Friday, 20 September 2013

Juvenile Arctic Squa at the Dungeness fishing boats

Sadly just a view from behind, a juvenile Arctic Squa with a Greater Sandeel, freshly stolen from a Sandwich Tern.

At the fishing boats late afternoon, the tide was low and the weather calm, sunny and lovely, I watched four Arctic Squas harassing a dozen or so Sandwich terns at a distance just too far to be photographed.

I picked up one bird flying with rapid wing beats, low and direct across the sky - clearly it was on a raid. As I turned my scope across the horizon to keep up with its speed, it passed across one Tern after another until it hit its target bird, forcing it to drop its catch. The triumphant Squa caught the fish before it hit the sea. I estimated the bird had started its chase at least a kilometre away, and testament to the Arctic Squa's brilliant eyesight. It wasn't long before another Squa was ambushing another Tern in much the same way.

There seemed to be plenty of shoaling fish on the surface today, and in the calm sea the beleaguered Terns were quick to replenish their catch. As it's now Autumn, Great Crested Grebes are beginning to pick-up in number across Greatstone and Dungeness. Some were fishing in groups but most were thinly dispersed across the bay. A solitary Red Throated Diver, still in summer plumage, flew across them, sadly at some distance away. And to complete the afternoon, there were plenty of Porpoises present too.

Resigned that I wasn't going to get any closer views today, I turned and started to walk back across the shingle. I hadn't walked more than 20 feet when an Arctic Squa chased a Sandwich Tern just to my side, stealing the fish just metres above me.  The birds were so close and fast, tumbling across the sky, I just managed a brief burst of images of the winning juvenile Arctic Squa making off with its catch.

Clean your glasses, rub your eyes and squint hard, a Red Throated Diver retaining its summer plumage at the fishing boats.