Seabirds and serendipity

Every now and then an event occurs which reaffirms ones faith in human nature. Just such an event befell me last week whilst away on a trip to the coast near Lancaster and Morecambe.

On Friday morning I was wrapped up against the driving rain and howling wind taking photographs of seabirds on Morecambe beach which is situated on the Irish Sea coast just south of the Lake District. Morecambe Bay is vast, when the tide goes out it leaves square miles of mudflats which provide vital winter sustenance  for thousands of seabirds. It is also a source of great danger to humans because there is a lot of quicksand there, and when the tide comes in it does so extremely quickly and can cut the unwary beachcomber off with no escape route. Consequently I didn’t wander onto the mud, I waterproofed myself and sat on the end of the Promenade where the birdlife was plentiful and, with a little patience, came reasonably close.

A majestic shelduck making ttracks in the mud whilst looking for breakfast

The shelduck (Tadorna tadorna, Dansk: gravand) is a large duck with a wingspan of over a metre and is both native to the UK and a winter migrant. It’s mainly found on the coast and in estuaries but can also be seen on lakes (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen one inland). They feed on molluscs and crustaceans of which the Morecambe Bay mudflats are bursting at the seams. So a good place for a hungry shelduck to be.

I like photographing waders because I generally only get to do it at the coast, and one of my favourites, because I think it’s an elegant little bird, is the redshank:

Redshank – Tringa totanus, Dansk: rødben, demonstrating how it got its name

The redshank also sifts molluscs and crustaceans from the estuarine silt and is a skittish little chap known as the ‘sentinel of the marsh’ due to it’s habit of being the first species to take to the air when flushed.

Several flocks of oystercatchers were also scouring the manmade rocky outcrops strategically placed to guard against storm tides, and were also patrolling the mudflats. They were anything but skittish, unlike the redshank, and ventured close to where I sat and seemed highly adept at finding shellfish and extracting the delicacies within.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus, Dansk: strandskade) feasting on the contents of a mollusc shell

So my morning was splendidly wiled away in cold and sodden comtemplation of the ornithological treasures of Morecambe Bay. It was also my daughters birthday that day, so the afternoon was spent taking afternoon tea in the magnificence of the tearoom of the art deco Midland Hotel. The tea (and the champagne) was delicious and the views across the bay to the mountains of the Lake District were splendid

And that brings me neatly back to the event that reaffirmed my faith in human nature. On leaving the Midland I dropped my wallet as I was getting in the car. Serendipity was on my side because it was found by two lovely people from Manchester, Dave and Angela Williams, who had stopped off in Morecambe on their way home from the Lakes. As we were on the move I wasn’t easy to get hold of, but Dave and Angela persevered until we made contact and then waited until I could get back to Morecambe and gave me back my wallet complete with cash, credit cards, driving license etc etc. Which in my book is a very generous thing to do and for which I’m very grateful indeed. So this post is dedicated to them as a token of gratitude, and all other decent and honest people too!

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17 responses to “Seabirds and serendipity

  1. Great to hear you got your things back :) and lovely photos of the waders too – I’ve only seen redshank once and that was at a distance, they are delicate looking things aren’t they.

  2. Wonderfully heartwarming post about honesty and how most people will do the right thing :). Love the birds and hope you had a really excellent birthday high tea :)

    • Hello Fran, it’s good to be reminded there are decent folk out there! The birthday tea was very special indeed – it’s a hell of a location :-)

      • It certainly is :). We are starting to get a bit of cooler weather here. Had our very first “rain” (more than just a spit that sizzled and dried instantly when it hit the ground sending the dust in a POOF up in the air…) since early December the other day. The garden was in raptures and smelled absolutely amazing. Since we dealt with our feral cat problem all of the birds have come back and the garden is now ruled by blackbirds. I can feel their beady eyes on me whenever I venture down into “their” territory ;). Hope your weather is warming up. I know how you guys LOVE summer ;)

      • We do indeed love our summer. We don’t get a proper one every year so it’s a real treat when it happens. At the risk of tempting fate, so far this year is shaping up nicely!

        Our avian African migrants, the harbingers of summer, are returning, and the weather is lovely. So I’ve been out with my camera for most of the day and even managed to refelt my shed roof too.

        BTW, how did you deal with your feral cat problem?

      • I can’t say how we dealt with the feral cat problem only it involved giving a man a bottle of whisky at the end :(. Sometimes you just have to do things that you don’t like and I guess the buck had to stop somewhere. Our birds have returned! We have birds of all kinds everywhere including a very rambunctious and loud raucous white corella parrot in one of the trees down in the garden. We had that white goshawk again and I was trying SO hard to get a picture of it (while it was trying SO hard to get one of our little chicks…) that I trod in something nefarious that one of the dogs left out the back and I tracked it all down the deck as I was walking backwards looking skywards and when I finally got a good vantage point to zoom and click the sod flew away! Sigh…had to scrub the deck and didn’t even get a photo for my pains ;)

      • The perils of nature photography are indeed many and varied, but I can’t wait to see a picture of your goshawk when you’re not sabotaged by the dog.

      • Short of staking out baby chicks to lure him I never know when he comes to visit (by the way I in NO way endorse staking out baby chicks to lure goshawks! ;) )

  3. Lovely birds, worth braving the elements for I’m sure. I like that you can see birdy footprints in the mud too. I’m glad you got your wallet back in such a nice way too – girls’ birthdays can be expensive enough without extra stress!

    • Hello Theresa, the weather was foul but I was well wrapped up and sitting with my back to the wind and it was all very enjoyable. Could have done with a bit more light though.

      You’re not wrong about the birthday thing – and they get more costly as they get older :-(

  4. What a lovely, happy tale, and a grand day out: birds in the morning, tea, champagne and human kindness in the afternoon. That has given me much to smile about today, thank you, Finn, and a happy belated birthday to your daughter. I hope she enjoyed the teatime treat as much as I enjoyed reading this post. Lovely birds, too, by the way.

    • Hello Lorna, summarised as neatly as that it does shake down as a pretty good day :-) We thoroughly enjoyed the tea and cakes at the Midland (I think it’s a place you may appreciate!), the whole thing was a very pleasant experience. I’m a big fan of art deco too, so this place was a real treat for us all.

  5. Thank goodness for the honest ones! I’ve encountered them numerous times in my travels and have taken steps many times to play the part of the finder doing all possible to reunite the lost treasure with its rightful owner. The world is a better place because of the honest ones.

  6. Every now and then, one’s faith in humanity is renewed. Isn’t it nice when that happens? Lovely photos of those waders and shorebirds by the way.

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