There had been great excitement in the local birding community here on the Solway, in recent days: a flock of 76 Bean Geese had presented itself on the flooded stubble fields round the lovely town of Silloth and a stimulating informative controversy was surging to and fro amongst the cognoscente, regarding the designation of these geese. Were they Tundra or were they Taiga? - the very stuff of ornithology!
So as the day started out fine and the wind had dropped, although still cool, we decided on a ‘run out to Silloth’ - a well known phrase in this area. Silloth is a sort of little town with a Victorian feel to it; a place where time seems to have stood still - you know the sort of thing! … cobbled streets; old guest houses; a promenade and green; a small harbour; a great Lifeboat Station and - best of all - a couple of really good Fish and Chip shops! Unfortunately the excellent Carlisle to Silloth railway had been chopped in the 60’s Beeching’s cuts. What a wonderful day out that must have been - riding along on the old steam train along the Solway marshes, with the day stretching ahead in Silloth: the beaches and little harbour, the lemonade and ice cream - would that we still had that railway, Mr Beeching!
I digress - we planned to seek out these geese and then return along the various Solway marshes of Moricambe Bay, to look for, and hopefully photograph, Barnacles and Whoopers on the way home. A real ’wild goose chase’ in every sense of the phrase. As we neared Silloth, we searched an area of flooded stubble fields and wet meadows with scattered remnants of an old WW2 airfield, with eager eyes - but nothing to be seen … ‘man proposes, nature disposes‘!
So Plan B swung into action - Great! It was lunchtime - Fish and Chips beckoned! We were in the motorhome, so we pulled onto one of the viewpoints overlooking the glorious Solway. The tide was filling and Criffell, the mountain on the Scottish side , "guardian of the Solway", was rising out of the salt-spray haze like one of Hokusai’s ‘hundred views of Fujiyama’ paintings. Life was good!
The plate of Fish and chips was mountainous also! We couldn’t tackle the whole lot but the circling Black-headed Gulls knew what was coming - they knew the drill and saw off the remainders in a few seconds - very entertaining!
So replete and happy we headed for Calvo Marsh via Skinburness, past the old, now closed, hotel with its turrets and spires - favoured by the old King Edward. He used to come and stay there - apparently, really enjoying the beautiful Silloth sunsets and probably a platter or two of Solway salmon. Then on to the tide-swept marshland road, keeping a sharp eye open over the green marshes and also inland over the grassy seawall. But still no luck!
We plugged on towards the marshes of the Waver and Raby Cote, on the little road, still partially flooded from the recent high tide and … Bingo! Thousand upon thousand of Barnacle Geese were lining the salt marshes on the banks of the Waver - small parties occasionally flying around restlessly; ceaseless chatter and clamour as that sought fresh grazing exposed on the receding tide. Then, over all this, the wonderful wild sound of Whooper Swans swinging in under the late afternoon sun - just a small party this. Judith was furiously working the camera and long lens - this was a bit of a challenge as the geese were at least half a mile distant, if not more - whilst I did my best to keep the vehicle on the road through the varying levels of flood water.
So on to Salt Coates and the small marshland village of Kirkbride. Then over the narrow metal bridge spanning the R. Wampool. Oh Joy! Right next to the road, a flock of 30 Whoopers had arrived on the flooded pasture, trumpeting with excited wing flapping - greeting another half dozen which were just swinging in against the now setting sun. What a feast!
After this, on to the Cardurnock Peninsula road, with its endless salt marshes stretching out into the Solway towards Criffell - a final glorious sight of several thousand Barnacle Geese settling down for the night in the increasing gloom … these black and white geese with their magical chatter.
And as the sun was setting into smokey blues and reds, with the promise of a frosty night, we passed through the Marsh Gate and onto Campfield Marsh, with the lights of our hamlet twinkling ahead of us …
A day to remember!
Buzzard sitting on roadside fencepost, Calvo Marsh.
Spotted a distant flock of geese out on Waver Marsh
Barnacles coming in to land out on Waver Marsh.
Barnacles grazing the marsh, Raby Cote
Further small flocks landing.
Even more distant flocks on the other side of the river.
Small group of Whooper Swans flying over Waver Marsh - possibly a family group.
Whoopers coming in to land with Barnacles, Raby Cote.
Whoopers on Whitrigg Marsh seen later on.
Whoopers resting on Whitrigg Marsh - in association with Lapwings.
Six Whoopers flying in towards Whitrigg Marsh.
Whoopers landing on Whitrigg Marsh together with a Canada Goose.
Barnacles grazing on Longcroft Marsh as dusk was approaching.
More Barnacles on Longcroft Marsh.
A leucistic Barnacle amongst the flock.
Sunset over the Wampool Estuary.
15th - 23rd November 2011
Cold light easterly wind with misty sunshine. As the tide came in a group of 13 Shoveler crossed the channel in front of the hamlet. A flock of Dunlin landed on the sandbar on the other side. A Reed Bunting showed up on the marsh edge hawthorn bushes and a single Lesser Redpoll was feeding on hamlet garden niger seed.
Shoveler on incoming tide.
