- My only namecheck in the Kent Ornithological Society bird reports was on Friday and goes something like ".... watched the sea at Oare in wind and rain for a few hours, then left far too early as huge numbers of skuas flew past nice and close....". Bad timing? No, just bad birding, mixed with a dash of impatience.
I had earlier discovered that Saturday's exposure to wind-blown sand had done for my camera, so Dr Ray has kindly sold me some of his photos of the day - again, nice timing.
After an indirect drive to Le Clipon, one of Dunkirk's breakwaters that juts out into the sea and has terrific records of seabirds, we set up to watch the promised myriad of passing birds only to find that the sea was empty. A helpful French birder told us that it had been fantastique earlier that morning, but now......
Behind Le Clipon is an expanse of sand dunes and tidal estuary which provided good watching as a compensation, and Steve used his stature to creep up on some waders.
Two Snow Buntings fluttered by, three Purple Sandpipers, some Rock Pipits and three Robins were on the jetty - and a highlight was an Arctic Skua passing close in pusuit of a tern.
We moved on to Platier d'Oye and were immediately disappointed as the scrapes held only a few eclipse ducks keeping their heads down in the midst of Sunday shooting practice. Further exploration of the area revealed a Redstart and seven Spoonbills, but we had expected far more.
By then the weather had closed in, preventing further searching for Kentish Plovers and Crested Larks. Spike Milligan described Calais as having "the charisma of a blocked toilet" but at least we had a bonus of a juvenile Litttle Gull as the return ferry pulled out of the harbour.
Lessons from all this?
- That those who spend hours waiting and watching will (finally) get better results than those who just turn up expecting to be presented with a show.
- Good company can be enjoyed even when there's not a speck on the sea.