Our son was home over the weekend so I only had 2 short sessions at down at Dover Harbour – since it had been a bit blowy expectations of a diver or two were pretty high – I was disappointed.
On Saturday there were 17 gt crested grebes but no divers. I found 2 guillemots; one out by the cruise terminal and one by the lifeboat station. As the sun was shining yet more pictures were taken:
The only other birds of note were 2 kittiwakes and a peregrine that went over low as I was departing from the Prince of Wales Pier.
Sunday was even quieter with only 14 great crested grebes and one guillemot. There was a colour ringed herring gull (red ring) in the now empty inner harbour but I could get close enough to read the number.
After such a quiet session (I departed at 10.00) it was a shock to see the great northern diver posted by Chidders and Martyn. It seems they got there at around midday after doing a harrier count at Grove/Stodmarsh and had 2 great northern and 2 red throated divers, 6 guillemots and a host of gannets going past the harbour mouth. Chidders had sent me a text but I didn’t notice it.
I’ve only really seen one great northern (at Reculver a couple of years ago) so it was obvious where I was going on Monday – especially with it being sunny. I arrived at ~8.00am and found Phil Smith already in situ. On Sunday the bird was over by the Admiralty Pier but on Monday it was in the main harbour – Phil, had had it by the Prince of Wales pier but by the time I gt there it was swimming east just off the beach. We did start to follow it but it soon turned back towards the PoW Pier and with the 2 of us in its wake.
Steve Raynaert turned up at this point and we filled out boots – the bird coming within 20-30 yards of the pier in bright sunshine. On the photographic front it has proved very difficult to get the colours of the bird and the sea correct – the white balance really struggling with blue sky, a dark bird and reflected light (or it may be I don’t remember what the colours were correctly). When in direct light the bird appears too brown and in the shade the darker parts appear too blue – all a little frustrating but it will give me something to do when it next rains.
|GND looking brown|
|GND looking blue (and brown)|
Eventually the bird set sail across the harbour and took up station over by the ferry terminal. It was at this time that Tony Morris turned up – I think Tony likes his bed too much on these cold mornings - and a little later Steve Ashton arrived followed by Colin Fisher.
The bird did return to the pier for a short period then set off along the beach again and whilst we were watching it a red throated appeared just in front of us. It soon swam out of shot along the beach without me getting a decent image. Our joy turned to sorrow at this point because in quick succession both the great northern and the red throat took to the air.
|GND going for a fly around|
|Red Throated Diver departing|
The red throat continued out to sea but the great northern went into the cruise terminal basin but soon returned to the PoW pier – much to everyone’s relief. The great northern itself still had some signs of its summer plumage – dark smudges on its face, white spots on its greater coverts(?) and the throat band still being visible (just). I was amazed at just how wide its head is relative to the throat:-
|Smudges on it's face|
|Note the wide head|
Also of note in some pictures was the heavy forehead though in others it was invisible.
|Heavy Forehead shot|
Eventually the great northern moved out of shot but that wasn’t the end of proceedings as a juvenile gannet flew into the harbour, did a circuit then went back from where it came and we found Stumpy on the pier.