Female Marsh Harrier hunting over hide wetland.
The high tide series were starting to fall back - but with the gale, today‘s high tide had a really good push on it: white horses - the lot!
We decided to tackle the wetlands first. Battling down the Lonning, the willow trees and ashes were appearing to bend double - leaves thrashing across as the wind stripped the trees of their foliage which were already burned brown with the salt-laden air.
We reached the shelter of the hide with gratitude - a haven of warmth and calm. “Which self-respecting Harrier would dain to come out in this?” I said. Instantly, I had to eat my words! A wonderful female Marsh Harrier swung across the front of the hide, barely 30 yards away - soaring, skimming and swooping effortlessly using the gale, spilling the air through its pinions to side-step and jink, searching the reed beds and heading towards its favourite area of recently planted phragmites.
A farmer, two fields distant beyond the Reserve, was already ploughing in the barley stubble - attracting Gulls, Rooks and Jackdaws in a feeding frenzy. On seeing the approaching Harrier the whole scene erupted into panic. Eventually, though, she slipped away to the far Moss, beyond our sight . . . having granted us yet another great photographic opportunity!
Back along the Lonning towards the estuary, now with the wind behind us, we arrived on the marsh front with the tide already filling the new channel. The place was alive with duck availing themselves of the benefaction of the rapidly filling creeks and runnels. 16 Shelduck, newly arrived, were the first we had seen, freshly back from Heligoland. Several parties of Shoveler - heads well down in the water, sifting through the rich detritus with their massive beaks - it is a small duck really but under these conditions they seemed to be all head and beak. Good parties of Mallard in various stages of plumage; cavorting and feeding - complete masters of the tide. What a rich Autumnal sight this was!
As the tide continued to fill, the gale appeared to abate somewhat. Small parties of grey waders were observed, skimming low over the waves - heading for well known feeding spots nearby. The Great Pendulum has surely started to swing. We must all prepare for Winter, as we anticipate the Swallows’ departure and the arrival of the geese - those exciting visitors to the Solway.
The Marsh Harrier suddenly appeared in front of the hide - as if from nowhere!
A silent glide and it was at the causeway.
. . . hunting as it went.
Taking advantage of a sudden gust of wind to gain height.
Spotted something down there.
Cattle are always good for disturbing prey.
Intently surveying the rushes.
Heading for the beds of phragmites.
A sudden commotion amongst the Gulls and Corvids as they detected the proximity of the Harrier.
Back to the Estuary
Some of the newly arrived Shelduck.
Shoveler on the tideline.
Mallard and Gulls at high tide.
Flocks of Oystercatchers were dropping in as the tide fell back.
Waders and gulls accumulating on the mudflats as the tide receeded.