Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sprattus sprattus sprattus

A little Birder told me that "the sea is alive with auks!" on Saturday, but as luck would have it I was on the train to London - ain't that always the way!
By Sunday, however, the sea was still alive with auks, and they formed a line of black and white about 400 yards offshore from Kingsdown along the cliffs towards St Margarets, although strangely none were to be seen from Deal pier.
About three quarters of the auks appeared to be Razorbills, constantly on the move to take advantage of the food on offer, while Red-throated Divers joined in the fun and about 170 Gannets exhibited their own specialised way of fishing.It seems that the winter sprat-shoals have arrived in force from their spawning-grounds and have attracted the various predators, including local fishermen who anchored in the middle of the rafts of auks - sprats are now on sale on the beach at £1 a bag, and very tasty too.

The mussel trawlers have departed having done their damage to the seabed, and it remains to be seen how their activities will affect local fish-stocks and catches. The local press has dubbed this "Mussel Wars" which is going over the top a bit, but the livelihood of the last remaining commercial fisherman in Deal is at stake.

Among the dull common Rock Pipits on the rifle range appeared a rarer bird - a Meadow Pipit, the first to be seen this year as they seem very scarce.
Some of the sprats were cut up and used to feed the Turnstones, of which there were 13 in total, including a variety of mangled legs. Greenie has called them "Sea Pigeons" which is apt, but they remind me more of starlings in the way they scuttle around and fly.
There seem to be plenty of Common Buzzards around, including a dark one that stands sentinel between the Lydden turnings beside the A2. A much lighter one was seen just to the west of there, looking very debonair.

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Only some of the sprats ? I'd be there all day feeding them ;-)