This typifies Campfield Marsh on a late April afternoon - sun coming in at a low angle under storm clouds. A wonderful colour combination: dark grey April skies and blazing gorse.
Male Great Spotted Woodpecker seems to be hording a small delicacy in hole in the tree trunk. He is already in pristine breeding plumage but is an avid visitor to local feeding stations - much easier than battering your brains out trying to find the odd grub!
Wonderful Mallards - obviously paired up. They seem to spend a lot of time wandering about the meadows and pools searching for an ideal nesting spot. The male has to spend a consisderable amount of time fending off suitors to this fine female.
Long-tailed Tits, now breaking up from their winter groupings, are seeking territories. As can be seen from this image - foliage is very sparce and temperatures are well down, but the prolific gorse on the edges of the saltmarsh provide sheltered likely spots for their summer activities.
Small skeins of Barnacle Geese against angry skies - storms slowing down their inclination to move north. Numbers in the region of 10K, still hanging around the saltmarshes of the Inner Solway, is quite usual amongst Barnacles who are the last to depart for their northern breeding grounds. They never seem to be in a hurry to leave their beautiful winter home!
Winter parties of Shoveler now breaking up into pairs - seen here on flooded meadows along the Lonning.
Willow Warbler seen here along the Lonning hedge (25 4 13) - but very little singing going on yet! Would indicate no hurry to establish territories on the part of these much travelled birds - they need a bit more sunshine yet!
Wood Sandpiper 27 4 13
Wood Sandpiper, appearing in flooded meadow, caused a bit of a stir amongst the assembled birders on the 27 4 13. There was a bit of pushing and shoving at the middle screen amongst the photographers (a bit beyond most people's camera ranges) . . . all very good natured, of course.
We get a pair of Tufted Duck most years on the Meadow Pools. These two are obviously displaying (27 4 13) - but they never seem to produce young here. One can always hope!
Heron hunting the productive flooded meadows in front of the hide. They are always good for a photo and often by their nature, produce action: stirring up other birds and generally being naughty. They in turn are subjected to a good deal of mobbing by Gulls and Crows.
Nice shot of Barnacles swinging in close to the saltmarsh as they round Scargavel Point keeping out of the wind. Seem to have collected a Shelduck for company. Interesting to compare sizes: the Shelduck appearing to be equal in size to this small goose!
Small groups of Bartailed Godwit drop in from time to time - resting and foraging on the edge of the tide on their passage north.
28 4 13 - Resident Oystercatcher foraging on the edge of the saltmarsh amongst the rich detritus left by the receding tide.
Chiffchaff at the entrance to the Lonning on sycamore - very little song yet! Chiffchaffs are late this year to give us their monotenous yet distinctive two notes. Here we are at the 29th April and, as can be seen, the sycamore buds have hardly opened!
Splendid male Reed Bunting in good breeding plumage (with female present) in a very probable nesting area i.e.low scrub bushes and plenty of reeds. They will have had a good winter feeding on specially planted crops on the Reserve. Strange though, these birds seldom come to bird feeding stations where the living would be very easy for them?. . . same applies to Linnets, Pippits, Twite. Extremely rare in gardens. Do not seem to be attracted by the feeding activities of other birds!
The Solway settles down to its northern night after a day of wild winds and showers.
First Green-veined White seen this Spring - 7th May
Spring's late this year! That seems to be the general consensus after a long cold wet winter, as, indeed, have been the last two. Plenty of evidence here for climate change. We can all observe various manifestations of this phenomena: some plants and flowers doing very well, others failing to appear. Strange bird movements, for instance good numbers of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch arriving and staying in our gardens whereas the previous year there were just one or two. Could this be that we humans have been stimulated into greater activities such as bird feeding (cause and effect).
Good numbers of Siskin feeding on sunflower hearts. Their presence has been seen for nearly two months now.
Up to 20 Siskin, 8 Goldfinch, 2 L.Redpoll and a female Brambling were counted on 10th April.
Again Lesser Redpoll, having been here for some six weeks, still enjoying the niger seed.
