Criffel and the Solway after the Storm, 17th October.
A very warm misty morning with a rosy dawn. Small parties Barnacles could be seen and heard flying west most of the morning. Lots of Gulls out on the channel with a single Whooper on the tideline.
Small party of Barnacles flying west
Still warm with sunshine and intermittent rain showers. During the morning, the mudflats and saltmarsh were alive with waders and duck: 22 Wigeon,18 Shelduck , c 500 Lapwings, Oystercatchers and Curlew. Mid-afternoon, 10 Black-tailed Godwit were on the tideline. Reports from other birdwatchers of 60+ Shoveler, 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Grey Plover near the Viaduct. After lunch, saw about a dozen Wigeon and a Coot on the Meadow Pools down the Lonning. Red Admirals were nectaring in the sunshine, on Ivy flowers in the hedgerow.
Shelduck and Lapwing on mudflats
Black-tailed Godwit flying off the tideline.
In late Autumn, like today, these ivy flowers were producing nectar which was attracting the few Red Admiral butterflies who were still flying. Every time one passes this plant along the North Plain Lonning a haze of flies and other insects fly off, even on overcast days. These plants, which line the Lonning, produce black berries from the flowers later on, which are then often eaten by birds.
The day started off windy and as the tide came in late afternoon, it stepped up to gale force, with the rain coming sideways across the marsh. Apparently it was a cold front coming in - the temperature certainly dropped substantially! The evening cleared to give a dramatic vivid red and turbulent sunset. A long way out on the channel small skeins of geese could be seen fying west.
Dramatic sunset over West Common.
A skein of geese a long way out over the 'sands'.
Waders on sunlit estuary at dusk.
Cold and windy still, with frequent heavy showers. Flocks of Lapwing, Gulls and Dunlin with a few Oystercatcher, Godwit and Curlew, were flying about the estuary. When the sun shone the light was most dramatic.
Lapwing against a dark sky.
There was a cold biting wind from the west today - it was also a low tide series. Early morning a Gull feeding frenzy was taking place over the river. There were a few Curlew, Oystercatcher and grey waders about with good numbers of Lapwing - a small party of Wigeon came in with the tide.
A large flock of Barnacles, in the region of 2000, flew east along the saltmarsh.
Robin singing in the sunshine.
At 18.10 pm watched 8 Whoopers (3 adults and 5 Juveniles) come into land on the mudflats just this side (West) of the viaduct. They settled down near the edge of the marsh, as if they were intending to roost there for the night.
Whoopers had just landed on the mudflats
Whoopers settling down for the night?
Small flock of Linnets could be seen on Hawthorns along marsh road at 11.25 am. Near the hide a flock of about 30 Redwing with a few Fieldfare flew off along the wetland hedgerow. On the 1st Meadow Pool, Wigeon, Mallard and a Coot were basking in the early afternoon sunshine. At 2.40pm a lone Whooper came calling all along the marsh before flying over the hamlet in the direction of the Reserve wetland. Later on at 17.00 pm, eight more were reported just west of the viaduct.
Mallard and Wigeon on Meadow Pools
Wigeon in sunshine
Coot amongst the rushes.
Solitary Whooper - calling as it came.
During the morning, as the tide went out, a flock of Dunlin flew in onto the wet mud. Good numbers of Oystercatcher, several Shelduck, Godwit and Curlew and two pairs of Shoveler were picking about the tideline too. A couple of skeins of Barnacles, of about 40 each, flew over the marsh going west at midday.
Other reports: from the Viaduct area of good numbers of Shoveler and a few Pintail; from Saltmarsh Pool, 100 Snipe and a Peregrine.
Barnacles going west.
Adult Grey Heron landing on the marsh.
Damp and misty early morning, with a strong southerly wind. A skein of Barnacles were flying east along the marsh. Watched Fox's confrontation with Corvids and Shelduck, as it tried to cross the outfall on the marsh near the hamlet (http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/campfieldmarsh/b/campfieldmarsh-blog/archive/2011/10/24/early-morning-confrontation-at-campfield-24th-october-2011.aspx).
Sun came out after lunch and Meadow Pipit seen on roadside hawthorn bushes. Mallard, Wigeon and Teal are now using the Meadow Pools on the Lonning. As we walked back a Heron could be seen in Saltmarsh dubs near the Lonning entrance.
Mallard and Wigeon enjoying the afternoon sunshine on Meadow Pools.
A Great White Egret has been reported here on Saltmarsh Pool, since 1st November. Today was the first opportunity we have had to view it and were fortunate, on arrival at 10.30 am, to see it immediately.
