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Closing days: A changed mans experience of the shore bird count

By Timothy Malcolm John Wolfenden 4 years ago
Categories Jalova

We rise early, a 4am start with porridge hot on the table. As a group we move swiftly through the south trail to the estuary, bright white lights shine watching for potential predators, we keep a fast pace, the boat has pulled in against the sand and is waiting.
From inside the boat in the early hours of the morning life seems scarce on the canals. As we are moving south toward Parismina, 100m from the shore a large pink mass begins to take form on the shoreline – Roseate Spoonbills conglomerating on the water’s edge. As we move slowly into position we scan along the length of Parismina shore, watching the soft sun break through the clouds, illuminating the dark grey sand.
The 500m transect before us stretches around a high bank covering the furthest edge of the beach, a small number of Semipalmated Plovers scatter from the beach debris to the waters edge and back again. Walking languidly over the sand we ready ourselves, the sky now darkened by the great number of swallows of varying species swiftly toing and froing overhead, a powerful sign of things to come.
Upon now reaching the furthest corner edge, only meters away from our finishing location, we turn revealing a plethora of shore bird species, from breeding black bellied plovers to the greater yellow legs every bird of the shore imaginable seems to be in our field of view. Now counting them all seems to be an impossible job; plovers mingling with Sanderlings, Sandpipers interacting with Royal Terns and the Roseate Spoonbills, in one great pink line, covering the entire outer edge of the beach. We power through, splitting species into smaller groups and counting only assigned sections making short work of their numbers.
For the longest time I had dismissed shore birds as a kind of grey death, but no more, experience has changed me for the better.