In our own case going back to plants, the damson blossom in our orchard appears to have been very poor, as indeed it was last year - with no obvious reason i.e. no obvious frost or gales. Last year, the blossom was good but there seemed to have been a dearth of honey bees – the Bumble bees and Hoverflies were there in abundance giving us the hope that they might have filled the void. Not so, as the crop was very poor! This year even the Bumble Bees and Hoverflies arrived belatedly. They were not able to avail themselves of the the blossom, such as it was, leading us to expect another poor fruiting crop this year. Bad news for Redwing and Fieldfares next autumn who tend to visit us in good numbers on better occasions, filling the orchard with their chatter and activity. This last Autumn they seemed to disappear quite quickly, as did the Waxwings due to lack of hips, haws and fruit generally - apparently back to the Continent to more prolific pastures.
This year's damson blossom was starting to die back before a few warmer days brought out Bumble Bees and Hoverflies to pollinate it.
Waxwings feeding briefly on a neighbours apple trees last Autumn. We can hope that this year's fruit and berry crops are OK.
Which brings me back to the fact of poor harvests being bad news for us all e.g. our deep freeze is very low on damsons and we are having to crack open our 'special vintage' damson wine which we were keeping! Oh, the suffering! We all agree it's been quite difficult - this climate change: supermarket prices rocketing and food shortages. This, we all know, is not a new situation – it's how you deal with it that counts! Farmers are now in dire straights; many on the verge of bankruptcy – and we are increasingly in competition with other nations for food products. It would seem we must do more to help ourselves (no longer can we rely on grain and butter mountains), we have done this before on this island, of course, and can do it again. Each person take it on themselves to provide a certain amount of food produce - however small that contribution may be. Allotments, for instance, are a great institution and can provide not only food but healthy exercise, social interaction and get us all off our couches and away from the TV etc. – to mention but a few benefits. The sight of families gathered round a small shed or working their individual part of the plot, picnicking in the sunshine and gathering a basket of lettuce, radishes, potatoes and beetroot, is a happy one to behold! Where no allotments are available, perhaps a section of your own back lawn or flower beds turned over to this gainful activity, is not beyond imagination - aesthetically, neat rows of salads, pulses, root crops and brassicas are not to be underestimated!
John rotovating part of our garden to make another vegetable bed.
Raking the soil.
. . . and Judith planting it up with potatoes under the Blackbird's watchful eye.
Holes being prepared to plant marrows, corgettes and squashes.
Blackbird again lending a helping hand.
Young people get pleasure from harvesting crops they've helped to plant earlier in the year.
Runner beans soon outstrip the planter.
Finding new potatoes is almost as much fun as a Treasure Hunt.
I have to say at this point, it's all been done before – when the nation 'Dug for Victory'. I can see your eyes glazing over and your hands thrown in the air. “There he goes! Should have known it! The old codger on his hobby horse again! He should know better – we just don't have the time these days!” Not true! People in the 1940's worked longer and harder, without cars and mod cons, for less money and were a sight slimmer than today. Agriculture expanded and innovated in ways that had previously not been attempted. Let the farmers develop new crops and new technologies that can be beneficial to us all. In the 1940's many things were found to be possible when push came to shove: society changed; women entered the workplace; the NHS emerged – a world beater; new social housing; new schools. The money was found; bureaucracy was short-circuited and the nation pulled together as never before. I personally, will never forget the sight as a child of all the men of our terrace and two neighbouring avenues emerging from their houses carrying spades, forks and rakes - walking, nay, marching down to a piece of fallow spare land, marking it out into plots and digging it over in the space of a Spring evening (accompanied by wives and children) to create a wonderful allotment.
The means can be found if the will is there – just as surely today as it was then!
Fruits of our labours
The marrow patch in 5 weeks later.
Starting to fruit - mid July.
. . . they are quite a decorative plant too.
Picking peas - early July.
First potato crop - early July.
A variety of different beans coming along nicely - early July.
Raised beds are a most versatile way of growing vegetables - August.
Some of the August harvested crop . . .
. . . and produce.
A fairly strong westerly wind was blowing with intermittent sunshine. Good flocks of waders were landing on the tideline at high tide. A mixed flock of finches has been frequenting the marsh and hamlet. Later on in the evening a Heron and a Little Egret were seen on the wetland in front of the hide.
