Last week, I was in my hide watching a pair of buzzards being very together in a tree. Now and then, the male (I think) would take off and go hunting, but returned to their tree empty-handed. It looked like he needed to catch something to keep his beloved impressed with his prowess, and I was hoping that he would hunt over the rough ground in front of me, and maybe even land on the pole for which I had set up the hide.
He never did. However, in the middle of watching the buzzards, I heard a familiar call – “peep peep” – and looked up to see an oystercatcher fly overhead. I immediately thought of the Hilbre islands in the Dee estuary, where I had photographed innumerable oystercatchers on many visits. The walk across the sands, the huge sky and expanse of shining water, the encroaching sea surrounding my little temporary island, and the arrival of the birds to unknowingly share my small kingdom for the space of a high tide, all unaware of my presence in my dome hide. Every visit different, with a feathered cast that changed with the seasons, with sky, sea and sand changing its appearance with the light.
The presence of the oystercatcher in the middle of Cheshire meant its absence from the Dee estuary with the onset of the breeding season, but it’s haunting call reminded me of how much I love the place. That evening, I looked up my photographic database, and was amazed to find that it was five years since I last spent a tide on one of the Hilbre islands. Far too long. I looked up the tide tables, and found that it was a spring tide the next day – I took it for an omen, and went to Hilbre this morning, spending the high tide on Little Eye.
There were no waders around – they had all cleared off to the moors to breed, but there were a crowd of cormorants in breeding plumage. The males were magnificent! I don’t think that I have seen them at close quarters like this before.
The brent geese which spend the winter in the Dee Estuary were still there, but they seemed quite flighty and I expect thery were soon to leave for their breeding grounds in Greenland.
After a while, it was obvious that their flightiness had another source, as it was shared with the cormorants. The origin of their fears came into view near the shore.
The kite surfer surfed right out to the point and back again. Whether he was within his rights or not, he caused great disturbance to the birds on Little Eye. The geese expended a lot of energy flying around when they should have been preparing for their migration to the Artic circle.
It has been a beautiful day, cold but sunny. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – the Hilbre islands are a magical place. The magic comes from the bird life and the wonderful light caught between sand and sky, and perhaps a little bit of it comes from inside my head.