Sea watching can be a dull affair.
One of the frustrations (and joys) of this sport is that a sudden change of wind direction can kick start birds to move. So, if there is the promise of an onshore wind, it is best to be in place before it actually happens - after all, you don't want to miss anything. Sometimes you would wait... and wait... and the hoped for change never happened. If you are really keen on seawatching however, you may well stare out across the waves regardless of the weather conditions just in case...
I used to seawatch an awful lot, 99% of this being at Dungeness. I'm pretty sure that between 1976 - 1991 I most probably saw the same individual birds move east in the spring and west in the autumn on an annual basis. Part of the joys of this particular branch of ornithology is the unpredictability of what will happen, the fact that the birds come to the observer (like an avian conveyor belt) and it is also the ultimate test of one's identification prowess (the birds don't stay long, they just bomb through giving you minimal time to clinch an id). It is also a licence to string.
But back to my first sentence - 'sea watching can be a dull affair' - how does the watcher pass the time if nothing is moving?
At Dungeness there would invariably be a gang of regular seawatchers, mostly grizzled veterans of the spume and spray. It wouldn't be long before somebody would start to churn out the word games. Some might be 'clever word play', which might have even been accepted by Radio 4 shows, based around the latin names of birds (The Missile Thrush - Turdus polaris; The Religious Auk - Alle allelujah; that kind of thing). Birding-themed songs (Do You Veery Want to Hurt Me? by Vulture Club; Brambling On My Mind by Terek Clapton - yes I know that they are old songs, but this was thirty years ago!); crude schoolboy humour (I was once part of a team of adults that came up with over thirty slang words for a penis); inventing limericks (this could get very messy and libellous indeed); coming up with predictions for what the next species of duck would fly past (invariably Common Scoter); recalling old birding adventures; planning new ones. Our choices were endless... I'm sure that being a primarily male grouping created this third-form behaviour (I typed in 'sixth-form behaviour' to begin with but decided it was far more juvenile than that). If all else failed then throwing stones at a target on the beach (invariably a tin can) could be contested, and was done so with much venom and serious intent.
Walking down to the seawatch hide was also enlivened by a game involving a pebble. The road that ran alongside the power station fence had been laid out in concrete slabs some 3m wide and 6m long, each clearly defined. The game was to kick the pebble from one slab to the next without deviation. You took it in turns with your opponent to 'shoot'. Whoever failed to make a clean score lost. Falling short lost you the game. Overshooting by a further slab lost you the game. As did the pebble coming off the slabs altogether. This did call for great skill - if you could get the pebble to just get onto the next slab, your opponent had a longer and trickier shot to make.
'Sea watching can be a dull affair' - no, I was wrong, not with all these side shows going on!