Group after group of Oystercatchers landed on the mudflats near West Common at high tide - possibly seeking the shelter of the point.
As the tide started to ebb a small flock of grey waders landed and promptly started to feed.
Three Cormorants having a good preen.
A small flock of Lesser Redpoll are still frequenting the area and are being attracted to the hamlet's niger seed.
Female and male Lesser Redpoll.
Siskin seem to spend a lot of valuable feeding time bickering.
There's a bit of a stand-off here too with the Greenfinch!
A bit of order is prevailing at last!
Campfield Marsh is quite a spectacle in May with its covering of Sea Pinks - not to mention the Gorse and May blossom along the fringes.
Back to farm and estuary - we continue along the coastal road round the Cardurnock Peninsula. Within a few hundred yards of North Plain farm we arrive at the lay-by near to Maryland farm which overlooks the Saltmarsh Pool which is well-known for its occasional exotic arrivals. You can mostly be guaranteed sightings of wildfowl, waders and gulls from the lay-by – very popular amongst local birders.
Two Little Egret hunting in the dubs on the saltmarsh almost opposite the entrance to North Plain Farm - October.
A small group of Ringed Plover in the same area, hugging the shore as the tail-end of Hurricane Katrina hit the estuary - October 2011.
Shoveler following them along - 12 9 2011.
Oystercatcher, Gull and Starling groups beating westward too, against the full force of the gale - 12 9 11
A massive amount of activity could be seen, looking along the marsh towards Saltmarsh Pool, of birds seeking shelter here - 12 9 11
Looking back towards the viaduct at the height of the gale - 12 9 11
Flock of Barnacles on saltmarsh in front of North Plain Farm - 7 11 12
. . . with a leucistic Barnacle amongst them.
Flock takes to the air - 7 11 12.
Lay-by near Maryland Farm and information board - overlooking the saltmarsh, Pool and Criffel beyond.
This is a very popular viewing place especially for rare migrants. Here a local group of birdwatchers have gathered.
. . . all enjoying the activity of the Saltmarsh Pool and the high tide roosts on the saltmarsh beyond.
A typical scene at an equinoctial high tide when the whole of the marsh floods - 11 09 10
A collection of waders waiting for the ebb. 11 9 10.
A good variety of birds to watch on the Pool - 23 10 12
Two Little Egret on Saltmarsh Pool - 19 6 12.
Two Spoonbill who put in an appearance on Saltmarsh Pool for a short while - 21 05 11
Great White Egret resting on Saltmarsh Pool - 23 10 12.
Grey Heron interacting with Great White Egret - 23 10 12.
Barnacles grazing beyond the pool - 19 11 12.
Should your energies allow, now progress along the small road towards the marsh gate, some half a mile further which denotes the western boundary of Campfield Reserve. In Summer this gate is closed owing to the cattle which graze the Reserve's saltmarshes but in Winter is open at all times. This road is still a public highway and right of way - do not let it discourage you. Having passed through though, most importantly, close it behind you. Should you not, all the valuable cattle will scatter into the Cumbrian hinterland – this does happen from time to time.
White-fronted Geese in pastures just through the Reserve's boundary gate - 16 3 12
The wide estuary pastures of the Peninsula are now available to view . . . . the wintering grounds of so many geese, swans and duck - for which the Solway Estuary and the River Wampool are so famous. But the words 'wild goose chase' take on a greater significance for you now as you motor during the Autumn, Winter and Spring months, as these flocks can be almost anywhere on the wide marshes and river estuary pastures – but that's the fun folks! That's why you are here. This is your adventure. Books have been written on the subject!
Pinkfeet on stubble near Cardurnock - 28 11 12.
Meadows around the blockhouses near Cardurnock.
Barnacle flock on a snowy day - 13 2 13.
Large numbers were flying by too - 13.2 13
Barnacles were still flying in whilst others continued to graze, undeterred by the snow - 13 2 13.
Another flock flying in to land on a later day - 4 1 13
They were very confiding and grazed quite close to the road - 4 1 13.
