Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Come around sundown....

Sky clear and ice blue at the horizon grading to cobalt overhead. Sun dazzling except for the few sheltered spots that remain frosted. Grass scortched white as if from a negative fire. Air is cold, sharp as you inhale, foggy on the exhalation. No wind, smoke rises vertically from a fire. Steam from the cooling towers looks like candy floss.

I notice all this as I wait for the sun to set. It's going to go yellow-orange-pink then dark indigo to blackest night. I'm going to start my birding as many others are on the way home. The tide will be flooding the flats as the sun sets and if the last couple of days are a marker for tonight then it's going to be a great show.

It is.......

The stage is set and the assembled cast of thousands do their stuff.

The stillness amplifies the wet spattering of 100 or so Black-tailed Godwits stitching in the shimmering mud. Where they haven't piped the sand it is smooth like glass, where they are feeding the mud is rippled and messy. Dunlin are wandering through the legs of their taller cousins and are ignored by them.

Redshank are still in loose rag tag lines across the flats. They feed like this when hunting by sight, forming up into tighter groups when the light has faded to hunt by touch, I presume to pass around info on good feeding spots? Anyone know different?

The Dunlin go up, "preep"-ing in alarm as the do so. The Redshank look around, the Blackwits don't bat an eyelid. Calm returns and so do the Dunlin. I'm birding by silhouette now as the sun has dipped lower and is right behind all the birds, all detail has been lost, only outlines remain.

And sounds, a Curlew bubbles it's call. So loud and clear on the still cold air that it gives me goosebumps. The scene before me is one of true beauty. Next noise is the applause like sound of several thousand Knot errupting from the flats in synchronised panic. This usually means a Peregrine is about but all I see today is a Carrion Crow fly over them. The flock continues to wheel and careen around for a while...

In stark contrast to so many in such agitation a single hefty Grey Heron lifts from the channel and starts a languid flight along it. After several big flaps of it's wings it seems to get bored with the effore of flight and flops back into the still water to resume fishing duties.

I'm the only one on the beach at this point. So many people glued to Deal or No Deal or some other waste of retinas right now, they are missing a treat. Part of me is totally fine with that, I like having a private view of this show.

The Blackwits are feeding close in now, but if there is a ringed bird in their number I'm not going to see it. They are black shapes moving against an orange backdrop. A few more fly in as the outer flats flood and birds bunch up. I see the Knot on the edge of the tide and along the channel. Small squadrons take off on short sorties over the water, some join together into bigger waves, some disappear as if on secret missions.

Light is amazing now, yellow-orange but not like citrus. Perhaps it's the cold that stops it feeling lemony.
More Blackwits come arcing in to join the group in front of me. The light shines through spread primaries as they apply the breaks. That is what I'll remember. The light through feathers, radiant and fleeting, disappearing as wings are folded and heads drop to the floor for bills to slip into rich mud.


When the sun finally sets I leave the birds to it and slip away feeling chilled out and chilled through but glowing warm with a contentment that cannot be spoiled by news about greedy and disloyal football players.

£50 million can't buy you an atmosphere like the one on the Dee this evening.

back of the net......

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