Saturday, 26 November 2011


Cacophony – dictionary definition:

ca·coph·o·ny [kuh-kof-uh-nee]

1.  harsh discordance of sound; dissonance

2.  a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds

The sun is shining on the little patch of mud that I know so well. I'm back on Thurstaston Beach and everything seems to indicate that it is lunchtime. I am chewing on a particularly greasy pasty and there are plenty of Knot probing the muddy ooze for snacks.

Things are pretty calm.  I am spending another happy lunch hour in the company of the waders on the beach, looking for colour rings, studying behaviour and taking a few pictures. There are thousands on the shore today.

The wind is light, from the south and while not exactly warm, it lacks the biting edge you usually get towards the end of November. The only sounds are the wet slapping sounds of the birds dabbling in the mud. The only disturbance to this tranquil scene comes when a Crow wafts over the feeding flock causing them to flit briefly into the air....

....before resuming their feeding positions. All in all a serene scene.

The peace is shattered when the flock errupts into the air in panic. The sound of several thousand pairs of wings beating rip the silence to shreds.

The mixture of wingbeats and calls is harsh and discordant, all random sounds that have no tune, rhythm or meaning. A cacophony....

The reason for the panic is drifting towards us over the cliff that back the mudflats. A Kestrel.

It is after its lunch too, although it is not after any of the wading birds it has just spooked. Voles and beetles should fear this predator, not the birds. Even so they are zooming around in tight predator avoidance formation, incredibly fast, just a blur....

The sight and sound of so many birds engaged in ariel manoeuvres is breathtaking. Eventually they resettle on the beach but they are nervous now and anything seems to set them off. Soon they are off and flying in unison again.

Shades of grey ripple across the mudflats in a twister made of birds. The Kestrel accidently started a cracking lunchtime show. I follow him for a while as he looks for lunch, eyes focussed on the cliffs, talons folded but ready to drop on prey in an instant. Soon he stoops on something, I don't see what it is he takes but he is zooms away to eat in peace. My lunch is finished, the wrapper stuffed into a pocket. I look out over the flats and see the Knot have resumed feeding further out. The Kestrel has finished his morsel and is hunting again.

Yes, everything would appear to indicate it is lunchtime....

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