Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 28, 2015

Almost……knot quite

Sitting out by the estuary enjoying a chip butty in the winter sunshine (as you do) brought closer the air of imminent seasonal change (as it does).  Not that it is ever perfectly still.  The change is essentially constant.  Something is always happening.  Something somewhere will always have its metaphorical eye on something new.  For all of this, there are those times during mid-winter when all seems absolutely static and I quite sure that when the cold bites, everything, however briefly, can be stopped in its tracks.  Yet the Mistle Thrush song will still be echoing the late-January-bare treetops.  Small flying creatures might bask in some heat-trap while frost still lies on the ground in the shade a few metres away.

The signs on the estuary yesterday were perhaps a bit more subtle.  It was low-tide and the feeding waders were scattered far and wide across the expanse of mud and not crowding close to the shore.  It did nevertheless feel slightly less busy than, say, a month ago.  Just a couple of dozen Black-headed Gulls loafing nearby, several a good way towards possessing the darkened hoods to which they owe their names.  A few Redshank strutted along the edge of a water filled channel.  Apart form the Pied Wagtail flicking around the wharf, there was little else to be seen.

Strangely, the single Knot probing the mud, on its own close by, offered the strongest confirmation of imminent change.  It wasn’t with the huge, bustling flocks that sweep across the estuary through the winter and do more than most to fill even the broadest swathes of exposed mudflat.  I couldn’t say whether those flocks had already moved on northwards, sensing any changes long before we do, although numbers would certainly have declined from their early winter peak.  There could still have been many others far from the shore foraging closer to the line of the tide.  For whatever reason that lone wader said much about the wild places realigning themselves more fully to the spring not quite here yet.

Knot (Calidris canutus).  Not always seen by the thousand.  Ross Gardner 2012.

Knot (Calidris canutus). Not always seen by the thousand. Ross Gardner 2012.

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