The last few days have been very warm and windless; rain at nights creating high humidity and the tides have entered into a high phase. One could feel a sense of the pulse of the estuary stepping up - it would culminate at the weekend with a particularly high one. Being Saturday, of course, this would tend to draw in the birding community to the Cardurnock Peninsula - although, it may not appear so on any map, it is effectively an island at the time of the high tides. They flood all approach roads, essentially cutting it off from the outside world for up to 2 hours, usually about midday. Thus, if you make the decision to come into the area, whoever you may be, you can be effectively marooned. Many have attempted to escape with dire results: a car flooded with seawater is no fun and very expensive!
So this was going to be one of those weekends and a sense of excitement was building! Shed loads of waders had been noted all week on the marsh here at Campfield. Numbers of Golden and Grey Plover had been increasing. Teal were much in evidence and large parties of Wigeon have been sighted this last ten days, with Shelduck now returning from their moulting grounds across the North Sea. - although the weather is still summery here the winter pattern is starting to set!
Saturday had now arrived – there had been heavy overnight rain but the wind had changed to the west and there was a briskness to it. By half past ten in the morning, recognisable cars full of birders were appearing on the marsh. The various access points and good viewing lay-bys were filling up rapidly – first comers would get the best seats. At the nearby Maryland Lay-by, overlooking the saltmarsh ‘Great’ pool, cars had begun to park, very considerately, diagonally in anticipation of large numbers of ‘migrant’ birders. The tension was growing! The mighty Solway Bore started to foam down the channel – faster than a man could run; the channels and runnels were already filling onto the saltmarsh; waders and duck were appearing from everywhere, seeking the sanctuary of the small islands of grass or, indeed, the pool itself; tightly packed Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshank and Plover were already massing. The shrill cries of birders could be heard above the wind and tide, “Look! two Egrets” - “Where?” - “Twelve o’clock high” - “Teal! Teal!” “Three o’clock, coming in fast”. Cameras whirred, furiously scopes were being focussed – a Merlin shot across the pool creating panic! Someone shouted, “ Peregrine!” – this had everything diving for cover.
The excitement in the Lay-by was palpable. A sense of bonhomie prevailed: some groups excitedly comparing notes; the latest scopes being inspected and admired; sandwiches were now being consumed from the roofs of cars – quite a carnival atmosphere! Old friends were exchanging reminiscences of previous high tides: like the one that didn’t go out and another tide came in on top of it or the one with an 80 mph gale behind it which flooded the whole of the Solway Basin.
… but today the sun was out, the people were there and so were the birds. Campfield had come into its own!
Birdwatchers, mostly from West Cumbria RSPB Group, in Maryland Lay-by overlooking Saltmarsh Pool at high tide
The Solway Bore coming in started things off. To watch video click link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiiwAuzBgz8
Oystercatchers being pushed out of the gully up onto the saltmarsh as tide came in.
Oystercatcher roost on saltmarsh
Curlew and Godwits amongst the Oystercatchers
Little Egret flying along saltmarsh
Little Egret flying into Saltmarsh Pool
Duck and Lapwing activity on the Pool
Second Egret landing caused a stir amongst the nearby Gulls
General bird activity on Pool
As the pools flood bird activity steps up
High tide inundating the Pool
Good collection of waders further along Campfield marsh viewed from Biglands lay-by
Curlew landing amongst Golden Plover, Biglands layby
Waders flying back out to their feeding grounds on the Estuary, as the tide recedes
Susan of the West Cumbria RSPB Group carrying out a Dragonfly Survey on the Reserve
Susan has been carrying out these Dragonfly Surveys since 2001. She also does a Breeding Bird Survey in the vicinity of Rogersceugh Farm too.
Bird seed crop of Oats and Kale is now attracting large flocks of Sparrows and Finches.
There are plenty of these fellows around
19th August - A trip along the boardwalk to the 'Lily' Pool
Numerous male Black Darters - newly emerged - on bracken along the track near the woodside pool
These mature male Black Darters were basking in the sun along a good length of the boardwalk
Again Common Lizards, too, were basking on the boards
View across the Reserve towards the Solway and the Scottish Hills
Bog Asphodel growing alongside the track
Insect eating Sundews growing in the wetter parts of the Moss
Other Bog Plants: Sphagnum Mosses and Cranberries
Looking across dammed pools towards the Northern Lake District Fells
Male Stonechat feeding young
Lily Pool - a few remaining lilies could be seen. An Emperor dragonfly was recently sighted here, ovipositing
Heather just coming into bloom across Bowness Common
Emerald damselfly species seen on vegetation near Lily pool
The New and the Old - Wind turbines and the decommissioned Chapel Cross - across the estuary
Thursday, 23rd September 2010
Of course, today was a typical day when everything happens birdwise and you are not in a position to do anything about it. We were going down to the municipal recycling facility with a whole accumulation of stuff - there was no escaping it! As we motored along the front of Campfield Marsh - the sun was out; there was no wind; the tide was rising quickly - birds were obviously accumulating. This being the case we made as much haste as possible to town - being delayed only by roadmen repairing the ravages of the last winter’s flooding and so on...
Anyway, as we came back the birds were beautifully arrayed along the edge of the saltmarsh, so we dashed home, hastily grabbed the scopes and cameras - in our enthusiasm even ignoring lunchtime! The big bonus was a party of 18 Pinkfeet resting, preening and grazing amongst the Curlew, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits and Green Plover. The tide had started to fall revealing a small creek or runnel (shall we call it?) round which more birds were accumulating - feeding is always rich at this point! Duck were now beginning to arrive in good numbers: Shoveller (as yet not yet resolved in their winter plumage), Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, mixed plumage juvenile and adult Shelduck, 1 solitary Turnstone and a small party of Dunlin - all preening and bathing in the sunshine. What a classic scene this presented! Eric Ennion, that great bird artist, would have done justice to this moment! Judith busily snapping away with the cameras (although the distance away was quite challenging), was concentrating on the newly arrived Pinkfeet.
But, of course, our aeronautical friends could not allow this to continue and a small bustlling executive-type helicopter came across the estuary, straight for us at 300 feet plus and set up the blooming lot. “That’s it”, we moaned in despair. But ‘Hang on!’, the birds had decided that life was too good in this corner of the estuary, so did a bit of a circuit and promptly landed back in the same area - even the Pinks who are a notoriously nervous birds. So we were able to continue without further inconvenience, with the prospect of a pleasant late lunch/afternoon tea and the thought that the winter suite of birds were now assembling. Although the grey waders, as yet, have not started to make a showing ... these, of course, are one of the great spectacles of the Solway, especially here at Campfield.
Pinkfeet resting, preening and grazing on the saltmarsh between Biglands lay-by and the Viaduct, 23rd September 2010
Pinks coming back in to land after helicopter disturbance, 23rd September 2010
To view video on Youtube click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7mYfJMtp8g