Campfield Marsh at high tide. 11 4 12
Spring is a restless time: weather pulling all kinds of tricks; counting the cost of last winter; assessing the possibilities of the coming Summer; old visitors still lingering on; new arrivals coming unexpectedly - and that’s just the birds … you get the drift!
Yesterday (11th April) was just such a typical day: massive skies, hail showers passing down the estuary; rainbows; next minute, brilliant sunshine reflecting in the newly formed puddles; snow still showing on the hills.
So, taking our chance, we skipped out onto the marsh road. The gorse was resplendent: cadmium yellow. It had never looked so good - strange plant, gorse! We heard two Chiffchaffs singing from the marsh side trees. Judith managed two good shots of both of them. Often difficult to photograph as they tend to sing from cover. Hedges have not yet acquired their full Spring plumage, by any means - and the damson blossom too, is coming out very slowly. Good plan this, as hail, snow and driving winds can arrive very suddenly, hereabouts - totally destroying the blossom.
But onwards, onto the farm and down the lonning …Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Magpie - all of them going about their daily business: pairing, singing and nesting. Plenty of Wrens about - it’s been a relatively mild winter!
Meadow Pools are still holding a few Wigeon; plenty of Teal; a pair of Tufties have just arrived; a couple of Little Grebe about and Moorhens in plenty. On the flooded meadows, now drying back a little, Green Plover, Pied Wagtails, and Pipits - the Black-tailed Godwits seem to have passed through by now. But Redhank and Curlew seem to be staying with us - good sign this, as a lot of work had been carried out on these meadows, this last winter ( and I mean a lot!) to create good wader breeding habitat.
As the sun was coming out on the Lonning, the buzz of insects: hoverflies and bumble bees, was much in evidence. On down to the the hide at the end, overlooking the wetland - plenty of water still here. Oh boy! There was the Great White Egret in close company with four Grey Herons, fishing the lagoons and reed beds - though, after a while, the Egret took itself off to sit on its favourite place on a stump on the edge of the flooded birch woodland, where it can overlook in peace, what has now become its domain! Here it can get away from the bothersome Herons and Black-headed Gulls and sit in the sun digesting its food and having a preen.
There are still plenty of duck: Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon and Teal - disporting themselves and generally sorting out their differences - as duck do! Then to cap all this, in the new pool slap in front of the hide, a female Mallard appeared with her tribe of very small ducklings. She was avidly feeding in the rushy weedy margins - stirring up the food and making this immediately available to the ducklings. But a note of caution here! She will have to be very careful of ever present dangers: Buzzards, Harriers, Herons, Egrets and Carrion Crows … ducklings would make a very tasty snack! But Mallards are good mothers - they need to be! Even male Mallard attack ducklings in certain circumstances.
In contemplating all this, a large bird of prey swooped low over the wetland near the wood. My tired old eyes could not distinguish which raptor it was and the camera was busy elsewhere. But I’ll opt for a Peregrine, as it set everything up flying around. Even the Egret did a bit of a circuit too! But whatever it was, it can’t have been too hungry. These birds of prey do this just for fun … and practice, of course. On a nice fine day like this who wants to be bothered to kill something, pluck it, prepare it, fend off all the other parasitic scavengers and then have to eat it - when you can save yourself the energy and sit on a nice warm stump somewhere, have a preen and a sleep!. There’ll be time enough for killing when it’s got 3 or 4 ravenous young of its own to feed over the next few months!
Speaking of ‘ravenous’ - I feel an afternoon tea coming on. “Shall we go, dear?” I said to Judith, who was merrily clicking away with the camera still.
Hail showers passing along the estuary.
Hundreds of Oystercatchers sitting out the high tide.
Several thousand Barnacles flew west in small skeins, as the high tide flooded their inner estuary roosts.
A secretive Chiffchaff - singing from cover amongst the gorse at the entrance to North Plain Lonning.
Chiffchaff on marshside sycamore.
Black-headed Gulls mobbing a Grey Heron on wetland in front of hide.
Gulls chased these two heron over to the right-hand corner of the wetland.
Obviously this was a good congregating spot for the Egret and Herons.
The Egret soon returned to its favourite stump.
After some contemplation, a return to a more peaceful feeding mode.
Female Mallard guiding ducklings into the pool margins,
Female Mallard with her clutch of ducklings at the head of the channel in front of the hide.
Mallard ducklings seem keen to explore the channel.
Spotlight on the viaduct across the marsh - at the end of the day
Who says there isn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? ... we certainly have one!
the solway is looking beautiful this time of year.some fabulous photos.