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Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.



Friday, 19 May 2017

MAY BIRDING: DUNGENESS POMARINE SKUA SEAWATCH

Two days after the Great Reed Warbler/Temminck's Stint twitch I set off for Dungeness on May 11 (a week ago today). The winds were favourable for a decent Pomarine Skua seawatch and I arrived shortly after 7.45am, having just missed four heading east, as well as a Cattle Egret.
I wasn't the only one to miss out – top local birder Martin Casemore, who has counted more than 200 Pomarine Skuas during the spring passage, arrived about half an hour after me.

From this point on I watched the sea until the weather closed in and the rain came at around 7.30pm. The list of birds was rewarding during a long day simply staring at the horizon – and I loved every minute of it.

I was met by a bitterly cold wind for the time of year, which thankfully was compensated by warm sunshine later in the day. Down on the broiling 'patch' five Black Tern were feeding and also the long-staying Iceland Gull could easily be picked out among the gulls. A Black Redstart sang from the power station – it sounded close by, but was actually some distance away on a roof.

After a quiet start the first Pomarine Skua flew by, followed soon after by three Black-throated Diver. And then about an hour later things began to pick up as group of six Pomarine Skua headed past the outside of the buoy – a great sight.

A Pomarine Skua flies past the Point at Dungeness
One of the joys of seawatching is the communication between seawatch sites further along the coast. Once a group of Poms flies past Portland Bill in Dorset, the birds will often be picked up by seawatchers at Titchfield Haven, Selsey Bill, Worthing and Splash Point at Seaford as the birds continue their journey eastwards.

By noting the time of the sighting, you can work out when they should pass by where you are – although that sometimes doesn't happen.
This Fox vixen is a regular and remarkably tame companion during a
seawatch at Dungeness
Herring Gull
Dungeness often clocks Pom Skua sightings other sites haven't seen, and vise versa. Last Thursday was a case in point, when a spring migrating Long-tailed Skua had been flagged up flying through the Solent at 9.17am. It was later spotted at Selsey Bill at 10.55am, followed by Splash Point at 1pm (although this wasn't highlighted until a few hours later).

It should have looked good for a 3pm viewing for the gathering throng of birders who had joined our small group, including Mark Collingworth (along with his terrible jokes!). But the bird never showed up.
Five Whimbrel flying east
Why this was will remain a mystery, but it could have flown further out into the Channel, when the visibility was poor due to glare from the strong sunlight, or it could even have taken a short cut across country, rejoining the route north of Kent. Who knows.

But despite that disappointment, and the occasional quiet period around lunchtime, the birding was good. One Pomarine Skua in particular came in quite close the the shore, flying past on the inside of the buoy. The sightings included decent views of a number of Arctic Skua, plus a Long-tailed Duck in amongst a flock of Common Scoter, more Black-throated Diver, plenty of Whimbrel and. late in the day, shortly before I left, three Great Northern Diver.

Three Great Northern Divers late in the day before the rain set in
From 8.00am-7.30pm"
1 Brent Goose
1 Long-tailed Duck
c300 Common Scoter
10 Black-throated Diver
3 Great Northern Diver
3 Fulmar
c20 Gannet
9 Great Crested Grebe
c15 Oystercatcher
1 Ringed Plover
10 Grey Plover
1 Knot
27 Sanderling
c20 Dunlin
8 Bar-tailed Godwit
21 Whimbrel
1 Turnstone
9 Pomarine Skua (1 at 08.52hrs, 6 at 09.50hrs, 1 at 11.17hrs (photo above), 1 at 17.50hrs)
7 Arctic Skua
c20 Kittiwake
1 Iceland Gull (on the Patch)
2 Little Tern
5 Black Tern (on the Patch)
c40 Sandwich Tern
c250 Common Tern (plus a few 'Commic')
5 Guillemot
c10 Auk sp
c20 Swallow
1 Black Redstart (on roof at power station)