Barnacles grazing a meadow near the masts - 4 1 13
Further along the same meadow - 4 1 13
Flock of Golden Plover - 19 11 12.
Golden Plover and Lapwing - 19 11 12.
Viewed from roadside pull-in near Anthorn, looking down onto the saltmarsh. Always a good place - 19 11 12
Barnacles grazing the very short sward here - 19 11 12
Barnacles out on the mudflats near Anthorn - 5 11 12
They gradually piled onto the marsh to graze - 5 11 12.
Flocks of Barnacles and Pinks on the channel of the R. Wampool, viewed from the road through Anthorn - 5 3 13.
A bathing group in the channel - 5 3 13.
124 Whooper Swans in field next to the road - 5 3 13.
Part of the group with Pink-footed geese landing in the next field over the hedge - 5 3 13.
Some of them were resting - 5 3 13.
Same field but on a previous more icy occasion - 13 2 13.
Massed flocks flying over Longcroft Marsh - 5 3 13.
Pinks grazing the pastures on Longcroft Marsh - 5 3 13.
Small group of Whoopers with Lapwings - 1 12 11.
To best see the spectacle of thousands of geese flying, circling or contentedly grazing - sometimes within yards of the road - will keep you going through the hours of your visit or days of your holiday. To find out a little more, please read through the archive of this Blog page which covers 3 years of itemised monthly information. It's worth the effort folks – it will contribute to the quality of your stay – and don't be afraid to ask other people and local birders who will give you up-to-date information. The Pubs and Guest Houses of the area are great places to exchange the 'crack' (Cumbrian for talk)
Sunset over the Wampool Estuary - sunsets round the Peninsula are always worth seeing too.
Now we come to the 3rd part of the Blog, having dealt with accommodation issues. We can start to describe the main features of the area which is after all what you will be coming to enjoy, be it Spring, Summer or Winter.
In the case of birders, winter in the Solway area is of particular note owing to the wonderful suite of winter migrants that spend these cold months with us.
Starting within the village, there is an excellent facility known as the 'shelter', that marks the end/beginning of the Hadrian's wall trail - but is beloved of birders. Although it is open to the four winds, it gives a modicum of protection from rain and is approachable by a series of very good pathways and steps, all properly engineered in an area that we call 'The Banks', which slope steeply down from the village to the estuary – giving an ideal viewing point over the Solway itself. Should you go and take advantage of this facility, you will quite likely meet other birders, usually with an extensive knowledge of the birds you will see there out on the tideline or mudflats. High tide is a particularly good time for the use of this vantage point. The list of all species is legendary: from geese, ducks, swans, divers, grebes, petrels, auks and waders. The Skua Watch in Spring from about March/ April, is a current favourite amongst enthusiasts, as the Solway is proving to be a great flyway for this species crossing the country – which, of course, varies according to the weather and direction of the wind. Should you be so fortunate to meet one of the Skua watchers, they will tell you all the facts – their knowledge is encyclopaedic and their recognition skills beyond reproach.
The Banks' 'Shelter' on the estuary side of Bowness-on-Solway.
The 'Shelter' information boards.
. . . and excellent views to the outer estuary.
On the eastern side of the village the road sits close to the estuary with something like a quarter of a mile of railings, with a small car park at the end with room for 3 or 4 cars – allowing you an excellent view over the estuary and mudflats, where one can sit in the comfort of one's vehicle. At high tide, waders use the area of stones adjoining the road wall and, Should you remain in your vehicles, they will pay you no attention: Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Oystercatchers, Redshank and Spotted Redshank - with rarities appearing periodically. Should photography be your interest this is a good place for very close-up shots of waders.
Ringed Plover and Dunlin resting on the 'Stones' at high tide'
Large flocks of waders are pushed off the mudflats at high tide.
. . . coming into landing on the 'Stones'.
Public toilets can be found in the middle of the village from April to October, at Lindow Hall – but as yet they are not open during the winter months.
At the west end of the village where the road sweeps steeply down to the saltmarsh there is an excellent car park, recently tarmacked, which marks the beginning of the RSPB Campfield Marsh Reserve where again you can view the wide estuary. An information board describes what birds you might be likely to see. Also a bank of Waste and Recycling bins is there too.
