 6E

Upper Cuckmere
Lesser Black-backed Gull c.300
Great Black-backed Gull c.200
Caspian Gull 1 3w
Yellow-legged Gull 2 ad.

Third-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere
An ultra-distinctive individual with such a snouty appearance complete with tiny black eyes, pear-shaped clean white head, mantle shade comparable with Common Gull and a very attenuated rear end being especially long-winged. It was also very long-legged and walked around with a characteristic gait and as if 'walking on tip toes'. The small white tips to its black primaries prove they are third-generation being those of  a 3w. 

When alert it appeared both long-necked and kink-necked.

Whilst its bill appeared that of a 2w being pale-tipped with a dark subterminal smudge that bled along its cutting edge towards its base its uniform pure grey mantle and only restricted dark centres to its tertials are characters strongly indicative of a 3w. Its bullet-hole dark eyes are characteristically tiny.

Its pure white tail lacking a broad black subterminal band and lack of hindneck streaking confirm its age as a 3w.

Caspian Gull is often described as peculiarly small-headed for the body and this individual is no exception.

In profile it is easy to appreciate the pear-shaped white head.

With such a sleek skeletal head, full-chested appearance, long pale fleshy-coloured thin weak-looking legs being particularly long in the tibia it appeared the archetypal Caspian Gull almost reminiscent of an Audouin's Gull.

Its tiny black eyes set upon its clean white head, long sloping forehead and never-ending lores all accentuate its snouty appearance. 

Whilst overall the wings appeared grey, some soft grey-brown patterning in the coverts was present. 

Flat-backed, lacking a tertial step and far longer-winged than argenteus it shared a mantle colour with the accompanying Common Gull. The small white tips to its primaries and restricted dark-centres to its tertials are just visible.

Third-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere