Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The Battle for Cockles

When I was very much younger, I thought of common sandpipers as summer visitors, and I suppose that’s still true. In recent times however, as the climate has changed, more have overwintered. On winter days I love to sit with a flask of hot coffee by a small inlet of the Burry Estuary and watch the few birds that use the muddy shore only about 20 yards in front of the car. As the tide ebbs, the birds arrive slowly. I can always guarantee great views of black-headed and common gulls, which come down to bathe and preen with a few herring gulls, and nowadays little egrets are invariably there too. So close to the car, they’re a delight, as they dance about feeding in the shallows. Mallard and teal on the other hand are much more wary, and never seem to have the courage to get near.

Each winter I often find the odd common sandpiper here, which usually stays on the oppose bank feeding amongst the redshanks. There’s often a single lapwing too, and since I visit about every two weeks, I guess it’s the same bird each time; it’s odd to see just one lapwing.

The great flock of oystercatchers, now at least 10,000 strong, is way out on the mudflats feeding on cockles, but even at this distance I can hear them. Two cocklers trudge through the muddy river in front of the car, shattering the peace. They’re off to compete with the oystercatchers, and continue the long-standing feud between man and bird as to who has the right to gather cockles on this estuary. The birds have been doing it for much longer, and so probably have more right.

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