Trip reports

Parkgate Field Trip: A High Tide to Remember

Parkgate Field Trip: A High Tide to Remember
Rhodie Blythe

Sunday, 9 February 2020

As group leader you always have to turn up at an organised walk even if you think no one else would want to. So today, although lots of people heeded the warning about Storm Ciara, six of us braved the day. Meeting at the Old Baths car park at Parkgate, we stayed in our cars and birdwatched through the windows. Four goosander, a male and three females, flew in and landed on the Old Baths pool to join the curlew, redshanks, little egret, teal and mallard already there. Behind the cars in the grass a flock of redwings and blackbirds were working their way through the saturated grass looking for worms. As the wind was getting stronger, large flocks of lapwings and pink-footed geese were swirling around trying to find some safe areas to land. Ducks of various species were moving off the outer marsh as the tidal surge was pushing in. Marsh harriers could be seen trying to hunt but the wind was playing havoc with their plans.

We left the car park and decided that the Boathouse would be the best place to enjoy the spectacle that was unfurling before us, with tea and coffee. The staff are always very accommodating and the views very special. The storm hit and you couldn't see out of the windows but as each squall went through it would brighten up and we had two male hen harriers 30 feet away from the windows. Then water rails, reed buntings, skylarks, rock and meadow pipits could be seen searching for seeds and food on the floating detritus. With all this food, a few stoats started to appear. They were in a cross between winter and summer fur, so showing lots of white in their coats. We witnessed one stoat grab and kill a bird and then move on to something else, like the gulls, which were grabbing voles, shrews and other parcels of food. The storm surge had added a metre and a half on 9.7m tide, turning it in to an exceptional high tide.

We walked outside and witnessed three water rails running over the vegetation to safety by the pub while a number of people along Parkgate were trying to collect lots of the voles, shrews and mice to give them a chance of survival. Yes, the weather at times was atrocious but the breaks offered a once in a lifetime spectacular never to be forgotten.

Chris Tynan