Although there were several birders in Maryland Layby, it showed no nervousness and continued to hunt both on the Saltmarsh and the Pool … very active but continually under attack from the resident Lapwings and, to some degree, the Gulls - although all kept a healthy distance away, not pressing home the attack. Two Grey Heron were present and from time to time made sudden and determined attacks but it merely moved 20 or 30 yards and proceeded to feed again.
A large group of Snipe now resident on the Pool, were very wary of it and, on its approach, quickly scuttled away or occasionally went into a couple of fear flights. Even Teal and Wigeon were clearly intimidated by its presence.
The Egret was clearly recognised as a strange and potentially dangerous interloper. Its dramatic stride and obvious height, coupled with its quickness, illustrated its potential as a hunter - obviously finding food in the grass, water and in the air. Its method in the water was to trample quite vigorously to stir up mud to release food - continuously pacing quickly forward - then backtracking.
We had a very entertaining couple of hours with this graceful adroit visitor to Campfield and have made a video of the session, as the weather and lighting conditions were good and presented a unique opportunity.
A photo diary - 25th October to 31st October 2011
At 11.30 am, about high tide, there was a movement of Barnacles going east in small flocks. One flock came over the hamlet and seemed to be heading towards the Reserve wetlands. The high tide line held Wigeon, Mallard and Curlew. There was a first sighting this year, for us, of a Willow Tit on the orchard trees behind the hamlet and also feeding on the garden nut hangers. It had a silver ring on its right leg.
Late afternoon a Barn Owl could be seen hunting up and down the Saltmarsh towards the viaduct and, after dark, there were sounds of the family hunting over the pastures in the vicinity of North Plain Farm.
Barnacles flying over the hamlet in the direction of the Reserve wetlands.
Curlew on the saltmarsh.
Wigeon flying in at high tide.
Willow Tit in orchard behind hamlet.
Great-spotted Woodpecker on hamlet trees.
Rain early morning but sun came out about 10.30 ish ... there were thousands of Barnacles flying over the marsh from the outer to the inner estuary. Some were flying low whilst others flew high against the stormy sky. The high tide came well up onto the saltmarsh at 12.30 pm with rafts of Teal and Shoveler offshore. 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and the Little Egret put in an appearance too. The air was full of wheeling Gulls.
Walked down the Lonning early afternoon. Wigeon,Teal and Mallard, were showing in the sunshine on the Meadow Pools. Could hear Whoopers calling at dusk, from the direction of the Viaduct.
Skeins of Barnacles flying high against tall cumulus clouds
Red-breasted Merganser swimming in.
Red-breasted Merganser sailing by.
Grey Heron taking off - often to be seen on saltmarsh.
Mallard on 1st meadow Pool.
Wigeon and Teal basking in afternoon sunshine - 1st Meadow Pool.
Small groups of Barnacles were flying east along the estuary all morning. By early afternoon a flock of Teal and Shoveler came in, as the tide went back. Good numbers of Dunlin could be seen later on the mudflats. There were also reports of a Peregrine, Ring-tail Hen Harrier and a Raven.
High tide, at about 2.00 pm, brought forth lots of wader activity, as the saltmarsh flooded. Quite near to the road along the hamlet front, Bar-tailed Godwit could be seen amongst the rushes, feeding with Redshank and Oystercatcher. Beyond Saltmarsh pool on the saltmarsh edge, were also substantial roosts of Oystercatcher and Curlew. Snipe were visible in the rushes edging the Pool.
Reports too, of a Sabines Gull and a Jack Snipe.
Bar-tailed Godwit with Oystercatcher on flooded marsh.
Oystercatcher, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit in floodwater at Scargavel point.
Curlew (foreground) with Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher, on flooded marsh.
Curlew Roost beyond Saltmarsh Pool.
Waders and Corvids on saltmarsh edge.
Mallard showing off -1st Meadow Pool.
A grey misty day. A strong wind forced the high tide well up the marsh again. Quite a substantial Bore could be seen crossing the end of the channel about 2.30 pm. Small flocks of Barnacles were flying west, as well as Oystercatcher and Mallard - all presumably pushed off their Inner estuary roosts. A fishing boat came sailing past in the midst of all this. Fishing boats of this size, only come into the estuary at very high tides - as the Solway is generally quite shallow.
Bore passing the end of the channel.
Barnacles flying west.
Mallard flying along the tide line.
Fishing boat working the Estuary at high tide.
Barnacles, originally flying east, were spooked by a low flying microlite.
