Walking along the track from Swigshole mid-morning, the marshes on either side bristled with the hopeful energy of the season. The early buds of Blackthorn lined the path in places and old sounds, silenced by winter, were once again audible: a Skylark, a Dunnock and, most strikingly, a Lapwing. The bird was displaying over the wet grassland, a tumble in the sky and a low, graceful swoop, but fast like an invisible rollercoaster, and all the time uttering a sound that can't help but amaze.
I stood and watched a fine adult male Marsh Harrier over Decoy for a bit while several more birds appeared in the distance. Beneath it somewhere, hidden in the reeds, a Little Grebe tittered at an unheard joke. Several times I inadvertently flushed a female Sparrowhawk who eventually gave up her stealthy watch from the copse and took off past me, scattering a flock of nearby fieldfares. From the ditch a Cetti's warbler sang, but otherwise there was little that could match the large flocks of rooks for noisy conversation. For a visual spectacle however, there was no doubt...
Glancing over the marsh towards the river, I could see movement on the horizon. At first, a thin wisp appeared like a tentacle from some fantastic creature reaching over the sea wall, but in a second it had leapt skywards to form the remarkable cloud-like shapes above. From a mile away, it was hard to estimate a figure but I would say that 5000 starlings would be a low guess. After several minutes, it was gone, and the birds settled back into the grass, out of sight. I wonder if this restless daylight congregation is a sign of 'foreign' birds feeding up before dispersing back to the continent - another sign of the changing seasons and a hint of the riches, and wonders, to come.
|Mute swans (Cygnus olor)|
|Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) conspicuous on the marshes|
|High tide at St Mary's Bay|
|View across St Mary's marsh. The combination of standing water and muddy, |
poached tracks of crazing cattle attracted a huge number of starlings and
Black-headed gulls - Mediterranean gulls cannot be far away now
|Looking back on St Mary's Bay, the river and Southend in the distance|