Thunder storm building over the Estuary
Great excitement here at Campfield. My Birthday present arrived - a lovely pop-up gazebo. It had been well reviewed and was said to have stood up to some pretty drastic weather by the reviewers. The purchase of this had been a gesture of great optimism on our part because the past five gazebos we had purchased had all finished up, totally destroyed, ripped to shreds, twisted and broken, in the hawthorn hedge. But the weather had been very promising this Spring: warm; very dry; loads of sunshine; birds were already well into the nesting process despite a definate lack of foliage. The countryside up here seemed to be waiting for a drop of rain but many things seemed to be three weeks ahead of normal.
So, as I said, optimistically we started to erect this wonderful structure, "Bad plan!" As we opened the large cardboard box, roughly the size of a coffin, very large drops of rain started to fall. The wind veered from east to west and the sky darkened over the estuary. "In for a penny, in for a pound," we thought, struggling with the instructions, the various strutts, canopies and corners - Oh Yes! and walls and windows. This wasn't just any old gazebo! We had seen one being erected on a Time Team archeological dig, of the same make ...we should have known, Tony Robinson and his faithful gang finished up knee deep in archeological mud from the storm that hit them - though their gazebo did appear to stand up to the tempest well!
By the time we had finished erecting ours, we were thoroughly soaked, the instructions were reduced to blotting paper and Judith was hanging onto the guy ropes in a force 7 gale while I bellowed instructions from the 'quarterdeck': "Haul down the mainsail", "Hang onto the mizen." We were running on short sail by now and running well before the wind, praying that we weren't going to lose the 'ship'. But the reviewers were right: the frame stood up well - as we gazed in wonder from the shelter of the house. We had become 'storm callers'- an ancient skill now lost! We have some reputation in the area as such, as it is well known that when we erect our annual gazebo, rain will descend on the Cardurnock Peninsula. Local farmers set their calendars by us, dates for cutting silage are adjusted, people delay their holidays accordingly!
Anyway, the year has changed completely: buckets of rain and hail; lashing gales from the west; white horses on the estuary day after day. The local birders, namely a dedicated group of watchers who observe the phenomena of the annual Skua Passage here on the Solway from appropriate promontories in all weathers, reported this year as being the finest one ever. The deeper the Low, the more severe the gale - the more birds came through. They were delighted! - 'Tis an ill wind that bloweth nobody any good!
As reported in a previous blog, on one night of tempest, our local power lines blew down. The cables apparently arced and set the Moss alight from end to end, causing mayhem on that part of the Campfield Marsh Reserve. The countyside benefitting from this sudden deluge, exploded almost overnight into leaf - gardens overflowed with foliage and flowers, trees overburdened with luxuriant leafage have been bent double infront of the tempest, with great branches torn away. We feel this will have resulted in high bird casualties, with nests dashed to the ground and young birds made homeless and dying of exposure ... maybe for smaller birds, they will have time to recoup and go for second broods - but we fear that this will not be the case for the larger species.
Needless to say, the Gazebo has been taken down and packed away in its holdall - as we are not yet ready for another Ice Age! Although we do understand that you good people in the south of the Kingdom, have not yet received your deluge ... perhaps you would be interested in the name of our gazebo supplier?
A previous gazebo disaster
The path of the storm devasted large trees
Results of flash fire across the Moss. Four fire appliances attended.
Fire damage in birch woodland driven by high wind
Storms strike the Estuary
A photo dairy, 14th - 31st May 2011
North Plain Lonning lined with flowering Cow Parsley
Male Woodpecker heard hammering on nest box hole. A Tree Sparrow, currently occupying this box, was hovering round in the vicinity.
Shelduck feeding on the tideline in the evening
This was a period of cold strong winds with heavy showers and intermittent sunshine.
Yellow Flag starting to flower round pools and damp meadows.
In the afternoon sunshine numerous Large Red Damselflies could be seen round damp patches on the Lonning where they were sheltered from the wind.
Large Red Damselfly - male
A Blue-tailed Damselfly also seen on track.
Hide pool. Tree Sparrows were using nest box. Damselflies could be seen on grassy edges.
Warm sunshine brought the Reserve alive. The Lonning hedgerows were full of bird song: Sedge, Willow and Garden Warblers, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch. Swallows were out hawking. Damselflies and butterflies were flying.
