Tuesday, November 17, 2009

With torrential rains, gale force winds and thunder overnight, this week’s kid’s session looked unlikely. However, by lunchtime rain had stopped and sky cleared, with a few takers to look for tracks and footprints in the estuary, despite remaining strong winds and dramatic skies.

Parking where coastal alluvial farmland meets the estuary, we pack equipment to take plaster casts, button up and head out across flat sands to where shallow creeks emerge between drifts of Marram, winter colours muted under dark grey clouds contrasted with bright winter sun.

A pure white Egret looks sallow in this light as it beats up high against the wind out of a creek ahead, eventually side-slipping to a quieter spot. Most water bird prints are distinctive arrow marks in sand or mud, so the long back claw of Little Egret is characteristic, like a small Heron’s.

Despite the light, Redshank trailing edges and rump flare bright white, startling as their loud, frantic piping as they rocket from creeks or sweep low over the dun marsh, thin crimson legs noticeable as they bank away. Snipe is just a dark silhouette flitting from a muddy channel with squelching call.

Next to the main outflow from the marsh, running wide and shallow over rippled sands, a cluster of large, webbed Gull prints are the first worth casting. Despite fine Redshanks tracks and webbed Wigeon prints in mud and sand, only those on a dry sand bar are sufficiently clear and level to make decent casts.

Next day, similarly blustery, it is a pleasure to find the casts till still set in the sands after two tides, to pluck them out, wash away mud and sand, rip off the plastic ring, and find perfect, ivory smooth, sand coated, raised thin toes of Redshank and large, webbed, Gull prints.
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Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk

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