Saturday, 1 July 2017

50 Years and Counting

It’s the time of year when the beach at Blackpill attracts more visitors than shorebirds, but there’s always something of interest to see. There are not many waders here in July, but it’s usually worth a visit at high water. Today’s neap tide means lots of uncovered beach around midday, so holidaymakers don’t disturb the birds too much. Black-headed gulls in summer plumage have increased in the last week, looking pristine in the emerging sunlight. They’re such a neat little gull, and go unnoticed by many, but I love them, and 30 or so bathe by the stream. Amongst the assembly a sub-adult Mediterranean gull, with its stouter bill stands out, and the first returning common gulls look clean against the motley collection of non-breeding herring and lesser black-backed gulls. Three preening little egrets wade in the shallows, and a flock of 80 oystercatchers rests on the sand spit. A couple of curlews, one motionless and asleep, the other standing by the water’s edge. Two black-bellied dunlins are busy feeding, and a single knot, head tucked under its wing and still in red summer plumage, also appears to be sleeping.

My friend along the seawall finishes his daily count of waders and gulls as he has done for over 50 years, packs up and leaves. Bob is passionate about his counts, and I wonder if he even noticed the family of pied wagtails busily fly catching on the thin line of flotsam above the encroaching tide.

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