Damp summer meadows now that water levels have fallen - ideal for breeding Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe and Redshank.
Recently arrived cattle used as a management tool to control the grass sward.
Coot and Lapwing in front of hide.
Watched Hare lolloping about amongst the meadow grasses in front of the hide, for about 20 minutes. Clearly enjoying itself!
Little Grebe on Meadow Pool.
Joined by a second one.
Little Grebe had spotted an intruder and swiftly took action.
Pair of Oystercatchers seemingly inspecting 'seed' field.
Swallows were flying everywhere today.
Wall Butterfly on trackside vegetation.
Another cold windy day. Few birds were singing - most things were sheltering as best they could.. Only the Mallard and its ducklings to be seen on the pools and a solitary Lapwing was defending its territory.
Mallard and ducklings on first meadow Pool
Two Mallard ducklings
Lapwing diving over Wetland Meadows.
Cold gale force winds with low skudding clouds today - brought down power lines on the Moss which subsequently set it alight. Also flock after flock of Oystercatchers battled along the tideline into the southwesterly gale, as the high tide flooded them off their inner estuary roosts (see previous blogs for details of both).
A beautiful sunny day brought Butterflies and Dragonflies and flowers out. Young Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows and Greenfinches were in evidence too.
Wall Butterfly on Comfrey.
Four -spotted Chaser flying between the hedges at the far end of the Lonning. The glint of its wings could be detected in the sunlight.
Four-spotted Chaser poised on old bramble stem. Four wing spots can be clearly seen.
Large Red Damselfly on pool side vegetation.
Wild Roses are starting flower
Germander Speedwell in hedge bottoms.
A small clump of Star of Bethlehem near entrance to North Plain Lonning.
Standing room only
Cattle grazing the saltmarsh in the late evening sunlight
Other recent sightings
Skua passage on the Solway was in full flow. With gale force southwesterly winds local Skua watchers from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BirdingCumbria had some of their best sightings ever. Noteably on 23rd May, from 1.30 to 8 pm: 6 Gannets, 1 Gt Northern Diver, dozen Fulmar, c 600 - 700 Kittiwakes, 3 small flocks Arctic Tern, 3 Sandwich Tern, 3 Manx Shearwater, several flocks Razorbill, Common Scoters, several Whimbrel, small flock Bar-tailed godwit, 2 Great Skua, 19 Pomarine Skua, 47 Long-tailed Skua. This was further eclipsed by further sightings on a very rainy 29th May from 8.30 to 3.30pm: 6 Gt Skua, 9 Arctic Skua, 22 Pomarine Skua, c120 Long-tailed Skua, c 30 Gannets, Common Scoter, c 12 Fulmar, Common Tern.
Gorse in bloom on Campfield Marsh
A sunny although blustery day, with a helm wind blowing. Nevertheless butterflies and dragonflies could be seen flying in the shelter of the Lonning and the hedgerows were full of birdsong.
Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly on poolside vegetation
Small Copper butterfly on track
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
Red Admiral butterfly
Willow, Sedge and Garden Warblers, both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and also Chiffchaff, were to be heard along the Lonning hedgerows. There was even a Cuckoo calling in the distance. This Willow Warbler came out to have a look at us as we walked by.
Weather still glorious. Flock of Curlew flying along the saltmarsh edge.
Dunnock singing along marsh edge.
Black-headed Gulls harassing a Heron. Eventually it flew off to find a more peaceful fishing spot.
Large Red Damselfly on trackside vegetation
Sedge Warbler singing from Lonning hedge.
Little Grebe on Meadow Pools
Mallards had taken up residence on one of the Meadow pools.
Rain at last! Chaffinch taking advantage of the puddles left by the overnight rain.
Male Azure damselfly.
Hot sunny weather during the day was causing thunderstorms to build up towards evening.
Barn Owl could be seen hunting along the saltmarsh at dusk most days now.
Hunting along the top of the saltmarsh.
Buzzard's favourite perch at the end of the wood, viewed from hide.
Mixed cattle grazing the meadows.
Quacking Mallard on Meadow Pools
May Blossom in hedgerows near the hide.
Moorhen in pool infront of the hide.
Oystercatchers landing on tideline at dusk.
Wall butterfly on bluebells.
Little Grebe collecting weed.
Noticeboard with Reserve sightings upto 14th May