Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tales of sea and beer

Dungeness August 1977
The sea isn’t neglected. Regular trips are made to the seawatching hide overlooking the ‘patch’, an area of disturbed sea caused by water outflow from the power station. This churning of the water throws up food for the birds, particularly gulls and terns. We are witnessing excellent numbers of Black Terns pausing their migration to feed at this opportunistic avian café. Up to 175 were present a couple of days ago. Our constant scanning of this group pays off when an immature White-winged Black Tern is found. It stays around for several days.

A trip to the seawatch hide isn’t complete without taking along the observatory binocular telescope. It’s the size and weight of a small child and is cased in a heavy wooden box. It is transported the not inconsiderable distance from the observatory on an old pram base. Once in the hide it is hauled onto a spike that is bolted onto the shelf and acts as a tripod. Is it worth the effort of lugging this battleship grey coloured monster half a mile? Hardly. The high magnification and small field of view results in an image that shakes about all over the place. Even if stillness is achieved, brightness is lacking and the focus leaves a lot to be desired. After five-minutes of use your eyes feel as if they will be permanently crossed. But like sheep we carry on using it.

The closest pub to the bird observatory is ‘The Britannia’, an ugly, modern one-storied building. It sells an uninspiring and limited number of beers. The décor makes no attempt to invite and entice customers although the saloon bar does have carpet and red lighting to try and create a feeling of class - and to give the landlord a valid reason to increase the price of alcohol in this very ‘select’ environment. Purely because of convenience it is regarded as the birders local, although this does change from time to time. My first pint in the pub costs 37p. In the ‘Public Bar’, which we generally frequent is a juke box, a fruit machine and a darts board. This bar is a shrine to the Dungeness lifeboat, as original oil-paintings of every serving coxswain hang on the walls, together with old black-and-white photographs of previous boats used in the service. (The pub will have a major refurbishment in the late 1980’s and the wall between the bars will be knocked down to open it up into one large room. With the wall will go the lifeboat memorabilia. The pub will then lose a certain charm, although until then we didn’t realise that it did, in fact, possess one).

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