East Sussex ..... 17th March 2010

My wife and I decided to pay a visit to Arlington Reservoir and Birling Gap, both sites in East Sussex, today.
On arriving at the reservoir, we were greeted with the song of a Chiffchaff and about a dozen Rooks noisily nesting across the road from the car park entrance.


ARLINGTON RESERVOIR

Apart from four Common Buzzards (including the darkest bird I have ever seen), there was very little else of note at the reservoir, despite walking its entire perimeter, although the displaying Great Crested Grebes were entertaining.


COMMON BUZZARD

video
GREAT CRESTED GREBES IN COURTSHIP DISPLAY


We drove on to Birling Gap and parked in the hotel car park. A half hour seawatch was pretty fruitless with just a couple of Fulmars of note.


BIRLING GAP, LOOKING WEST

Not far from and just to the east of the car park, a Chiffchaff was fly-catching from scrub and this proved to be the only migrant present, although a Firecrest high in the trees at Belle Tout Wood may also have just flown in.

A sub-adult Peregrine flew in from the north and disappeared over the edge of the cliff.

Shortly after this, a gentleman walking his dog pointed out a Tawny Owl roosting in an ivy-clad tree in Belle Tout Wood. We definitely would have missed this bird as only its belly was on view.


TAWNY OWL (well, belly of Tawny Owl, if you can spot it)

As we headed back towards the car park, a Weasel shot down a rabbit burrow and despite waiting for what seemed an age, it failed to reappear so I think it must have found another way out.

Heading west from the car park we walked up to the area called Crowlink and were immediately greeted with the cronking sound of three Ravens which were tumbling in display flight just above the cliff. They quickly disappeared below the clifftop and that was the only view we had of them.

At least five Fulmars were cruising the cliffs and as I scanned the sea, I noticed a group of gulls loafing on the water.


FULMARS

Getting the scope on the gulls, I picked out one bird that seemed very pale and seemed to be lacking any black on the primaries. It looked larger than the Herring Gulls nearby.

My immediate reaction was that it was a possible first-winter Glaucous Gull, so I attempted to digiscope a shot of it. Bearing in mind that I am high on a cliff-top and the light is hazy and also that the bird is at a great distance (all good excuses for a terrible couple of photos) these were the best shots I could get (both very heavily-cropped).




POSSIBLE GLAUCOUS GULL?

Is it or isn't it a Glaucous Gull?
As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on that one. I have sent the shots to those who are more familiar with this species (which is just about everyone as this is one species I have yet to add to my life list) and I will post the outcome on this blog.

Graham

(Any comments you may have about this bird would be appreciated.)

(So far, three birders suggest that it is a Glaucous Gull, three suggest that it is a likely candidate for being a Glaucous but that it is difficult to be certain due to the poor photos and one has suggested it is a leucistic Great Black-backed Gull.)

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