Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Perchance to dream (but no cigar).

When the fog lifted in St Margaret's, at about 1.45 p.m, I took a walk along the undercliff at Kingsdown. I think that most birders are optimists, why else would they flog round a local patch in the hope of finding something new and even better a rarity. I do know one or two birders that have a less sunny outlook but they are the minority.

For some reason the Undercliff draws me back over and over again, in the hope of finding that special something. I don't know what it is about the place, but I'm sure one day it will be there. In November I said that it was a dream of a Pied Wheatear, but the time has passed and that will have to wait for next year. But all is not lost. After all the cliffs, not more that twenty-five miles away (in France) held a Wallcreeper last winter. As the picture above shows the weather quickly closed in again and it became cold as evening approached.

There were lots of birds around, but so far the majority had been Black-headed Gulls.

The cliffs echoed to the cackling calls of several pairs of Fulmars already doing there house hunting, quite unperturbed by the credit crunch. They are amazing birds, the nearest we have to Albatrosses, and they have expanded their range successfully over the last 120 years. Of course the decline in the fishing industry may well see them disappearing from some places, but today they were pretty numerous and noisy around the cliff.

The very different structure of the bill in the Herring Gull, compared to the Fulmar, is because the Fulmar is able to excrete salt from the tubes along the top of the bill, thus rendering it unnecessary for it to find fresh water to drink.

In close proximity to the Fulmars were several pairs of loudly cooing "Rock Doves" (feral Pigeons) that are breeding on their ancestral habitat. In one case they seemed to be disputing a ledge with a Fulmar. This seems a foolish move to me, there would only be one winner there! There was not flash of red and grey, so perhaps those that say chalk cliffs aren't suitable for Wallcreepers are right, so it will have to be another day-dream, but what species I haven't decided.

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