Four weeks of lock-down and daily blogs about my ‘hedgerow observations’, while on strictly local outings in nature. Perhaps a good time to take stock:
I am lucky to live on the Cornish shore of the mid-Tamar estuary, with access to the river from a neighbour’s board walk. It’s been a real treat to be on the water with my paddle board, sometimes drifting and watching and listening to wildlife, sometimes getting a good workout against the wind and tide. Often both.
While I’d like to show you pictures of wildlife I’ve spotted from the water, I can’t: usually, I’m in awe just watching and my mobile phone camera wouldn’t do it justice anyway.
So here is a list of the birds and mammals I have seen from the water and tried to identify with the aid of various books:
- Buzzard (Buteo buteo), quite common and raising their young and circling over the low meadows and fields in the valley
- Barn owl (Tyto alba), seen many times at dawn and dusk in the fields, but only once from the water, paddling early in the quiet morning mist, before the sun rose over the hills
- Gulls, in quite large numbers on the water, in the air and on the fields; not a particularly large species, so I’m inclined to guess it is the Common gull (Laurus canus), which is drawn inland to fields and estuaries in winter
- Carrion crow (Corvus corone corone), their main feature being the noise they make
- Doves and pigeons – by their call there are definitively Wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), but don’t ask me to identify them, or any others, in mid-flight (please)
- Swallow (Hirundo rustica), now often seen low above the water scooping up the myriad of flying critters (mozzies et al., which I won’t mention separately) that are starting to populate the air above still water
- Heron (Ardea cinerea), typically I see just one individual of these magnificent birds
- Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), a small flock of four are often roosting on a prominent tree on the Devon bank, although I also see them individually and in pairs flying overhead
- Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), once I’ve seen a pair flying together, but more often I spot individuals
- Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), a common sight on tree trunks fallen into the water and diving for fish
- Canada goose (Branta canadensis), these days not only wintering, but staying all summer, munching the grass alongside the local lifestock
- Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), flocks of them circling over the estuary in the winter
- Unidentified wading bird, sorry without my glasses or binoculars, I can’t make them out…a Common snipe, perhaps?
- Unidentified little bird that flits away low over the water – yes, my ID skills are really quite poor and I’ll ask the neighbour when I can, over the wall, perfectly socially distanced, for help…
- Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), of which I’ve seen flocks up to 20 individuals
- Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), usually in pairs and presently with ducklings (cute!)
- Mute swan (Cygnus olor), not so mute when it is hissing at me for invading his comfort zone – I give them a wide berth, sometimes retreat to avoid upsetting them
- Water vole (Arvicola terrestris), once or twice seen in the water, they seem very shy (or rare)
- Otter (Lutra lutra), identified from footprints as clearly ‘being around’, I’ve seen one cavorting on the river bank in a ‘hopping mad’ kind of way, clearly agitated by something – whether by my presence or by the seal, just a few meters off the bank in the water, I’ll never know
- Grey, or Atlantic seal (Halichoerus grypus), seen a few times in the estuary this Winter and Spring, once I’ve watched it munching a fish it had caught, biting off one chunk after another and seemingly washing it down with a drink…and recently neighbours reported that they spotted two seals together (!)
I guess there is more I don’t think of at the moment…but it is already quite a list and the wildlife is something I really appreciate being able to observe in a non-intrusive way!