Saturday morning, an enjoyable time of the week, a late breakfast had just been consumed and I was into my second cup of Douwe Egberts whilst casually scanning the estuary in front of me with my bins here at Campfield. Suddenly crashing into view came, what could only be described as ‘a regiment of horse at full gallop’ - banners and flags waving; horses plunging and rearing entering the waters of the Firth; small groups detaching and reforming; sounds of cheering and halooing - eventually coming to a stop, some of them up to their fetlocks in the surging waters of the Firth.
Now, without exaggeration, I can say that I was disconcerted by this rather hostile warlike manifestation on the Scottish side of the estuary. In my haste to get the scope focussed up I knocked the remaining contents of my Douwe Egberts into its saucer. Could this be a hostile act from the newly emergent Scotland? Intimidation? I thought these moments had passed into history and legend! Were we at Campfield about to receive the first wave? I can now honestly say that I know how Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces felt when about to receive a charge from Prince Rupert’s Royalist cavalry!
I was trying to gather my scattered wits and remember what re-enactment or pageant of border history this scene might represent - but at such short notice was unable to do so. However we’re a sturdy lot here at Campfield (exactly on the line of Hadrian‘s Wall and the mile fortlets), gazing out as we do across the estuary towards our Scottish cousins - and I resolved to look on this in the spirit in which it was meant i.e. a thoroughly good set of ‘sports’ having a great day out - frightening the pants off we poor English, once again!
We were, however, delighted to see them turn back towards Annan and their respective crofts and castles. Later in the day the sound of bagpipes and drums could be heard drifting on the northerly wind over the estuary - a scary sound at the best of times! It’s hard here living up on the Solway. You people in the south lead a very sheltered life, you know!
It may be of some interest to note that the annual Shelduck moult migration which we have been observing at this very spot for the past few weeks, now seems to have taken place - as there was no sign of a single Shelduck here on the channel this morning.
Could this historic annual event; the Annan Riding of the Marches taking place in July, have any bearing on the mass departure of Shelduck to the Heligoland Bight for moulting and safety?
Link to Annan Riding of the Marches: http://www.annan.org.uk/rom/
Shelduck flying - Scargavel Point
Raised Moss and Boardwalk, Bowness Common - looking towards Criffel.
Strange thing to have to say … there was definitely a feeling of Spring in the air in spite of the fact we were well into the middle of June. Some of the Ash trees in the area hadn’t even attained their leaves! But there was a spring in our step as we set off for the lonning - might have been something to do with the sugar-rush from the excellent chocolate macaroons we had just consumed with our coffee after lunch though..
There was definite warbler activity: Sedges, Willows and Chiffchaff singing at intervals down the Lonning, declaring their territories. Interesting thought here … one very often hears the same species singing in very nearly the same area, year after year. Unlikely that it is the same bird returning after migration, bearing in mind the fact that small birds don’t live that long. Could it be that it is the young returning to their birthplace - in my humble opinion, a more likely explanation.
Having reached the hide, which is our usual destination and farthest extent of our daily ambles - encouraged by glimmers of sunlight and the skipping lambs of the guest flock from the Haweswater Reserve; calls of Curlew, Green Plover and Larks filling the air - we decided to explore further reaches of the Reserve.
Out across the wetlands; through the birchwood bright with Spring greenery; the singing Whitethroat and Lesser. The Lesser, displaying an unusual activity for this normally secretive bird, was flying around one of the old cattle ponds, alighting on the leaves of the flat floating water plants and delicately collecting the insects that were there upon. A good indicator that it had a nest nearby. Judith managed a few record shots of this elusive bird.
Onwards through the wood out onto the Moss and across the Boardwalk - adventure indeed! With lizards sunning themselves at regular intervals but, on our approach, quickly disappearing under the Boardwalk. Yes Folks! - some of you may remember the popular hit from the 60’s by the Drifters! For those who of you who don’t - ask your Grandad! Oh happy times! - but I digress.
The major phenomena that became noticeable - the regeneration of the Cotton Grass and Bog Myrtle in areas where last year’s fire had swept across the Moss. The Cotton Grass being far more prolific and showy than on areas that had been spared the blaze. This was particularly noticeable as the Boardwalk had then acted as a very effective firebreak … Conservationists and Fire Officers, please note! The Boardwalk itself had suffered no damage in the process owing to the fact it was made of recycled plastics but was, in appearance, scarcely distinguishable from natural timber. It has now been in position for some years and is still standing up and looking good - although it was constructed on very wet and unstable ground.