Bowness-on-Solway car park at the west end of the village.
. . . and the beginning of Campfield Marsh RSPB Reserve
Onwards, onwards! The road skirts the saltmarsh, now essentially all the way round the Cardurnock Peninsula with many good viewing points, both official and unofficial, across the saltmarshes and estuary meadows. The North Plain Farm with its new visitors centre ( scheduled to open sometime in August) is approximately one and three quarter miles from the village, but between here and North Plain there is one official lay-by (near Biglands farm) with good saltmarsh wader roosts viewable, particularly at high tide; and a small nature reserve ( Bowness-on-Solway Nature Reserve) managed by the CWT, well marked with information noticeboards. Please park cars at the edge of the track or roadside, as the track in through the Reserve is also used by farm vehicles. This reserve is a gem in Spring and Summer for warblers and dragonflies, as it is based on a series of small gravel pits (now disused, but filled with water) – with safe well-posted walkways and viewing points in many different locations.
A group of Little Egrets flying along the estuary - seen from Biglands layby - 19 10 12
Barnacles passing along the estuary - November.
Back to the coast road where in places the gorse has been coppiced by the ever dedicated Campfield Reserve Workparty, allowing one to readily park up to view the estuary mudflats. The roads round here are very narrow and it is a good idea to park off-road, should your driving skills be up to it, as the tractors and farm vehicles are after all quite large and need to be able to progress unhindered in their daily tasks. There is a strong tradition in the area of us all respecting each others needs as there are no official passing places but everybody does their best, and a cheery thank you wave goes down well.
Campfield Work Party.
The workparty turns out in all weathers - November 2012.
Workparty coppicing the wide roadside verge near Byers Cottage - November 2012.
Job done - have opened up a good stretch of roadside gorse for excellent estuary viewing but still leaving places for nesting birds. December 2012
Earlier coppicing October 2010 - near Marlyland Farm.
They are a hardy lot!
Views and activity along the Saltmarsh and mudflats.
Gorse and rushes in April.
The saltmarsh in Winter.
Little Egret hunting in the dubs on the marsh - October.
Curlew on the tideline - May.
Shelduck in the channel off Scargavel point - June.
Oystercatchers at high tide - January
Oystercatchers feeding on invertebrates after a high tide flood - 28 4 13
Arriving at North Plain Farm( and Visitor Centre), which is quite well marked at the entrance, there is a cattle grid and side access gate with a hundred of yards of graded track to a car park to the left. Just at present there is building activity going on with respect to the new centre but the visitor's car park is well marked as dedicated to visitors. Building activities and cabins are well marked and caged – all the Health and Safety aspects are covered. This, of course, is a temporary feature as the car park area with disabled access is planned to have a surrounding wildlife garden, meadow and wetland planting, picnic area, bird feeding station and a wildlife discovery area. The visitors centre will have visitor information, toilets, a multi-purpose area for gatherings, and personnel available daily. The final chapter is in the making but it all looks wonderful so far.
The entrance track proceeds through onto the Lonning (North Country term for farm track) - again a graded surface with disabled access where vehicles with Blue Badges can proceed as far as the hide at the far end. At various intervals along the Lonning are pools and flooded meadows with viewing screens, again with some disabled access all year round - where ducks, geese, waders and swans can be seen at appropriate times of the year.
Roe Deer running down the Lonning.
Chiffchaff In April.
Willow Warbler, April.
Shoveler on Meadow Pool, May.
Orange Tip butterfly, May
Hare in buttercup meadow, June
Swallow collecting nesting material, June.
Chiffchaff with caterpillar, June.
Great Spotted Woodpecker with fledgling, June.
Sedge Warbler with insect, July.
Southern Hawker dragonfly on hedgeside vegetation - July.
Peacock butterfly, July.
Young Sedge Warbler, August.
Little Grebe diving on Meadow Pools - September.
Common Newt taking advantage of puddle on the track - October.
