On Sunday 12 brave members met at Foreness Point, Margate, for our first trip of the year. The weather forecast for the immediate area was good but all of the reports on TV about tidal surges and high winds no doubt put some people off. Anyway the sun was shining and just about everyone and their dog was on the beach.
Fulmars have nested at Foreness Point for many years but it always seems special to find them on the low cliffs just above our heads and gliding just above the waves. At this time of year the birds are “bonding” and laying claim to their nesting site, and are great fun to watch. They are also much easier to find than the purple sandpipers that feed amongst the rock pools on the wave cut platform on the shore. But we did find two! Sorry no close up picture of a purple sandpiper- but Sally is quite sure that they are there somewhere. Purple sandpipers are winter visitors to our Kent shores but only in very small numbers. Foreness Point is a regular spot to find them – hence our annual pilgrimage to Margate.
If we expected (hoped!) to find purple sandpiper then our next bird sighting was a big surprise. 35 snow buntings! They were feeding on and around the small patch of dunes on the beach and, when disturbed, were forced to hang on to the vegetation just below the top of the vertical cliffs. Snow buntings are winter visitors to our Kent shores – again in small numbers. I think this flock was the biggest I have ever seen anywhere! Lots of other bird species were seen. Turnstones, redshank, curlew and ringed plover joined with the purple sandpipers along the shore. Out at sea we saw brent geese, great crested grebes, cormorants and one great skua.
The cliffs and shore at Foreness Point and Botany bay are important for all types of wildlife and plants. Despite notices requesting that dog owners avoid disturbing the wildlife and respect the needs of the birds feeding along the shore, their dogs were everywhere. The flocks of birds were continually pushed from one part of the shore to another. If we can’t do better than that then I believe the wildlife must have no access areas as a sanctuary for their use only!
But apart from that a good start to the year. Thanks to Chris for the bird photographs, Sally for the video and other pictures, and Jeff for leading. (I have just been told that Jeff might be writing a trip report too. If so, two trip reports – what a team!)