Friday, 18 January 2013

Fifty Two Shades of Grey....

Many people consider the Knot to be a rather plain, unassuming bird. Sometimes ignored, passed over in the search for something more colourful or rare.


Some people are not fond of Mondays. The start of the working week, the point furthest from the weekend, back to work or school.

I am of a different persuasion. My working week runs Tuesday to Saturday so Monday for me is a day off and one I enjoy. It is so much quieter than a Sunday, sometimes I can have parts of the Patch to myself on a Monday.

As for Knots, well, I spend an incredible amount of time looking for Knots. I love these birds, indeed I have followed them all the way to the furthest reaches of the Norwegian arctic (all being well I will be off chasing them again in the summer). Eventually if you look long enough you will find an unusual Knot...


So an opportunity to spend a Monday on the beach at Hoylake with about 20,000 Knot sounded like heaven to me. As people trudged bleary eyed back to work I was zipping down to the shore before high tide to await the flocks of waders being pushed towards the prom.


The tide is being accelerated shorewards by a fearsome westerly wind. In the distance there is the certainty of a shower of rain, but I'm ignoring that for now, hoping it stays away long enough for me to get some pictures. The flock starts its walk to the prom, I get the kit deployed and start to take some pictures.


As well as the camera I get the telescope out. With this many birds this close I fancy a few colour ring combinations can be read and the data passed to the project co-ordinators. The sheer number of legs looks daunting but I start to scan the forest of legs...


It will be tricky, the Sanderling move fast, but eventually a ringed bird breaks from the main body of the flock and I can get the colour ring sequence.


The combination of the rush of the tide, the calls of the birds and their wingbeats plus the wind makes a fearful cacophony. The beach is filled with white noise and the birds look like a TV screen snowstorm when they take off. They do this on regular occasions, they are all false alarms, we see no birds of prey. The birds remain vigilant....


The tide is bringing the birds closer and closer to the prom. By now several photographers and a good number of birdwatchers have assembled on the pavement. It was astonishing how close the birds came....


As the birds close in on the sea wall it occurs to me that the massed ranks of Knot look like the massed ranks of commuters that I alluded to earlier. The beach is their Wall Street "sidewalk" as they scurry along, all they need are bowler hats and briefcases and their transformation to business birds would be complete.


I look at the flock as it gets more and more dense. In my previous post I described them as looking like a thick sown crop. I still can't think of a better way of describing them. Alarm pulses through the flock like the breeze through wheat. Heads are raised to look for danger then drop when calm returns. When this happens shades of grey ripples across the sea of Knot.


More and more birds keep coming in, the flock seems reluctant to take off. With the height of the tide I was expecting them to take to the air and fly out the peak of the tide, perhaps the strength of the wind has kept them grounded. just when you think that no more can fit in to the flock anither drops in


As the tide reaches its fullness so do my memory cards, then the promised shower hits with vicious hail. I take this as my cue to hop the train the one stop home to get warm. I start to download the pictures as soon as I arrive home, I took so many pictures that by the time all the pictures are on the laptop I have made and eaten a plate of beans on toast.

There are enough pictures to see me through to the next set of big tides when I can rendez-vous with the Knots again....

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