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Terns, Warblers, Bloody Crane's-bill, Trees (1 Viewer)

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria.
I'm only three miles from my front door but have had to drive seventeen miles to get here. There is a large river estuary in the way. I've come to see the breeding terns. I can see terns from my side of the estuary but only a few at a time. To see them all I need to be on the opposite side of the river.

It seems a bit quiet as I walk along the track towards the site. I start to worry that maybe something has happened to them whilst we've all been in lockdown.

Then I hear them. A couple of Sandwich Terns fishing in the shallows as the tide ebbs. A few minutes later there are Common Terns too, then best of all a couple of Little Terns. By the time I reach the first viewpoint I can hear them all. The wind had been carrying the sound away from me. How can such small birds make so much noise?

There are more of them now, flying past just a few yards away, carrying fish from the estuary to their mates on the island in the lagoon.

The colony is a bit overwhelming. I can't decide where to look first but try to be methodical. The Sandwich Terns are all tightly packed together as usual. Off to one side are the Common Terns, whilst on the other side are the Little Terns, looking particularly vulnerable out in the open by themselves.

There are Black-headed Gulls too, adding to the noise, and scattered amongst them Common Eiders, Eurasian Oystercatchers and Northern Lapwings, all apparently sitting on eggs. Common Ringed Plovers already have young, ridiculous balls of fluff on oversized legs. A pair of Great-crested Grebes have two chicks which scramble onto the back of the male whilst I watch. Their stripey heads soon disappear amongst the fluffed up scapulars of the adult as they cadge a free ride out into the deeper open water.

Second year male Red-breasted Mergansers are practising their entertaining displays whilst male eiders, presumably non breeding birds, are busy “Ah-oooh”-ing to any females that will listen. Little Egrets, Dunlin in their smart breeding plumage, and a few lingering Black-tailed Godwits are busy out on the intertidal flats

I turn away from the waterbirds and have a look through the scrubby vegetation. Sedge Warblers are belting out their fluty scratchy song whilst Common Whitethroats and Willow Warblers seem to be singing from every other bush. The unreal colour of Bloody Crane's-bill flowers helps to break up the fresh green of everything else.

I have a bit of lunch then drive up a long valley which leads up into the mountains. I'm intending to just check out the lie of the land following the easing of lockdown restrictions but I can't resist a walk in the woods.

It's a bit late to be seeing much in the way of birdlife now the trees are almost in full leaf but I can listen instead. In truth I don't see or hear much that I couldn't see or hear close to home but it's a joy to be in the woods again. A couple of Cuckoos are calling in stereo. The flowers are starting to bloom and several species of butterflies are flitting about.

I spend some time just looking at the trees. A former commercial forest of alien conifers is steadily being replaced by regenerating native woodland. It might not be quite how nature would do it but it's starting to look something like how the natural wildwood might once have looked with the mountains peeking over the tops of the rowans, birch and willow. If there are people who can come up with projects like this maybe there is hope for the human race after all.

I head back down to the car and try hard not to think about the method of transport that brought me here. I can't of course and I'm left to ponder the hypocrisy of what I am doing as I drive the short distance back home.


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Registered User
Lovely. Terns must be among my favourite birds, especially Little Terns, I could watch them for hours. And as for cars, we have all been there. I tell myself that at least in town we almost always walk or e-cycle (too hilly here for normal people to use ordinary bikes, but still, yes, we have had the very same thoughts very often. What happened to "your" Ringed Plovers?

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria.
"My" Ringed Plovers have disappeared from their nest site. I hope that means the eggs hatched successfully and the parents have led the chicks away to feed.
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