Friday, 25 November 2011

Silvery Shore

It’s just after a high neap tide in the middle of the day; the water is receding over a wet shore, leaving tiny puddles from the ripples of the gentle waves. There’s a hazy sun and the light is silvery grey. A warm southerly onshore breeze carries the calls of Oystercatchers towards me over the hissing sea. Sanderlings, Dunlin and Turnstones arrive, eager to feed on the newly exposed mud. At first, I hear only the distinctive rattles of the Turnstones, but gradually pick up soft calls of Dunlin; the Sanderlings are silent. Alone on this stretch of the beach, I’m able to walk slowly to the water’s edge and get very close to the busy flock. Even without binoculars, I make out the exquisite plumages of these delicate creatures, this year’s young showing buff edges to their beautifully patterned feathers. I see the perfect camouflage of these little waders with the shore, as they sometimes seem to melt into the wet silvery pools. They stay for four or five minutes and without warning are off to work another patch a little way along of the beach. In what seems like no time at all there’s a great expanse of mud, the birds have gone and the sound of the silvery sea is a distant memory.

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