Despite the wet and windy weather Wendy and I set off for the first meeting of the year. This always attracts someone regardless of the conditions and sure enough there were a number of people there to celebrate a New Year of birding.
Margate looked pretty drab and the Turner Gallery to me is unattractive sticking out like a large box on the end of the breakwater – and no soaring blue skies and billowing white clouds that so attracted Turner. However, we were met by a flock of gulls on the grass above the beach near Coast Guard station and were able to identify Mediterranean and common gull among the usual black-headed and herring gulls. Walking down the gully to the foreshore we saw that the tide was out revealing the rock pools where oystercatchers, turnstone, redshank and curlews probed amongst the sea weed for tit bits. A solitary grey plover was also noted. A small dark bird was feeding amongst the breaking waves and although difficult to see clearly was declared to be a purple sandpiper and that was the best view we had of this elusive bird.
Out at sea some dozen ships appeared to be sheltering in the bay from the squally conditions in the Channel. Scanning the sea revealed numbers of gannets and fulmars swooping and swirling in the wind with lines of divers and auks passing through flying just above the waves , too far out to identify positively. But amongst the cormorants on the water was a great northern diver feeding, a highlight of the morning. On the chalk cliffs a stonechat looked down on us and a rock pipit flitted about.
But as we walked along the top of the cliffs disappointingly we saw no birds feeding on the seeds heads of the thistles and other plants left to grow there. Finally we reached the Botany Bay Hotel and ignoring calls for me to buy everyone a drink in the bar, looked out to sea from the clifftops, where a bush full of house sparrows chirped away. Seeing little else we retraced our footsteps along the beach in quite pleasant weather to our cars and onwards to Reculver for lunch.
At Reculver other members of the group met us but the weather had turned for the worst. Undaunted we walked up past the towers noting a bedraggled chaffinch and a solitary redshank in a muddy ditch but not much else. Finally after a brief walk along the seawall in drenching drizzle we called it a day and under the eyes of a bemused seal who popped up in the sea to look at us scuttled back to the cars and headed home.
Not the best of days birdwatching but at least it blew the cobwebs away – roll on summer!
Never mind Jeff – it can only get better.