Icy Solway Estuary during the Big Freeze by John Rogers
After a short thaw, snow and freezing conditions returned
On an icy cold dawn three Longtailed Tits came into feed on nut hanger.
Wigeon flying in onto icy pools on farm
Buzzard watching from a vantage point at the end of the causeway - North Plain Farm
Geese overflying a steadily freezing up Reserve
The cold weather was beginning to bite
Five Moorhen were roosting at the edge of garden orchard early morning. Interestingly, they were all facing outwards in a circle, as do partridge..
Frozen Saltmarsh at Campfield
Fox hunting along the marsh dubs
I'd been spotted
Moonrise over a frozen marsh on the Solstice by John Rogers
The freeze deepens and Iceflows begin to build up on the estuary
Link to video clip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46441928@N07/5285790006/
Seven Longtailed Tits this time, on garden feeders
Today. however, a Water Rail which had been previously seen in the field drain which runs behind West Common hamlet, made its way under the cover of ditchside vegetation, to one of the garden feeding stations. It was very nervous of humans but seemed to tolerate other birds feeding there.
Water Rail on ditchside
Water Rail with Robin and Chaffinch
Water Rail picking seed under birdtable
Water Rail and Blackbirds feeding alongside each other
Woodcock had been seen frequenting Campfield Marsh roadside verges and had been visiting adjacent gardens in daylight now for several days. As many as ten were observed on one occasion, proddling in leaf litter under trees, for worms and other invertebrates.
Woodcock proddling in newly disturbed soil of this molehill whilst most of the ground round about was frozen solid.
Magpie was curious about the Woodcock's activities and even seemed to be copying ground probing action at one stage.
Woodcock alarmed by a fox which crossed the lawn nearby
Fox crossing lawn and totally ignoring the Woodcock which was sitting nearby
Magpies also interested in leaf litter under snow as a source of food when conditions generally were so hard.
Water Rail appeared again along ditchside and seemed to feed more connfidently on food put out for the garden birds
Water Rail wandering about on edge of garden lawn
Perfect camouflage amongst the vegetation.
Striding out along ditchside
Water Rail in resting mode
Picking about under birdtable with other birds
Picking at fallen seed
Gulping down the boiled buttered potatoes that had been put out for the birds
Water Rail still feeding the next day, further into the garden, with other birds
Water Rail not at all phased by a range of larger birds.
The freezing conditions and availability of food had made it more confident.
The thaw sets in at last and the Woodcock and Water Rail presumably returned to their usual haunts on the Reserve
"Moonrise over the saltmarsh" by John Rogers
Congratulations on those Water rail photos - fantastic. I visited on 2nd Jan and saw almost nothing! Maybe the birds were all hungover.
Welcome to the Campfield Community Group. Also thank you for your kind comments.
Sorry you didn’t see the Water Rail on your 2nd January visit but we feel that your chances of seeing this very shy bird were rather slim. The last time we saw one round here was 15 years ago and this one we only saw in the garden as a result of feeding the birds intensively over a cold spell.
As to not seeing much here on the Reserve generally, as you can well imagine, although the thaw had set in, all the water on the Reserve was still deep frozen The duck and waders that normally inhabit the reserve had temporarily disappeared, as indeed, had much of the bird life out on the estuary. In fact, it is a bit of a mystery where everything does go to when you get a major cold spell. We ourselves, have never seen so much pack-ice on the Estuary, as there was this time. Although it was a wonderful sight, it was not a very hospitable environment for water birds!
Things have now returned to normal and birds are returning in good numbers - with plenty of duck on the wetlands and good numbers of geese and swans out on the estuary generally: with geese feeding on the Cardurnock Peninsula; here on the Reserve and at Anthorn and Whitrigg. We have also had reports of considerable numbers of Pinkfeet around Newton Arlosh Marshes. The best times for seeing them moving about are at first light and at dusk.
Having said all this, the words ’wild goose chase’ have a greater resonance here on the Solway - so you pays your money and takes your pick!! It can sometimes be a painful business trying to locate where swans and geese are but if you follow the RSPB Community Blog and also the Yahoo ‘Birding Cumbria’ group they will give up-to-the-minute information on bird movement and sightings. The Yahoo link is as follows:
Best of Luck
John and Judith
Thanks for your reply. Just like you I was wondering where all the birds went when their normal habitats were too inhospitable. Sadly I'm back down in London now, but will be back at half term, so I've applied to join the yahoo group, so that I'll know what's about.