Monday, 5 December 2011

A loony day.

It was later than I had intended when I got to Dover Harbour this morning, in search of the Great Northern Diver that had been seen there earlier.

A couple of Steves (they come in gangs with long lens round here) and Phil Smith were already there. They kindly pointed out the distant dot that was the Diver and then showed me the frame filling shots that it had provided earlier. Don't worry they said, it will come back to the corner near the pier, where it had been fishing, and catching crabs earlier. I gritted my teeth and gave an appreciative comment about Steve's great pictures. About this time another Steve arrived, and I knew we should be OK, Mr Ashton always get his picture.

While we were waiting for the GND which was slowly working it way round the harbour and getting close we suddenly noticed a much closer diver, not a Great Northern, but a Red-throated.

This promptly dived and started didn't reappear until much further away. At the same time the Great Northern was no longer getting closer and had retreated to the central area.

Then all of a sudden it was flapping across the water and was soon airborne and apparently heading out of the harbour.

Very soon it was followed by the Red-throated which was also heading towards the harbour entrance. The airborne antics weren't finished yet though. As one disappeared the other returned and quickly the Great Northern was heading towards us. In the USA they are called Common Loons, and they are the only birds with a large role in a multi-Oscar winning film, On Golden Pond.

The diver is an adult with the remnants of black and white chequered pattern on it's back and round it's neck still showing.

As predicted it soon got down to the job of fishing and after a couple of dives came up with a respectably sized flat fish.

As it swam, almost just below us, it's large legs and feet could be seen under the water. When flying, even a long way off shore, the large protruding feet always help to differentiate it from the smaller divers.

It took some time for it to manoeuvre the fish into the right position for swallowing, but it did finally disappear.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but Steve Ray remarked that the head was very wide. Looking from the front it doest have quite a wide "face" and I wonder it the eyes are placed so that it does have some binocular vision.

A close up of the head shows the characteristic forehead "bump" and the dark culmen of the whitish bill.

After the fish starter it got suck into a crab for the next course. They take quite a wide range of food items. Fish normally make up about 55%, and crustaceans and molluscs just under 20% each.

I'm not sure if it swallowed the crab or lost it in the water. I does seem to have a rather surprised look here!

One of the Great Crested Grebes that were in a flock in the middle of the harbour moved away from the rest and made a bee-line for the Diver. For some reason when the diver reappeared next to it after one of it's frequent dives the grebe seemed really spooked and shot of at a high rate of knots.
It didn't fully take off but ran across the water for about 50 metres before settling down. The whole thing seemed rather bizarre, I have no idea why it approached the Diver in the first place.

After vigorous period of feeding the diver settled down and slowly drifted along the pier, which was quite useful as the pier height drops by about 10 feet for the second part.

Although seemingly very restful it still travelled to end of the pier and then went from the Outer Harbour to the Inner Harbour and Western Docks, where the Red-throated Diver had re-appeared earlier.

We walked round to the Life Boat Station and from here were could see the Great Northern Diver slowly swimming towards us, but no sign of the Red-throated Diver. The Guillemot that's been around for a couple of days was happily feeding in the marina, quite oblivious to the people on their boats.

It looked very healthy and had a good preen and stretch while we were watching it. I was told that earlier in the morning a Common Seal had been around the marina, but there was no sign when we were there.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Great stuff. A terrific days birdwatching and photographing. If there was more of this sort of thing and less of the LBJs in Europe my entomo days might be numbered :-) And you've answered a question that occurred to me only a couple of days ago and I hadn't got round to looking up - are divers the same as loons? So now I know, thank you.