Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 25, 2013

The company we keep

Crisp autumn sunshine washed over the shore of an ebbing tide, with – aside from the transient presence of occasional passers by – only the shorebirds for company.  This might sound rather more like a lonely stretch of North Sea coast than somewhere on the edge of a large town beside the widening gape of the Thames Estuary.  But there you have it.  Wherever the coast is close the experience of a wilder place is always at hand. It is a length of beach I know well enough, just the other side of Southend and distant from the clamour of ‘the seafront’.  The birds with me were mostly Turnstone, with one or two Oystercatcher and a single Sanderling among them.  It often seems that when such birds are within their element their toleration of human presence, if unobtrusive enough, is often one that allows for close observation.  Certainly the Turnstone that winter around these parts become extremely abiding, in places scurrying around beer garden benches by the seawall for dropped seafood and crisps as one might expect Starlings would.  I am freshly amazed each year to think that these birds have journeyed from Arctic reaches of Canada and Greenland to be here.

The Oystercatcher were more wary.  Of a pair, one was not happy at all with me edging along the beach towards it, with the hope of getting a half decent photo.  The other, whilst not as bold as the Turnstone, stayed put, but always maintaining a ‘safe’ distance.  I watched it feeding: looking intently among the stones and shells, before spying something worthwhile (if not that many Oysters, there were plenty of Mussels to be had) and picking it up with its bill and setting about prizing the shells apart.  It was odd to see the Sanderling on its own and not with others of its kind, as they are often seen.  There are though, plenty around; a wisp over the waves further up the beach proved to be flock of probably 150 of these little sandpipers, flying towards me along the shore and away down the beach.   A hint of the throng that descends in spectacular fashion on the rich-pickings of the estuary mud.

One, two three: Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Turnstone.  Ross Gardner 2013

One, two three: Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Sanderling. Ross Gardner 2013

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