The Camel Estuary walk

Looking up river towards WadebridgeLucky again with the weather because although we'd travelled through some cold grey fog, west of the moor the skies cleared and it stayed sunny until late afternoon. We needed the sunshine because at times an over-keen east wind blew in from the sea.

Twelve of us joined Malcolm who after a brief introduction about estuary birds (his favourites), led us onto the old railway line to Padstow which is now the Camel trail. After just a few yards, up went the tripod and the scope was set to work to search the sandy mudflats. Tony had also brought a scope so we all had plenty of chances to view the birds in close up.First look at the estuary

Overall we counted and identified about twenty species of birds on the estuary with the numbers increasing as we heard & saw some of the more familiar birds in the shrubs & trees along the trail.

 

Malcolm explained that in cold weather, food sources such as worms, bury deeper into the mud so that birds with long bills will plunge their heads right into the mud to reach the food. Once in, their heads vibrate to widen the hole and allow their beaks to open and grasp the worm and pull it up to the surface. Most of the birds we saw are monagamous although perhaps not the Mallard which we saw in one of the creeks closer to Padstow with what was delightfully described as 'duckage', a term used to describe all the hybrids between Mallard and domestic breeds of duck! 

We tried to identify all the gulls but their plumage varies so much with the season & maturity that the colour of their legs needs to be learned. For example: Greater Black Backed gull has pale pink legs; Herring Gull also pink; Common Gull greenish yellow legs; Lesser Black Backed Gull, yellow legs and the Black Headed Gull, red legs.

Talking of legs, we were able to see the very yellow feet of the Little Egret, a real contrast to its long black legs. There were several Grey Herons and Little Egrets; a Green Shank with 4 rings on its (green) legs (Mary Atkinson has since reported that this is a regular visitor to the area & was first ringed at the Ythan estuary north of Aberdeen on August 13th 2006!); large numbers of Oystercatchers and closer to the shore, we were able to watch a Curlew probing deep into the mud with its long curved bill. We heard the sound before we saw four Mute Swans flying across the sky.  

Along the way we saw Elm just coming into flower; patches of Sweet Violet (Viola odorata); Sweet Violeta Willow with several queen Bumble Bees feeding on the nectar from female catkins as Mary pointed out. What we thought were Blackthorn bushes in flower were more likely to be Bullace as leaves could be seen emerging from the tips of the branches.

Our final spot which was close to where we started was of a Kingfisher that alighted for a moment on the rocky foreshore below the path, its wings just catching the sunlight so that the colour could be seen without binoculars.

The group

 

 

Thank you Malcolm!

 

 

 

 

 

Looking out to sea A Turnstone in Padstow One last check Tidal zones on the embankment wall

Species Seen:
Shelduck, Carrion Crow, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Turnstone, Kingfisher; Mallard, Moorhen. Gulls: Common, Black-headed, Lesser and Greater Black-backed, Herring. Also Mute Swan, Buzzard, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw, Raven, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Wood Pigeon, town Pigeon of various colours.