Blackwater dawn

The dawn appears slowly in the still air turning the horizon from deepest blue to dirty magenta, then split by a thin slice of electric orange. The black saltmarsh emerges olive green; the water in the narrow channels and open estuary is lit like smoked glass, catching every reflection.  The sun rises and briefly turns the sky into an inferno before the dawn evaporates to become the comforting light of day. 

The birds feed in the dark working the inlets and shallows; there are myriad teal swimming and paddling on the mud, together with wigeon, mallard and a dense flock of avocets.  Occasional redshanks and curlews lift from deep gullies near the sea wall in noisy alarm to quickly drop again a little way away.

The tide is slowly rising and running over the narrow causeway to Northey Island; birds fly upstream in small flocks to roost together on the seaward edge of sinuous islands of saltmarsh.  Hundreds of dunlin perch in tiers by the water’s edge looking out in unison, like football supporters staring from a stand, while a crowd of avocets swim on the pitch below.

There are changing views of mud, saltmarsh and water in the morning light; egrets in an ash tree, puffed up blackbirds in horn bushes that line the marshes. A water rail squeals from a patch of reed.  The teal, wigeon and waders all fly on approach and keep a safe distance from the muddy footpath that runs along the top of the sea wall.

The water remains untroubled by the wind and the cold air is warmed by the rising sun; dog walkers emerge to take over the early morning and the waterbirds appear entirely unconcerned as they sit out the high tide.

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