Ivy is not only beneficial to insects in October - when it flowers; but also to birds in Winter - for its berries. Look out along the Lonning for good clumps of it.
Wintering Whooper Swans on Meadow Pools - October.
Wildfowl enjoying the Autumn sunshine.
Male Bullfinch along the hedgeside - November.
Wigeon on Meadow Pools - November.
Whoopers with Mallard, Wigeon and Teal on Meadow Pools - January.
Flock of grazing Wigeon seen from the first screen - January.
Group of Wigeon - January.
Barnacles flying over the Lonning - February.
Teal on icy Meadow Pool - February
Mixed flock of Pinkfeet and Barnacles grazing the meadows beyond the floodwater - February.
Blacktailed Godwits on Meadow Pools - March.
Great White Egret, Meadow Pools - March 2012.
The hide at the far end of the Lonning is excellent, with seating and also disabled access and viewing – where from the Autumn to Spring, the wetlands are particularly good for wildfowl species - large numbers of geese and swans are frequent visitors. For up to the minute information there is a 'recent sightings' noticeboard near the car park. At the hide is small turning area for disabled suitably permitted cars.
Three generations of birdwatchers in the hide.
Teal displaying in hide pool - March.
Little Egret on hide wetland - April.
Grey Heron on wetlands - April.
Mallard with ducklings - from hide in April.
Wheatear picking about amongst jungus - April.
Kestrel hunting over wetlands - end of April.
Marsh Harrier hunting over the wetlands during the Summer.
Male Hen Harrier hunting across the jungus - Summer.
Wigeon preening in front of the hide - October
Wigeon on the causeway channel - October.
Great White Egret on the wetlands with other wildfowl - 25 10 12
Family groups of Whooper Swans on wet meadows - October.
A Whooper family taking off against the wood - October.
Large flock of Barnacles grazing on meadows near the hide - January.
Barnacles - close-up.
Barnacles taking off over wetlands - January.
Mixed flock of Pinkfeet and Barnacles resting near the hide - February.
Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler in front of the hide - February.
Beyond this point a well signposted track crosses the Reserve meadows, wetland and birch woodland - and thence onto a good boardwalk across the raised bog to Rogersceugh – a farm on a small drumlin. The board-walk has been provided because the moss can be very wet going and common-sense has to be used here. Along its length are appropriate information boards describing what you might see at different points. The farm is part of the Reserve, and has an open barn information and picnic area affording wonderful views of the whole of the Cardurnock Peninsula, the Solway and the raised bog system – where you are lord of all you survey! The open barn provides excellent year round all-weather shelter. Beyond this, the track continues, should you be so minded, gated and signposted to the Kirkbride/Bowness road where there are information boards and pull-ins for cars – again please do not block the gateway. Immediately on the opposite side of this road is an access point to Natural England's Glasson Moss Reserve.
Looking back across the wetlands to the hide and screen.
View across the raised bog and cotton grass. - June.
One of a number of good information boards along the route.
Lizard basking on the boardwalk - June.
Four-spotted Chaser on pool side vegetation - mid June.
The beauty of the Cotton-grass cloaks the whole area in June.
Insectivorous Sundews - October.
Skylark amongst Cotton grass - June.
Stonechat way out, on a bracken frond - June.
Replica seat overlooking Lily pool.
Pool overlooked by seat - June.
June is the time to take in the flowering of the Yellow Lilies on the pond, from the replica seat provided.
The White lilies too are beautiful - June.
Buzzards flying overhead - August
Male Black Darter on the boardwalk - August.
A further pool with Rogersceugh Farm up on the drumlin - April.
Reed Buntings were frequenting this pool - April.
Juvenile Reed Buntings in June.
Information board in the visitor picnic area in the open barn at Rogersceugh Farm.
Distant view from the farm looking over towards the estuary and the Scottish hills.
View from the boardwalk towards Skiddaw and the Lakeland Fells - heather in bloom in August.
Panorama, on returning back along the boardwalk towards North Plain farm - June.
This particular blog is by its very nature general and particular details as to what you might see, will be covered in other information sources and leaflets – all there for you to discover.
Part Four - continuing round the Cardurnock Peninsula - will follow shortly..