Reed Bunting on hawthorns.
Lesser Redpoll on garden niger seed.
A beautiful sunny day although with a cold easterly wind. at 4.00 pm about 20 Whooper Swans flew across the hamlet from the estuary towards the Reserve wetlands.
A milder day with a light southerly wind. Promising early sunshine clouded in about midday. 3 Bullfinches flew ahead of us down the Lonning. As we were watching Mallard and a Little Grebe from the screen overlooking 1st Meadow Pool, a large group of wigeon flew in - there were 6 Pintail with them. We had noted a good collection of Swan's feathers here too, possibly an indicator of Whoopers roosting here overnight. Dave and Stephen could be seen carrying out maintenance work on some trees on the other side of the meadow.
Coming back onto the marsh, two immature Mute Swans flew over and headed inland towards the Reserve wetlands. At 3.15pm, 6 Shelduck and 3 Red-breasted Merganser floated in on the incoming tide.
Mallard on Meadow Pool. Note Swan feathers too.
Little Grebe also.
Flock of Wigeon, having just landed. Pintail can be seen at the far side.
Stephen and Dave carrying out essential maintenance.
Immature Mute Swans flying in from estuary.
Southerly winds today. At 10.46 am the Great White Egret had been seen on the marsh. 1.00pm. a small flock of Barnacles (about 50) flew along the marsh from the direction of Cardurnock. They circled several times and then landed on the mudflats at Scargavel Point. Some grazed on the saltmarsh and whilst others walked along beyond the saltings. After a while they flew off west again.
Mid-afternoon, 28 Shoveler floated in on the tide.
Barnacles - just landed on the mudflats.
Some came up onto the marsh to graze.
Small group grazing, probably a family group.
Others walking beyond the saltings.
The first to take off.
Skein flying west, from whence they came.
A perfect windless day with warm sunshine. At midday, a skein of Barnacle geese (134) flying west along the estuary were spooked by a microlite flying towards them. Both managed to miss each other and continued in their respective directions. Walked down the Lonning at about 1 pm. There were two Pintail on floodwater left of the track; a Buzzard in the far hedge west of the Meadow Pools; two immature Mute Swans on 1st Meadow pool and two Bullfinch flying ahead of us down the track. As we came back along the saltmarsh a Grey Heron came in to land. A couple of Birding groups visited today and reported seeing the Great White Egret on the saltmarsh west of Saltmarsh Pool.
Skein of Barnacles flying west.
Male Pintail showing well on floodwater, LHS of track.
Buzzard perched in far hawthorn.
Immature Mute Swans on Meadow Pools.
Heron coming in to land.
Day started off with 55 Shelduck dibbling in the channel in the morning sunshine. After lunch, the weather having dulled in somewhat, still got good sightings of the Great White Egret hunting in the dubs way out on the marsh beyond Saltmarsh Pool. Corvids from the nearby roosts, as well as two Heron, kept up a continual pestering barrage. The Egret, however, was not phased.
Shelduck in early morning sunshine.
Great White Egret out on the far marsh.
Corvids on the rampage.
Norman reported 60 Whooper Swans coming in from the south to roost on the floodwater overnight. Apparently Swans had been coming in to roost at dusk, on a regular basis now for the last fortnight.
A fairly brisk SW wind with some rain today. On the high tide at midday, a good collection of waders were showing on the tideline - mostly Oystercatchers and with a few grey waders. A flock of 16 Shoveler presented itself too. Mid-afternoon the two immature Mute Swans were seen on Lonning floodwater with good numbers of Wigeon and Mallard on 1st Meadow Pool. As dusk was falling (3.45pm) the Great White Egret came hunting along the dubs on the marsh round Scargavel Point.
Shoveler flying along tideline.
Great White Egret in dub on saltmarsh.
Landing on the marsh - what a wingspan!
Who's harassing who now?
Two Woodcock - part of a large number visiting Campfield during the cold spell at the beginning of the year.
The gregarious and colourful Wigeon that make the winter reserve so pleasurable.
Whoopers, our glorious winter visitors.
One of the Lonning’s Sedge Warblers declares his territory for all to hear.
Pair of Canadas dropped in - quite unusual for the Reserve.
Willow Warbler - herald of summer.
Roe Deer grazing at the edge of the wood - undisturbed but ever vigilant.
This year, Campfield’s Barn Owls were very successful, probably due to a good vole year.
Woody - just one of the juvenile members of a successful brood.
Shelduck - returned to us after the flightless moult phase.
The little red Fox - left in peace at last.
The Great White Egret has graced us this year with its presence.
Winter Barnacles with one of the leucistics of a family of four.
Whoopers, recently arriving, greeting each other with lots of wing flapping and whooping.
This beautiful male Bullfinch, enjoying the remains of old brambles on the Lonning in the winter sunshine.
PHOTODIARY - end of November 2011
Winter evening after a stormy day, Solway Estuary
A midday high tide with a strong gusty wind. At 11.30pm flocks of Oystercatcher, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Shoveler with 15 Pintail started to fly west along the, by now, flooding marsh. At 12.15 small groups of Barnacles came battling along into the galeforce winds as they rounded Scargavel Point. The Great White Egret was still frequenting the Saltmarsh dubs.10 Fieldfare flew off hawthorns near the layby west of Bowness. There was a report of a female Smew on saltmarsh edge at high tide.
