Hastings Harbour in recent winters has been visited by several examples of gulls that could not be firmly identified. These gulls have shown pale plumages and various levels of markings and shapes and sizes corresponding to the white-winged forms of Arctic zones, yet have not been either true Glaucous or Iceland Gulls.
Climatic warming in the Nearctic has meant that the barrier between the Old and New World formed by the icing over of the North-West Passage is lessened in its’ effectiveness as a partition between biogeographic realms. The Audubon Society has modelled the projected effect on the distribution of some of the birds of North America. In the case of the Glaucous-winged Gull of the Pacific it is leading to greater dispersal towards the east and to a change in behaviour. Gene flow between the complex of Larus species is not always well understood as access to breeding colonies is sometimes very difficult. The Glaucous-winged Gull is one of a number of forms which breeds with other closely related species such as the Herring Gull and Glaucous Gull. If climate warming continues there will be a further increase in gene flow from the Eastern Atlantic to the Western.
The Audubon Society have produced maps showing the projected changes in range, linked below;-
Bright, dry but indifferent yesterday with a cold westerly on my back walking from Rye to Lydd via Camber. A lack of cold winter visitors and the stalwarts reduced to their core gatherings, a hundred Barnacles and many more Greylags at Scotney, although a fair number of Wigeon. Flocks of Coots widespread. Starlings and Lapwings, a hundred Golden plovers. Two Buzzards out on the fields where a Peregrine falcon hovered repeatedly above a reedy dike. What was perhaps the same falcon was seen later, dashing over fields in the manner of a hunting Merlin. The plumage showed a mix of blackish and ashy upperparts and along with the behaviour suggested an impression of other than typical for an adult Peregrine.
An Egyptian Goose was at Northpoint and later a flock of seven were among Mute Swans beyond Scotney. In the chill wind some of the fields appeared barren of birdlife, new plough stretching far between straggling hedges. Perhaps the cold and the lateness of my walk meant that finches and buntings were keeping their heads down.
As I neared Lydd in sundown a flock of sheep in a potato-strewn field had gathered on a small mound of concrete rubble, perhaps engaged in a ritual in memory of their more montane relatives. They watched nonchalantly as I reached a new steel gatepost, the sight of which had lifted my spirits, contrary to my usual affectation for country crafts.
A flock of thirty-five Fieldfares in the tree avenue at upper Barley Lane yesterday, the thrushes surprised and flying out eastwards over the field. Had they just arrived from the Continent, or were they on their way back after the easing of the cold spell? Redwings continue to be loyal to their trees, nine haunting a solitary Holly near St Helens today.
A huge flock of Cormorants, 150 or so, passed southwestwards over the town this morning. Cormorants along the Kent and Essex coast are reported to be changing their fishing routines, flock movements and behaviour and this arrival may be associated.
Otherwise a single Hawfinch on the Ridge today where two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were chasing. Robins and Great tits in song.
A dozen species of wild flower noted in blossom recently including Red Dead-Nettle, Chickweed, Groundsel and Common Field Speedwell in the fields and Hogweed, Red Valerian, Bristly Ox-tongue, Smooth Sow Thistle and Nipplewort along waysides and hedges.
Northeasterly and overcast, cold yet dry. Yesterday many Larus gulls were heading north over the town, perhaps changing their roost strategy in order to escape the wind chill.
Today the sea was quiet and cold except an occasional party of Brent Geese which totalled 73 E, also a distant ‘box-shaped’ flock of dabbling duck east, perhaps 40 or more Teal, 1 Common Gull and three Great Black-backs and a few only of Gannets, Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes.
Redwings continue at Hollies, feeding avidly at the Cemetery during yesterday’s cold wind. Up to a dozen Redwing were flitting in and out of a Silver Holly in St Leonards Gensing Gardens today.
A grey northeasterly this morning, the wind having finally left the westerly portal after so much rain that has helped to churn the bridleways and even Alexandra park lawns into swamps of pock-marked mud and returned local wetlands to a credible state.
The Barley fields continue to support good numbers of wintering birds, over 80 Skylarks yesterday, more than 70 Reed Buntings and among others many Rooks, at one time 50 Rooks gathered together in flight. The peregrine pair were together overhead and later causing great panic across Ore where I glimpsed the female in fierce pursuit above the rooftops.
Redwings continue to occupy Hollies in the town, over twenty flying out of a Fearon Road garden recently, an area where an old ghyll stream has been retained in back gardens and where some old-established timber continues between the rows of houses.
Today a bus journey to Eastbourne where a Black Guillemot has chosen to winter at the Sovereign harbour. Walking amongst the houses and blocks of flats I was overwhelmed by the scale of development and the winter atmosphere, quite continental with a flavour of Burgher Holland or the Rhine, what the Greeks call Neropolis, town beside water. The social atmosphere was friendly, urbane and unmannered. I wondered what Friedrich Engels would have made of it, he who was a great fan and resident of Eastbourne and whose ashes were scattered from Beachy Head.
After walking all around the harbour I saw two birdwatchers looking intently at something and was obliged to see the Black Guillemot as it sailed about within the harbour gates.
I passed through Princes Park where six male Mallards were putting on a beautiful synchronised courship display on the Lake in the company of a single female. Mute Swans avidly consumed Cornflakes beside a cheerful audience while vessels of the local model boat fraternity plied a ceaseless patrol of the deeper waters.