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surprising number of
migrants can be seen as they cross the North Sea - some of them common,
others considerably rarer, others downright strange. One of the
strangest was on a pipelay barge in the Dutch sector when a
male House Sparrow turned up onboard. He was fed by friendly crew
members and soon began chirupping away as only sparrows can. The sound
of this bird "singing" in an alien environment and far from the sight
of land was almost surreal - and House Sparrows are hardly known for
their migratory habits.
Grey Heron coming
in to land on the deck of a survey vessel
The main species encountered in the North Sea are Northern Fulmar,
Northern Gannet, Greater Black.backed Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake.
The other gull species and auks make up most of the rest - so generally
not many species to be seen. Strangely
large movements of seabirds such as
are experienced from seawatching headlands are relatively rare
with the exception of the regular spring skua migrations in the areas
around Ormen Lange.
However, one good thing about birding offshore is that just about
turns up is worth seeing. Even birds such as Coot can suddenly turn up
swimming in the thruster
wash of a DP vessel or around a platform leg, far from their normal
haunts of freshwater ponds and lakes. Great Tit, House Sparrow and a
number of other species most people would not consider to be migrants
have turned up on vessels I have been working on.
As with many types of birding it is a case of expect the