Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Redundant Hide

In November it can rain for hours, but in the last days of the month, there are often intervals of dry, sunny weather. It’s mild as I head out on the long trek to Whiteford lighthouse at the northwest tip of Gower. It’s a long walk, but always well worth the effort.

It’s high tide, and from the old seawall below Cwm Ivy Wood I can see for miles. Birds are airborne, pushed by the tide from the myriad of deep pills that crisscross the marsh. Gulls and shelducks usually rest up on the flats, but like the waders, they too have been driven off.

The damp path towards the point is higher than the flood, but passable. Ponies shelter along its edges, and some are stranded on the few patches of land out in the marsh not covered by the water.  Lapwings and golden plovers gyrate in a single flock on the other side of the marsh at Landimore, and I can hear curlews. It’s amazing how quickly the tide recedes here.  By the time I reach the conifer plantation, there’s enough exposed land for a flock of widgeon and teal to settle back, and in no time at all the gulls arrive. As the water races back to the sea, the ponies drift out onto the marsh, their hoofs squelching in the wet turf, and by the time I’ve reached the hide the tide is history.

The hide at Whiteford is a peculiar thing. Originally sited on a sand-spit in front of a wide channel, for decades it provided close-up views of birds just a few yards away, but now it’s rather redundant. Over the years, the dynamic nature of the sand dunes, and the estuary has radically changed the topography here. The hide now sits in the middle of nowhere, serving more or less as a refuge from the weather, or as convenient place to rest and have lunch.

The real spectacle however is still at the lighthouse. As I round the point, thousands of oystercatchers take to the wing. This is what I’d come to witness, and the effort of getting here was more than worthwhile. I’ll come again in mid-winter when there are even more, but finding a day free of inclement weather at that time of year may not be easy.

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