A Bevy of Birds*

 

Or: My Favourite Christmas Present Concluded (for now)

Crossing the Kent Viaduct

I didn’t get far after finishing my lunch before I was distracted again by Fieldfares and Redwings. Arnside, with its promenade, has pretensions to seaside resort status  – in fact I have some rather fine old black and white postcards which prove its history as a resort. At one end of the promenade is a small strip of formal garden with lots of evergreen bushes, many festooned with berries and, on this day also festooned with birds. Most of them moved when I passed, but not all…

I liked the way this Fieldfare was caught peering at me through the branches. One Redwing was unusually content to sit whilst I took a few photos:

I was on the far side of the flood defence wall from the bushes and so was partially hidden from the many birds on the ground beneath the bushes picking up berries and some food which somebody had obviously put out for them. Or at least they were trying to get the food and berries, but one very aggressive Fieldfare was seeing off all-comers.

It was very shady behind the wall, so the photos are not what they might have been, but the antics of this bird entertained me for quite some time so – here s/he is showing tail feathers to warn of a blackbird…

…these are my berries, I’m not eating them now but…

Striking another aggressive pose – it’s a shame that this didn’t come out more clearly (but there’s so much character here even though it’s blurred)…

Taking an opportunity to tuck in…

… and resting for a moment…

The small trees along the railway embankment were also heavily laden with a mixture of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings…

 

The next stage of the walk took me along the embankment of an old railway line, following the landward side of the salt marsh bordering the river Kent. It was bitterly cold and here the slightest of breezes made me feel that cold quite acutely for the first time.

Looking back along the embankment to Arnside Knot.

At this point the road crosses the embankment. It’s possible to cross the road and follow the disused railway line into a cutting, but I preferred to drop down onto the mud at the side of the estuary, thinking that it might be frozen and firm for a change. It was.

Rather dimly, I wondered why the snow here was only in isolated patches and not the deep covering I’d seen everywhere else. Then it dawned on me that the river here is tidal (this being an estuary) and that the sea would have been up over this area recently. So this must be ice…

Little forests of ice crystals. Clinging to every grassy hummock, or in any slight channels where water might have gathered…

 

In other places the mud was covered in a layer of thick glassy ice, elsewhere a layer of ice stood above the mud, crunching and cracking with every step.

In the river ‘icebergs’ floated in great clumps. As if to demonstrate what had happened, as I reached the river bank a large piece of the ice which had accumulated along the edge of the river broke off and fell into the water.

The ‘icebergs’.

Looking down river towards the sea.

A little further along the river, four Goldeneye, one male and three females, were practising their synchronised swimming in a gap in the ice…

I’d set myself the deadline of two in the afternoon as a final time before I should turn for home. In the back of my mind I also had the idea that I would like to get to where the Bela, one of the Kent’s tributaries, flows onto the estuary. But it had become clear that it wouldn’t be possible to stick to my deadline and reach the Bela. So, although it wasn’t quite two, I decided to head back through Storth.

The trees and shrubs in the gardens here were once again full of Starlings…

and Fieldfares…

From Storth my route involved following a minor lane, but with trees either side and Bullfinches (that song again) I could almost have been in the woods.

A Kestrel sat high in a tree top, quite content to let me get closer and closer…until I turned on my camera that is. The lane brought me to Hazelslack farm, which has an old Pele tower…

…much smaller than Arnside Tower.

One of the barns at the farm sounded like it was full of Starlings, and many were congregated on the guttering…

You can see the local peacocks on the tower walls in the background too, albeit out of focus.

From here I could pick up a path again. A Buzzard flew over, then I watched a small group of Goldfinches flitting from tree to tree by the path. As I approached Silverdale moss a Snipe burst from cover with a surprisingly loud flurry of wings.

Ice in Leighton Beck.

Another Buzzard appeared over the tree-tops loudly kew-kewing as it floated by.

Looking across Silverdale Moss to Arnside Tower.

The Cloven Ash is more cloven than it was last time I visited.

I was interested to see whether Haweswater’s great depth had protected it from the cold, but no, it too was frozen over.

Reed seed head.

Reeds catching the winter sun.

Where a bridge crosses the small stream which flows from Little Haweswater into Haweswater I stopped to examine the snow on the banks of the stream, optimistically hoping that I might see evidence of Otter activity. I’ve seen spraints here before, which is close as I’ve come to encountering the local Otters. Nothing, I’m afraid, but whilst I looked a Kingfisher loosed a surprisingly strident call and shot out, from under the bridge I think, and away along the stream. It was the briefest streak of bright colour, but magical none the less.

The last leg of my journey took me into Eaves Wood again. I was intent on catching the sun dropping down through the trees…

There were more Redwings and Fieldfares, but don’t worry – it was now too dark to take any more pictures. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned the rather enjoyable soft chuckling sounds of the Fieldfares – another tune to add to my small but growing list of birdcalls which I can recognise. One definite success since I decided to try to learn some bird songs and calls is the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and a pip-pip now had me turning back to see one high in the trees behind me.

* The collective noun for Fieldfares is apparently flock. For Redwings crowd. For Goldfinches I know that the word is charm. For Starlings a murmuration. And for Goldeneye it might be a wink. (But apart from charm this is all lazy internet research so take it with a pinch of salt.) What’s the collective noun for bird photos?

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A Bevy of Birds*

4 thoughts on “A Bevy of Birds*

  1. fatdogwalks says:

    “A magnificence of bird photos” Mark!

    Great stuff. I never manage to get close enough for such clear photos. I had never thought of tidal ice crystals either – amazing detail in them.

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    In retrospect, I think that I might have been guilty of fishing for compliments there – thanks for obliging Ken!

    It was a great day all round Dad.

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