Keeping a close watch on migrants

Watching for migrating birds.
Watching for migrating birds.

THERE was something exciting out to sea. But what could it be? I had arrived at the shingle bank at Church Norton to see if anything was about. Evidently there was. The couple shown in my photo this week were transfixed.

Casually I sat down like a camel in the desert, feeling the stony shingle and the seashells imprinting my buttocks, and drew forth my binoculars to share this rarity with them.

Noting the angle of the glance, I too stared in the direction of France. There were waves, more waves and waves beyond. The murmuring sea that on the un-numbered idle pebbles chafed vegan to lull my senses.

There was nothing whatever out there. Yes the couple continued to stare through their telescopes as if Operation Sealion had begun.

Behind us in Pagham Harbour there were, after all, some remains of the concrete Mulberry Harbour made for the D-Day landings.

It gradually disintegrates over the years, returning itself back into shingle. The curlews and oystercatchers like to feel its reflected warmth of sunlight on cold winter days,

After 30 minutes of staring at nothing, but pretending I had the thing in view as well, I began to think of that flask of cocoa in my rucksack.

I did not like to disturb this couple’s trance lest they lose the tiny dot in the distance.

You see, this Sea Watch in which folk indulge down here on the Sussex coast deserves the capital letters that denote its gravure.

I wish I had their focus but I am only a wanderer who only hopes to see something nice and pick up trifles. Not these people. They proudly record their time spent looking, which in Egypt, bazaar owners would call: ‘Jus lookin’, quite wrongly.

Sea Watchers are committed and record their time and the jewels they receive in their lenses from the ocean deep.

The records give proper time-lapse data that can be compared decade on decade, giving an idea whether passage migrants along the seaways of the English Channel are increasing or decreasing over time.

All kinds of wonderful things are out there beyond the sight of normal eye. Arctic skuas flying to the Shetlands, eider ducks resting on their way to the Farnes; great northern divers tracking to the Kara Sea in Russia.

And the first arctic terns from Antarctica to the Arctic, a flight of knots from South America to Spitsbergen.

The cocoa was warming and I think I must have dozed for a second.

When I awoke, the couple had gone, so I shall never know what was out in the blue lagoon by way of Bognor Regis.