Bright conditions and a brisk, cold NW wind gave a gin-clear view out at sea where auks, Fulmars and Gannets were moving across the bay in numbers. Many were specks on the horizon, often chasing ferries in and out of the port, while others flew by closer inshore. The resulting chaos made counting rather speculative, though at least 450 auks, 80 Gannets and 70 Fulmars were involved, with at least 100 Kittiwakes and 4 Brent Geese.
Half an hour looking out to sea saw 219 auks moving mainly SW across the bay, but otherwise no more than a handful of Gannets, the usual Fulmars and 2 Little Egrets in the rock pools. Up on top an already dingy morning deteriorated into drizzle and then persistent light rain, at which point the ground staff brought the covers on.
With snow overnight down on the polders of Sandwich it was pretty obvious that there would be a good deal more on the Downs. A short visit in still falling snow recalled several decades ago when the village was cut off for a time in most winters. Birds were understandably few and far between, apart from a Snipe, a Sparrowhawk hunting rather forlornly over the fields and at least 20 Blackbirds on the floor of the Top Wood.
Half an hour gazing out to sea was very different from last Thursday, with only 31 auks and 40 Gannets passing by, though 23 Brent Geese flew NE and Cormorants were a good deal more numerous with 362 flying SW. 2 Little Egrets provided a small distraction, pecking about in the rock pools below.
With a cold NW breeze blowing the bay was pleasantly sheltered and, even better, an hour’s seawatch proved to be very rewarding. Auks were on the move from first light with at least 1,350 flying SW across the bay, accompanied by a steady stream of 60 Fulmars and 80 Gannets. A Bonxie blundered by about half way through but the real treat was a Great Northern Diver that flew in at around 8 and remained close inshore on the sea (well, beneath it for the most part) for the rest of my stay. Up on top the wind was character-building, but 400 Linnets remained on the fields, a Buzzard was in the Lower Wood and 30 Redwings took flight from the floor of the Hollow Wood. For a midwinter day in this neck of the woods that was a pretty good morning.
Half an hour staring out to sea produced around 20 each of Gannet and Fulmar, a handful of Red-throated Divers and at least 350 auks, including 252 that flew SW across the bay and at least a hundred sitting on the sea.
This is largely the time of year to spend time somewhere else, but I couldn’t resist another visit this week. It was unsurprisingly much the same as Monday, apart from a few more Redwings and the first Grey Partridges of the year; two coveys totalling 16 birds.
An overcast start didn’t take long to brighten and by mid morning it was sunny with a light-ish NW breeze. 220 Cormorants included at least 75 roosting on the cliff near Fan Bay and the farm fields held at least 120 Skylarks and 450 Linnets, as well as at least 21 Yellowhammers and a few Redwings in what remains of the autumn’s hawthorn berry crop. Fulmars seem to have suddenly arrived in numbers, with sweeping groups of up to four or five constantly in view in the bay or along the cliffs.
It looks like the Cormorant Show has returned to town. Whilst numbers here appear to be a good deal fewer than from Deal northward, 761 flew SW in 45 minutes from 0900, while a Brent Goose flew NE and at least 120 Gannets were on the sea or following ferries just outside the harbour entrance.
A benign start to the new year was probably more interesting than it had a right to be, especially as the sea was flat calm in a light NW breeze. Nevertheless, 2 Little Egrets were standing on the shingle in the bay when I arrived and offshore there were at least 70 Gannets, 40 auks, including both Razorbill and Guillemot on the sea in the bay, about 10 Fulmars, 90 Cormorants, 66 of which flew upchannel from the direction of Dover Harbour, and a Bonxie that flew in typically determined fashion in the opposite direction. A walk around the valley and fields was notable for at least 450 Linnets, a male Reed Bunting, 34 Yellowhammers and 10 Redwings.