How low can you go ?

Over the last week we have experienced some of the highest spring tides of the year and a lot of rain. The Severn estuary has the second-highest tidal range in the world. The weekend has seen tides over 13 meters ( 30 feet or more) and many of the low lying salt marshes that border the estuary have been flooded displacing quite a lot of birds. Great for birdwatching as these birds often come in a bit closer or gather at various high tide roosts.

You may have heard of Newtons Third Law of Physics  - that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and this seems to be true when applied to the tidal fluctuations. With everybody talking about high tides there have also been some really low tides this week.

Looking across the Seven at the sandbanks.

Yesterday evening I stood on the sea wall at Goldcliff Lagoons and marveled at the vista before me. There were huge swathes of golden sand in the middle of the Severn estuary more akin to a scene from a desert. Incredible to think that's what the "river" bed out there in the estuary looks like. The whole estuary is one big depository for everything that has been eroded and washed down river and results in huge deposits of nutrient-rich sediment. A fantastic source of food for animals and plants.

I must admit the mud and sand seemed to stretch forever yesterday and there were birds as far out as I could see with my scope.

Huge sandbanks

I did not get a perfect sunset but the light was quite good and resulted in some nice contrasting colors of orange and black with a blue hue in some of the photos.

Bird wise the lagoons were quiet. Absolutely no waders whatsoever. Ducks, Geese, and Swans made up the bulk of the species. There were however quite a few waders out on the mud and occasionally they took flight.

Knots and a Black-Tailed Godwit

Most of the evening I was accompanied by a female Kestrel. She hunted the grassy areas that border Priors and Becs lagoons.

I had an entertaining hour watching her hunt from the seawall hide. She would drop to the grass and run about quite comically and then leap up and pounce on what looked like field voles.

The technique certainly worked as the Kestrel caught two voles and then very kindly landed on a post opposite where I was seated and ate them.

Kestrel with her prey

For a good period, I just watched her busily enjoying her evening meal. It is great to see nature in action and to see birds acting naturally. She seemed totally unaware of me peering out from the hide.

At the end of her last meal she settled and began to preen. Birds secrete an oil from a gland at the base of the tail which they use to keep their feathers in good working order and to waterproof them. The Kestrel really went to some effort and carefully combed each of her tail feathers in particularly.

Preening those tail feathers.

I was pleased to see a big female Marsh Harrier swoop in later in the evening. She quartered Priors gave the ducks a scare and then flew off over the Salt Marsh.

Female Marsh Harrier over Priors showing the newly extended Snipe Platform.

Female Marsh Harrier hovers briefly over the reedbed in Priors

The light faded quickly and I watched what was left of the sun disappear behind the clouds - a storm was on the horizon and it appeared that the short break in fine weather we were having would soon be over.

Sunset over the mud


  1. Great read as always mate, Particularly loving the knot/BTG shot, the muted colours are superb, that really would make an outstanding large print. The thing that does stand out for me in this is the unconscious nod to birding and mental health within the write up, to be able to sit and watch the highs and lows of nature at its finest in the most amazing of environments at Goldcliff really can help with switching off from day to day stresses and you've captured that beautifully. To immerse yourself in the real life heart stopping dramas such as whether the kestrel gets her tea or the vole escapes to see another day beats any TV soap and just switches off modern day pressures - captured it superbly mate


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