If you don't like to think of small furry rodents as prey then I suggest you stop reading here!!
It was the last Spring tide of the season on the Dee Estuary, so I thought I'd go yesterday (22 March) and see what could be seen. For those not in the know, the high water of a Spring tide flushes the rodents out of their hiding places on the salt marsh and concentrates them in small areas, creating a fest for predators, like Owls and Harriers. At least, that's the theory. You never know what you'll get on the day!
The car park was pretty full, even though I arrived fairly early and I soon spotted someone I knew and with others we settled down to see what the tide would bring. We hoped the cold winds would blow the tide right up to the wall, but it didn't look like it would … and then long after the scheduled high tide time, the water just kept creeping up and up and things really started to happen ...
Flocks of displaced Pink Feet flew up and down trying to decide where best to settle.
Only one Marsh Harrier was evident and she was a long way out, but we didn't mind too much as one of the real stars soon turned up. A Hen Harrier (a ring-tail).
It was still a fair way out but lovely to see one these very rare birds. It barely had to hunt, just swooping down as it passed to pick up lunch.
Of course, keeping hold of it is another matter because there's always a Lesser Black-back ready and waiting to try and take it off you.
I'm glad to report, the Harrier kept its meal that time. By this time the voles were so abundant, everyone was having a go. Amazing how many Crows we saw actively hunting as opposed to scavenging. This one wasn't even content with just one. When I got home at looked at the photo full size, I realised it has two voles in its beak!
The gull photobombing in the background is Common if anyone is wondering.
As the water came in, forming small pools right up to the wall, the poor little voles had to swim for it. At least those who came towards the spectators were safe, as the birds wouldn't hunt that close in.
And it was surprising how many there were
I think there were some shrews as well and someone showed me a photo of a Harvest Mouse they had seen too, so you had to check what was swimming otherwise you'd miss the Weasel right in front of you … it passed within a foot of a bedraggled Vole and missed it!
The other thing everyone wants to see are the Short-eared Owls and we were blessed with those too. At least three by us and others reported further along the sea wall.
I had a few sightings this winter, but not particularly close, so it was nice to get this before the end of the season
This sort of sums it up … a Shortie passes and no-one is watching the Great White Egret in the background. Needless to say, they didn't have to try too hard to catch lunch, even if midday is not the traditional time for an owl to be out.
It's not blue sky in the background but the Welsh shoreline in the haze.
There's always room for another vole...
I reckon we've been spotted
By three o'clock we'd had just about everything and I didn't fancy fighting the Friday evening motorway traffic by waiting for the Barn Owl to come out, so I called it a day and, I have to say, not a bad day, at all. That's what Spring tide at Parkgate is about and why it's worth trying your luck if you get the opportunity. Hope you're not too disappointed if you didn't see as much on your visit Hazy!!
Last word to the departing Shorties who I guess won't be hanging around much longer
My Flickr. photo link HERE
My Flickr Photostream
In reply to TeeJay:
My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobs_retired_now/
Lot to learn
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654