When one uses binoculars, their peripheral vision is cocooned in binocular barrels so that everything else is blocked out. As most sea watching is performed through a birding ‘scope, with periodic scanning of the sea through binoculars in-between, this honed focus can be even more apparent. The tumultuous sound of waves crashing onto shingle coupled with the seemingly endless view of the churning sea makes for a very insular feeling when viewed through a ‘scope, and you almost become at one with the situation. This feeling of connection is enhanced further when you are wrapped up warm against the cold and can feel the icy blast of the wind on your cheeks and the occasional splash of salt spray. This makes a sea watch a truly multi-sensory experience, salt speckled lips, foamy white wave-crests and the sound of the seas power as it pounds the beach -it really is beautiful.
A few weeks ago, I spent six hours sea watching from the beach shelter at Cley in Norfolk. It was a murky day with intermittent heavy showers that rendered visibility down to almost zero at times. For anyone familiar with the beach shelter at Cley, the showers were angling over the shingle beach and hitting our legs at knee-level. I was thankful I’d put wellies on but less impressed by my ‘waterproof’ trousers that had clearly been wrongly branded.
For someone who doesn’t sea watch very often, it was a good day -although I only have a few sessions to compare it to. We saw 117 Manx Shearwater, 15 Arctic Skua, 11 Great Skua, an adult Little Gull and loads of Scoter. All this amongst other commoner waders, gulls and terns. The sheer multitude of birds that can be seen in the ‘best’ sea watching conditions is akin to those you may experience in ‘fall’ conditions on land.
It is also a great bird-watching approach to facilitate connecting with others -I had a really good time chatting to my two friends I was with; especially when a sea fret would come in and smother us in greyness for a short while. This is another example of the self-insulating qualities of a sea watch and in the time that I spent focusing on the sea and the passing birds, I was able to separate myself from the worries and trappings of everyday life and lose myself in the wonder of the sea.