Willow Tit again seen feeding in hamlet garden, this time on seed hanger. This one was not ringed, thus indicating that we have at least two feeding in the area now and possibly more - as a friend who lives along the marsh has indicated that she has a good number in her garden ... so, it is a reasonable assumption that we are getting spin-off, as it were, from this group, owing to the fact that we do feed quite intensively. It is received wisdom with the Titmouse family, that if you think you,ve got half a dozen coming to your feeders, the chances are that you have 30 ... but Willow Tit come and go so quickly, one can only speculate as to the numbers!
A group of Skylark are called an 'exaltation'; Goldfinch are called a 'charm'; so perhaps we should call them an 'assumption' of Willow Tit!
Video link to feeding Willow Tit: photostream
You want water? Come on down! The Solway’s lovely - we’ve plenty here! It was coming sideways; from above and from below - Water World eat you heart out!
All this, as I was contemplating the scene from my front window. The Solway was raging in. Yes, a high tide series - at least a force 7 gale; racing white horses and breaking surf; already making the salt marsh with a couple of hours still to high tide. The rain had been bucketing down all night - the weathermen had amber warnings out which meant that the 7 or 8 rivers flowing into the Solway would be flooding quite nicely!
I shouted through to Judith, "this tide is going to be a big one, dear! We shall certainly be cut off for the next 2 to 3 hours." Our immediate area around Campfield and the Cardurnock Peninsula is regularly isolated by high tides throughout the year, unpredictably - in fact, we call ourselves locally ’the Island’… Motorists Beware!
"Just the ideal conditions," Judith replied, "the wetlands on the Reserve will be running with floodwater. The place will be swarming with wildfowl sheltering from the storm. I‘m just going to take the small Nikon camera out - it’s no good taking my long lens today." "It’s no good taking me either, dear," I said, as I realised that my not so far off lunch had turned into an afternoon one - we would be out there for an hour or so. But I knew Judith would need an assistant in these conditions: bird spotting; note taking and drying off optics. To this effect, I slung an old chequered towel round my neck - quite natty really! Bit like Lawrence of Arabia or Glub Pasha, for those who remember!!
So it turned out to be. The floodwaters seemed to be rising by the minute, as we gazed over the Reserve. Six Whoopers had landed on the floodwater in the middle meadow on the left-hand-side of the Lonning; Wigeon and Teal were flying everywhere … and as we struggled into the hide overlooking the wetland - right there in front of us, not 20 yards away, was the, by now, famous Great White Egret. It was having the time of its life, sloshing and wading about - must have been catching frogs and goodness knows what else! This bird has been on the Reserve since the 1st of this month. Everyone has speculated what would happen when the weather deteriorated, but it seems to be ‘a very happy bunny’ - completely in its element. This bird is an expert hunter … might we be seeing more of them?
As we retraced our steps back along the Lonning, a skein of Barnacles swung in low, searching for a place to land. Judith in the meantime, was recording all the new water features that had appeared in the last few days - good water management is certainly showing up in weather conditions such as these. Dave, must have been out there closing the ‘great’ sluice on the far wetlands - ideal timing: he’s catching all the water coming down now and it’s going to be here all winter. Ideal for roosting Whooper Swans, geese and a whole suite of duck.
As if to emphasise this, we came across Stephen in the middle of one of the flooded meadows, with his tractor and digger, doing a bit of heroic water engineering - far beyond the call of duty, I thought. But he’ll be OK in the comfort of his cab - What’s not to like?
Just then a large dark goose swung in overhead, soaking wet and fagged out …bit like me really! It was a Canada - unusual for the Reserve - but it soon made itself at home on the 1st Meadow pool amongst the Wigeon and Teal, upending and feeding on weed and water plants … which put me in mind of my own belated lunch!
As we flogged back along our little estuary road, a blue and yellow Coastguard vehicle came tearing along. "Hope nothing has happened," Judith remarked." "Maybe he was just doing a survey of the high tide flooding." I said. These people do look after us all!
But things seem to take on a rosier glow, when Judith assured me that lunch would consist of Baxter’s lentil and bacon soup and those delicious warm bite-sized sausage rolls to follow. And to guarantee my resuscitation, a small glass of Southern Comfort laced with Stone’s Green Ginger would put me in an adequately creative mood to write this blog - Enjoy!
1st Meadow Pool filling well.
Standing water between the Meadow Pools.
2nd Meadow Pool is full to overflowing.
Floodwater on LHS of Lonning - the Whooper Swans seem to like it!
Six of them in total.
Wetlands in front of hide - seemingly an ideal habitat for the Great White Egret.
Stephen, with the tractor and digger, doing some water engineering.
6 Barnacles suddenly appeared over the Lonning going south.
Canada Goose, having just landed in Meadow pool at the height of the gale.
Lone Canada Goose seen later on the tideline.