It was a joy to note Stonechats, Reed Buntings and Larks, all with obviously established territories - showing themselves at regular intervals despite the devastation of the previous Spring, indicating that the disaster of that blaze had not had a lasting effect, although we don’t have precise figures here. Dave, the Reserve Manager, will no doubt be collating such data in his usual thorough way. These surveys are a continuous process over nearly 1000 acres of the Reserve - some job!
Another fact that was born in on us immediately, was the apparent success of the bunding that has been taking place over the winter. This necessitated the use of four large diggers to create dams in 10, 20 and 50 metre squares, to retain water on the raised moss - ensuring its continuity, as these mosses are now becoming a unique but threatened environment. We feel we are so fortunate to live on top of such a system here on the Cardurnock Peninsula - with the RSPB and Natural England working together on this great project.
Chaffinch singing - with a beak full of cranefly.
Welcome to the Lonning.
Yellow Flag - Meadow Pools.
Secretative Wren in hedgerow.
Reed Bunting with fledglings.
Sedge Warbler keeping an eye on us.
Large Red Damselfly - plenty of these were about today. This one landed on the track.
Lesser Whitethroat hunting amongst water plants.
A secretative bird.
Hiding amongst the sedges.
Male Azure Damselfly flying over wetland pools.
Grey Herons on wetland - seen from path to the wood.
Brave birds are Lapwing - seen here chasing off a Grey Heron.
Looking back across the wetland towards the hide and screen.
A very twitchy Whitethroat perched on Bog Myrtle.
Common Lizard basking in the sun on the Boardwalk. No fear of treading on them though - they quickly disappear under the treads.
Yet a further male Reed Bunting declaring its territory.
Cotton-grass growing in wet margin of the boardwalk.
Cotton-grass flowering profusely on the righthand side of the Boardwalk in the area devastated by fire earlier in the year.
Further evidence of the effectiveness of the Boardwalk as a firebreak.
Illustrates how quickly the Moss vegetation regenerated after the blaze in February.
Remanents of blackened heather.
Across the moss south towards Skiddaw.
Skylarks can be seen and heard declaring their territory - therefore it would seem that there had not been any longterm damage to their habitat.
New bunds successfully holding water.
Evidence of water retention of newly constructed bunds.
Male Stonechat right in the middle of the moss.
Stonechat declaring this as suitable territory.
Who would have thought to find such beauty in this wild place!
Yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea).
White Water-lily ( Nymphaea alba).
Common Marsh Orchid nearby.
Looking back across the Moss
The following images suggest some of the additional things your sharp eyes could see on a visit to the Campfield Marsh Reserve - from mid July to late August.
House Sparrow in a crevice of the barn wall near the car park.
A juvenile Woodpecker possibly using the farm bird feeders.
Pied Wagtail flitting about near the farm buildings.
Tawny Owls can be seen flying around the farm buildings.
Swallow on telephone wire, North Plain farm.
Barn Owl hunting.
Barn Owl Flying over the Lonning - perhaps we were being checked out!
A Little Grebe on the Meadow Pools.
Curlew flying overhead.
Mallards are always around.
Moorhen - very prolific on the Reserve.
Moorhen chicks are 'runners' as soon as they hatch.
Male Bullfinch. - usually seen in the Lonning hedge. This one had been bathing in puddles on the track
Swift catching insects over the wetland.
Buzzard over the Moss.
Bar-taiiled Godwit and Oystercatchers on the tideline
Ruff and immature Blackheaded Gull in flooded Meadow
Oystercatcher high tide roost on saltmarsh.
FLOWERS, BUTTERFLIES AND INSECTS
Green-veined white on tufted vetch.
Peacock on bramble flowers.
Meadow Brown on thistle.
Small Tortoiseshell on bramble.
Ringlet on trackside vegetation.
Red Admiral on nettles.
Silver Y Moth on bramble flowers.
Bumble Bee on vetch.
Hoverfly on Dog Rose.
Flies on Hogweed.
Stands of Foxgloves can be seen all over the Reserve
Green-veined White on Rosebay Willow Herb.
Honeysuckle adorns the hedgerows.
Bindweed - a climber seen growing up the hedgerows.
DRAGON and DAMSELFLIES
Can often be spotted flying and landing on the Lonning track. Also seen on vegetation surrounding pools.
Common Darter on track.
Male Southern Hawker. From mid July onwards can often be seen flying up and down the Lonning on warm sunny days. If you stand still they have been known to land on you. They will not hurt you!
Comfortable viewing of the wetlands from the hide.