Spoonbills and sandwiches

August 30th

At Shellness, the flocks of waders and waterfowl are enjoying the easy pace of the balmy summer.   Swallows move along the beach in small flocks; a wheatear forages on the shingle. There is a late summer silence at high tide mainly because the Brent geese have not arrived. Sandwich terns are roosting on the point with the usual crowd of oystercatchers. Turnstones furiously work the high tide line along with a handful of sanderlings and ringed plovers. Shelducks dabble the narrow strip of exposed wet mud for tiny Hydrobia ulvae snails.

October 21st

The weather is remarkably warm and mild as if winter has been banished; the sea rocket on the foreshore, which normally flowers in high summer, is in full bloom.  Kestrels are hunting the roadside grasslands from every other telegraph pole, reed buntings, linnets and goldfinches bounce past and pipits dance from the saltmarsh. A handful of wary redwings are feeding amongst the flattened Purslane. Golden plovers and curlews roost on the arable fields over high tide whilst over 30 cormorants line the ness with the usual oystercatcher flock. Just offshore, large flocks of Brent geese constantly chunter to each other.  A peregrine storms through and the small waders on the foreshore panic into the air.  The highlight and a great surprise is a party of four spoonbills that circle low over Shellness Estate before heading west along the island possibly to Capel Fleet.  Beyond the point, a large flock of mallards sit in the choppy water facing into the wind. A few hundred yards up the main drain, a dozen redshanks roost on the steep bank and little egrets appear and disappear like white flags in the vast saltmarsh.

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