An early November Photo Diary
Area round Saltmarsh Pool where the Great White Egret has installed itself
A beautiful sunny windless day with first record of Great White Egret seen on the Reserve at Saltmarsh Pool.
Cool and breezy. 10.45 - 12.00 am, Great White Egret again reported. This time remarkably well hidden in the rushes but spent some time west of Saltmarsh Pool, after being chased by a Heron. Also 2 Crossbills over. Good flocks of waders off Scargavel Point as tide came in about 15.00, including a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits.
A mild calm sunny morning. 10.30 - 12.15am - we watched the Great White Egret for the duration. Two Heron were harassing it but to little avail. It proceeded to move across the Pool, successfully catching small items at regular intervals. It herded the numerous Snipe, from the reeds they were inhabiting there too.
See full account and video from previous blog - link: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/campfieldmarsh/b/campfieldmarsh-blog/archive/2011/11/04/great-white-egret-on-saltmarsh-pool-campfield-marsh-3-rd-november-2011.aspx
Later in the day two groups of birders reported seeing a Sabines Gull flying across the road from the estuary, onto the fields near the Lonning entrance.
In recent weeks flocks of Barnacles have been seen flying up and down the estuary (and over the Saltmarsh here too). We decided to have a look round the Cardurnock Peninsula to see were they were grazing. Between 1.30 - 2.15 we found a group of about 500, including 4 leucistics, on the Anthorn Marsh - which were able to video from the roadside.
A hazy and very dark day with heavy cumulus clouds over the estuary. Great White Egret again reported at 11.00am, with a comment that it appeared to be roosting overnight on the Saltmarsh west of the Pool. At 14.30 there were 70 Shelduck on the mudflats near the channel, off Scargavel Point.
Illuminated Cumulus clouds at sunset.
After thick early morning mist the day transformed to a beautiful sunny afternoon. Red Admirals and Whites were still flying. A Willow Tit was seen feeding on hamlet seed feeders. Low tide at 13.30 brought 87 Shelduck to the tideline.
Misty all day. A trek down the Lonning early afternoon produced a solitary Coot on the 1st Meadow Pool and a pair of Bullfinches flying ahead of us along the track. The mist produced some quite dramatic atmospheric effects. As the tide came in late afternoon the mist cleared to give a bright frosty moonlight night.
Lonning in mist
Looking west across the wet meadows.
The farm home meadow.
The road and saltmarsh.
Not a great day for birdwatching!
Great White Egret reported on Saltmarsh Pool together with 25 Snipe.
Fairly chilly and misty most of the day but warmer than yesterday. Good viewings of Great White Egret reported about midday. Walked along the marsh ourselves after lunch. Heron seen fishing in the dubs and on Saltmarsh Pool there were a good collection of wildfowl: a Red-breasted Merganser, numerous Wigeon, Teal and Snipe, as well as Lapwing.
Glory beams as the sun broke through.
A good mixture of wildfowl on the Pool.
Male Red-breasted Merganser.
Wigeon coming in to land.
An overcast but warmer day. An early morning record of the Great White Egret on Saltmarsh Pool. We also saw it at 15.10, feedng in dubs round Scargavel Point and moving on eastwards along the Saltmarsh, feeding as it went.
Started as a hazy mild morning which cleared as the tide came in at midday. Gulls were in their element hawking for insects over the Estuary. The sun came out early afternoon producing a perfect Autumn day. 28 Shoveler floated out mid-channel with the tide. The Great White Egret was reported as being on the Saltmarsh Pool at 13.00. Later on at 14.00 , 5 Whoopers flew past on the tideline, going east.
A dry cooler overcast day. Early morning, a few Barnacle skeins could be seen flying east along the estuary. At 10.45hrs, there was a report of the Great White Egret on the marsh. At high tide, about 12.30, 4 Shoveler were noted on the high tideline together with a Cormorant drying out its wings.
Small skein of Barnacles, off Scargavel point.
Cormorant drying its wings, escorted by local Crows.
A cooler day with hazy sunshine. Lots of birdwatchers out, presumably looking for reported unconfirmed sighting of a Surf Scoter. High tide, produced flocks of Oystercatcher and grey waders along the tideline and in the bay near the Viaduct.. Reports of Great White Egret on Saltmarsh Pool; Pintail, Shoveler and 40 Grey Plover near the Viaduct: a male Hen Harrier over the back of the wood on the wetland.
Easterly winds today. At 9.15 hrs Great White Egret was seen picking its way along the dubs near Scargavel Point and then flying eastwards towards the Viaduct.
Great White Egret flying along the saltmarsh towards the Viaduct.
Great White Egret flying into the bay near the Viaduct.
Waning moon over the Reserve.
Recent sightings from the Noticeboard.