We had been to town in the morning - not my idea of a fun day out! But during the drive back along the Solway marshes towards Campfield, our spirits started to lift. The weather was wonderful: sun beating down from a Summer Constable sky - you know the one with the little fluffy clouds; the marshes looked superb - sea asters in bloom; salt marshes bright green with cattle and sheep dotted about randomly over the whole landscape; the blue estuary and wader flocks indulging in aerial displays. Judith said,”the tide’s full now, let’s stop at the ‘stones’ (a point where the road runs right next to the estuary, with a sort of sea wall under it - where Hadrian had chosen to build his wall - wise man! … and here on the shingle below one can expect at high tide, to see a good collection of waders at almost anytime of the year - within only a few yards. Here, the waders generally seem to pay no attention to vehicles going up and down and, these days, with the advent of the Hadrian’s long distant walk ending up here, parties of merrily chattering walkers yomping and clattering along, seems to have no effect on the birds either.)
Today, we were really in luck. There was a party of in excess of 100 Ringed Plover and Dunlin resting on the stones, waiting for the tide to recede. I parked the vehicle as near to the edge as I dare, opened the driver window and vacated the seat to allow Judith with her long lens to start clicking happily away at the massed waders below her, whilst I cheerfully consumed the remainder of my chicken and salad sandwich packed lunch - birding at its best! Salad cream anyone?
By now, Judith, as high as a kite, said, “Let’s go along to the Saltmarsh Pool - there are probably loads of birds there too, on the high tide roost.” And so it proved to be: gulls wheeling; Oystercatchers in their many hundreds, now out on the sands as the tide was falling quickly; Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plover scuttling about, taking advantage of the newly delivered feast that the tide brings each day.
As we came up to the RSPB layby, we saw some of the Campfield work party there already, on their lunch break, gazing intently out over the scrape. Oh Heaven! What more can the day bring? A pair of Little Egret, newly arrived, were avidly feeding up and down the pool within yards of the viewpoint. Again, Judith got cracking with the camera. By now, she must have taken several hundred digi pics and the camera was showing signs of exhaustion - digi cameras do need to rest now and then! We were then able to engage in conversation with the work party folk who informed us that the morning’s task had been the pulling of ragwort and the ‘dabbing’ of rushes. For those of you who have not partaken of this particular activity, I can tell you that it is hard, backbreaking and boring - but necessary work. We compliment them on their dedication and persistence. A large group of them have been coming here every Thursday morning for now, to my knowledge, nearly a couple of decades - winter and summer alike. These people are what I call ‘conservationists’ - their dedication in assisting the staff here has made all things possible and helped to build and maintain the infrastructure of the Reserve to what it is today!
In conversation they drew attention to the fact that Marsh Harriers had been seen regularly on the Reserve over the last few days - a female and two immatures.
Our cup runneth over! A Solway day to remember.
Waders landing on the stones - Bowness railings.
Dunlin and Ringed Plover dropping in.
They soon settle down to rest and wait for the tide to go out.
Dunlin with a few specks of rain.
Feeding soon resumes as tide recedes.
Ringed Plover and a Dunlin preening and bathing.
Massed Oystercatchers on the tideline as the tide recedes - near Maryland farm.
Oystercatchers at the turn of the tide.
Saltmarsh Pool and marsh beyond.
Little Egret and Gulls.
Two Little Egret hunting together.
Fishing the edge of the pool.
This one had a yellowish ring on both legs - just too far away to read though.