Dungeness - cool, wet, cloudy, S 6 - 0900hrs - With a brisk southerly wind whipping up a heavy sea and reports of shearwaters and petrels off the western seaboard filtering through, there was only one place to be this morning. After checking the Patch, where a single Yellow-legged Gull and several Mediterranean Gulls were the highlight, we joined MC and TG in the seawatching hide for a couple of hours.
A steady flow of mostly westbound Gannets provided the bulk numbers with over 1,000 during the morning, along with a trickle of Sandwich and Common Terns, a few Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Med Gulls, Common Scoters, a Shoveler and a few Swifts out. However, the highlight was three species of shearwater with 15 Manx, six Balearics and a single Sooty Shearwater, with several more of the first two earlier on and throughout the day. I also had brief views of a Thresher Shark, which had been seen by several other observers over the weekend.
Whilst at the DBO barbeque, a Great Shearwater flew west (AL) an extremely rare sighting in this part of the Channel. This caused a minor evacuation of local birders to the fishing boats just in case it returned but it was not to be, although another Sooty Shearwater was seen.
The weather front certainly did the trick. On any other day multiple Manx, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters would have been memorable at Dungeness, but with the unprecedented addition of the `big one`, it will long be remembered as the day of four species of shearwaters.
ARC/Burrowes - Sandwiched in between the seawatching there was some pretty good fare on the bird reserve too. From Hanson hide an adult Curlew Sandpiper showed well on the closest island along with two Ruff, four LRPs, three Ringed Plovers, six Dunlins, Wood Sandpiper and Snipe, plus plenty of terns, gulls and dabbling ducks. Over the road from Firth hide three adult Knot and two juvenile Black Terns were the highlights amongst 50 Common Terns, Dunlins and Common Sandpipers.
Despite missing the `big two` it was still a superb days birding across Dungeness.