A day of strong gusty winds with sunshine and showers, some of which were hail. High tide at 12 o clock ... as it came in and substantially flooded the saltmarsh, wader flocks began to pass going west. Oystercatchers were accompanied by small parties of duck: Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Shoveler and 15 Pintail. Between 12.15 and 12.50 pm, what looked like the whole of the Barnacle flock flew by in small groups, heading into the now galeforce winds, as they rounded Scargavel Point.
Pintail over rough water.
Small group of Shoveler.
Good parties of Teal came along.
Colourful Wigeon joined the movement.
Skein after skein of Barnacles.
Barnacles battling against the gale.
Barnacles flying over the Saltmarsh.
Strong south-westerly winds but milder - mist and rain came in early afternoon. Watched the tide come in and ebb between 11.30 and 1 o'clock . Again skeins of Barnacles (one with a few Shelduck in its slipstream) came by from the Inner estuary, together with small flocks of Shoveler, Pintail, Curlew and Oystercatcher. We took a walk down the Lonning at 1.45pm and were delighted to see the Great White Egret very actively feeding amongst the jungus on the right-hand side of the hide.
There had been a lot of birding activity today on the Reserve and a report came in later of a Pale-bellied Brent Goose having been seen flying with 8 Barnacles at high tide.
Small flock of Barnacles with Shelduck in their slipstream.
Curlew battling it out too.
Winds had eased of somewhat today. High tide about 1 pm. Watched flocks of duck and waders passing westward along the saltmarsh on either side of the high tide. Only a few Barnacles put in an appearance - a Goosander suddenly appeared on a tussock of grass on the tide's edge as the tide flooded the marsh but returned to the water as soon as it started to ebb.
We walked down the Lonning to the hide, after lunch and were able to again watch the Great White Egret feeding amongst the jungus. Two Heron were in close attendance. They were benefitting from the Egret's feeding mode of trampling to disturb its prey. Two Whoopers were seen near the wood and a pair of Mute Swans flew over whilst we were watching. On our way back home a small flock of Barnacles came flying back inland over the Lonning. As we passed the noticeboard in the farmyard we noted that a Short-eared Owl had been added for today.
Small flock of Shoveler at high tide.
Teal making their way west.
Wigeon roughing it.
A solitary Oystercatcher.
Probably a family group.
A Goosander climbed up onto this tussock as the high tide flooded onto the saltmarsh.
Great White Egret backlit by the low sun - RHS of the hide
Heron landing nearby.
Heron were more than interested in GWE's feeding technique - and benefitting from it too!
Skein of Barnacles flying back east over the Lonning.
A grey wet day. Early morning a Willow Tit was feeding on West Common hamlet seed feeders. About 2.30 pm, the Great White Egret was seen amongst the rushes on the flooded wetland in front of the hide. Mid afternoon it flew across onto the saltmarsh and proceeded to feed along the dubs around Scargavel Point.
The Great White Egret striding along the saltmarsh at Scargavel Point.
A catch - the Egret is aware that once the high tide clears the marsh, there will be a new supply of small fry in the flooded areas left behind.
... getting well down in the dubs!
See Community Blog for today entitled "Water, Water everywhere":
A wild cold day with plenty of rain. At 9.30 am 7 Whoopers flew west along the tideline. A quick walk down the Lonning early afternoon, revealed a good number of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard on the 1st Meadow Pool (On the noticeboard, Dave had recorded 800+ Teal on the wetlands). Inspite of the rain Stephen could be seen out in the meadows on the left-hand side of the Lonning, excavating new pools with the tractor and digger - all part of the ongoing ' Lapwing breeding habitat project'. The Great White Egret was still being sighted on the Reserve.
Wildfowl on Meadow Pool.
Stephen working on 'management of meadows for Lapwing'
Sat here in the lounge groaning after Christmas lunch, the opening of presents and the drinking of ‘Festive Spirit’ … you get the drift.
There is a high tide series here on the Solway: big tide coming in at midday, coupled with a fair gale driving the waves high upon the salt marsh and spray flying everywhere - ideal for goose watching.
Sure enough small gaggles of Barnacles heading to the Cardurnock pastures having been driven from their inner estuary marshes by the high tide. Judith, through the open window, managed a few shots of these geese - so beloved of our Campfield Reserve.
Hope you are all having a wonderful day - far too much food and drink and that everybody is ensconced in their own rooms playing with their latest high tech ‘toys’: Dad hopefully, crashed out on the couch and Mum has deservedly gone for a lie down. If you haven’t - we advise you to do so - remember there’s still Boxing day and the New Year to get through!
Bless you all!
High tide backed by a strong wind at midday.
First small skein of Barnacles.
Larger groups followed.
As the tide receded and uncovered the saltmarsh, they were still coming.
Half and hour later a group of stragglers were still battling against the elements out in the middle of the estuary.