Friday, 28 October 2016

Well, where did they all come from?

A benign afternoon - mild, sunny and a gentle westerly wind - is not the stuff that is usually the catalyst for the rewriting of Dungeness sea watching records. It began with Owen L reporting that there were 40 Mediterranean Gulls on the sea off of the fishing boats. Dave W then went to take a look to be stunned with ten times as many - some quite far out, others sitting in flocks on the sea. During his period of observation many of them started to drift off into Lade Bay, with Dave himself following in their wake. These events in turn encouraged Martin C and Tony G to sea watch from the boats and myself to take up position between there and the lifeboat. In one and a half hours I recorded 313 Mediterranean Gulls moving west, along with 310 Kittiwakes. Most of these were fairly close, although, thanks to the good light conditions, birds could be picked up further out. They came past in groups, the largest being a loose flock of 46, although my favourite were the 23 that hugged the water in a tight Kittiwakesque group. Most were adults, with more first-winters than second-winters. Martin and Tony, who began their watch an hour before mine, logged a staggering 668W. The previous DBO day record count was 200+. It is now 900+.

Where did they come from? High numbers are seen in the Folkestone area, so it could be tempting to assume that they had all embarked on a short journey south. But the accompanying Kittiwakes would suggest that they came from further afield. You can never write a day off, no matter how slow and uninspiring it had been. Birds have a habit of surprising you, making you question what you know - or, more accurately, what you thought you knew.

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