A day at the estuary – waders and kingfisher

JXUIE0962The sun graced the fine autumn day as I looked out upon the estuary. The tide was already rising fast and the water rippled steadily over the mudflats covering the wader bird buffet.

The golden plovers stood together on the muddied bank; plumage shimmering with their jewelled colouring in the autumn sunlight. The redshanks took no solace in the stillness of the plovers and continued to feed along the edge of the rising water – their red legs dashing about. The desire to avoid the increasing tide did not spread to this species as one continued to wade through the water to reach another mud island, appearing to almost swim at one point. The ringed plovers did not share their eagerness for the water but continued to busy themselves on the banks. The jet black summer front plumage of the grey plover is no more, replaced with their grey and white speckled winter appearance – still a beautiful sight.

The black-tailed godwits tucked their bills into their plumage as they waited for the tide to rise – standing proud amongst the mixed species crowd, their grey slate upper body plumage and longer legs being their distinguishing features. A curlew sauntered by the edge of the wader filled mudflat, lifting its head to display its majestic curved bill. Dunlin hurriedly continued about their feeding – focussed and content with their life.

A flock of avocets rested with their recurved bills tucked into black and white plumage on the far bank, while closer in view two little egrets dashed quickly across the water with their dinosaur gait.

The dainty white and speckled grey pattern of the greenshank’s plumage became visible, as its lime-grey coloured legs moved grandly through the water. It made its way across my view, continually looking for food, before it became obscured by a tangled bush whose roots get covered in water on a twice daily basis. In the straggly twigs however was a small (and when I say small I really mean teeny tiny) patch of blue that could just be glanced in the trees, like one element in a patchwork. Despite the poor vision there was no mistaking the presence of a kingfisher, albeit unfortunately on the other side of the plant. I waited hoping it would appear and then I was distracted by the greenshank and when I searched the tree again for the distinctive blue patch it had vanished. But it would seem that good things come to those who wait as a beautiful male kingfisher flew onto one of the twigs on the near side and presented a perfect view. It perched, waiting on its high up branch, then with a dash of energy dived into the murky depths below, appearing soon after with a fish! Quickly swallowing this morsel it left the tangled bush and flew in the direction of the ditch. I scanned along the line for this beautiful bird and sure enough he was there, perched, just waiting. For one so colourful he seemed to blend remarkably well into the brown surroundings of the bank and twiggy trees. I waited mesmerised by his patience as he perched, so routinely. Then I felt such glee as he swept down into the water, his wings angled to take the dive, emerging victorious with another fish! A quick bash on the branch and then this specimen was gone from view. I watched him for some time, who could fail to be enchanted by such a bird?

I continued down the path as long-tailed tit’s ‘si-si-si’ notes drifted through the air. The hedge was alive with their presence, such a sweet, delicate bird. Walking further still away from a day of waders and an unforgettable kingfisher, the cloud of long-tailed tits drifted past me calling to their own species as they went, not knowing I was listening, too.

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