Friday, 7 November 2014

Longshore Drift and a Long-tailed Skua

Lade - gale force south-westerly and heavy rain - 1030hrs - Didn't get out `til late due to the torrential rain first thing. During a brief respite mid-morning we battled into the wind across the shingle to check the pits where most of the wildfowl were sheltering on north lake, including two each of Pintail and Shelduck. Despite the wind several Chiffchaffs were calling around the willow swamp, plus Long-tailed Tits, Cetti`s Warbler and Water Rail.
We then headed for the foreshore which was a sight to behold with a huge sea running into the bay on a high tide. The waves were crashing onto the first shingle ridge with the undertow shifting tonnes of shingle along the beach towards Greatstone; a fine example of longshore drift in action. The noise was incredible and photographs just cannot do justice to this awesome show of power from Mother Nature, in what after all is a sheltered bay!

                                Stormy waters, Lade Bay

Dungeness - 1445 -1545hrs - An hour at the fishing boats in the company of MH, PB and TG was memorable for a cracking juvenile Long-tailed Skua which we all got onto early on as it came across the bay flying athletically into the tempest. This is not a bird any of us see with any regularity down here but as the other three skuas are a familiar sight this bird was obviously different from the start, being much slimmer with narrow almost tern-like pointed wings and a longish rear end. As it rounded the point at its closest I eventually noted some plumage detail: a dark brown individual with lighter barring on the underparts and a small yet distinct white patch on the upper primary shafts. And then, after a couple of minutes tops, it was gone, down-Channel, into Rye Bay leaving four very chuffed seawatchers (and one dog) to ponder the finer points of skua identification.This was not your classic cold, grey-brown barred and capped individual that I`d seen before, and was thus yet another learning curve in the often vexed (for me at least) subject of skua identification.
Also noted was a steady stream of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Black-headed Gulls, plus a few auks, two Bonxies, a merganser, an adult Little Gull, two Brents and four Common Scoters.
Earlier in the day both Pomarine and Arctic Skua were recorded, to complete the quartet, plus a Grey Phalarope (PB, MH, TG).
PS: Mrs PT recorded an episode of Holiday of My Lifetime with Len Goodman this afternoon which features Bill Oddie revisiting Dungeness Bird Observatory, the location of his first holiday in 1957.
For any Dungeness aficionados out there who missed it, then its worth seeking out on the I-player, if nothing else than to look out for our local `celebrities`, including the fashionista in a yellow smock!

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