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