Our first outing of the year to start off our 2012 bird list. A promising start developed into a very wet grey day, but we were out enjoying the day so nothing lost.
We began at Foreness Point near Margate, where our main hope was for purple sandpiper, but first we had the task of finding a mediterranean gull within a mixed gull flock on the beach. After several attempts and a few false starts we finally tracked the individual down.. Fulmar and gannet were spotted far out to sea, cormorants, and kittiwakes were also seen flying past. At one stage four divers crossed in front of the distant wind farm, and although probably red-throated, we didn’t get a good enough view for definite id.
We walked along the sea-front, scanning the seaweed covered rocks for the purple sandpipers. We found several curlew, oystercatcher, turnstone and eventually Ian spotted a small wader along the shoreline which was identified as the bird we were looking for. Although very active, and hard to see with the plumage blending in so well with the dark weed everyone got good views.
We continued along the beach, with feral pigeons, ring-necked parakeet and pied wagtail seen and/or heard by most folk. On the top of the cliffs we scanned the further beach, but could see nothing new, so returned to our cars and made the short drive to Grove Ferry, where we planned to have lunch. As we drove it started to rain and by the time we arrived, it was impossible to picnic outside. After lunch in our respective cars we tried a walk in this part of the Stodmarsh reserve, from the mound we saw a large number of teal, a few wigeon, greylag geese and at least 100 lapwing. A ruff was mingling in with the geese, but as we tried to get the rest of the group on to it the whole flock took off.
We scoured the sky for the raptor that had put up the birds and a merlin appeared. It passed over and was seen for a while before flying away into the grey mist. At this stage we decided to call it a day and made our rather soggy way home.