11 March 2020

· Wirral ·

High Spring tides were forecast for lunchtime, so I headed off to the Dee Marshes. Parkgate was full to brimming for the promised extravaganza, so I drove up to Gayton to avoid the crowds.

Spring tide, Dee Marshes, Gayton

I’d never seen the tide so far in before. The marsh was completely submerged. The local birds were extremely agitated. Flock after flock headed up the estuary in search of dry land. Pink-footed geese, a few shelducks, teal, and hundreds and hundreds of curlews, redshank, and oystercatchers. There were gulls as well, a couple of egrets, small flocks of dunlin, and a single kestrel.

Redshank
Redshank

I stood at the edge of the marsh for a couple of hours, watching wave after wave of birds pass by. I had no idea there were so many birds on the marsh. Warm sun sparkled off the incongruous water, but the breeze was strong and chilly. So, every so often, I had to retreat to the car for warmth.

As the tide began to subside, birds began to return, jostling for footholds on emerging banks of grass. Then a peregrine shot past. She made a half-hearted attack on a nearby flock of redshanks, then headed off low across the marsh. Through my binoculars, I could see she was heading full-tilt for a large group of waders on a grass-bank far out on the marsh. She kept very low—presumably to avoid detection, but also, maybe, to avoid having to attack downwards, towards the water. The waders were oblivious of her approach. When they finally spotted her, all hell broke loose. Panicking birds scattered everywhere. I soon lost sight of the peregrine in the mayhem, but it was easy to tell where she was as the chaos rippled back and forth along the bank.

A thrilling spectacle.

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Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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