More peregrinations at Formby Point. This time we arrived shortly after high tide: the air smelled strongly of fish, and thousands of birds were assembled on the beach and offshore, no doubt feeding off what had been swept in on the tide.
Lancashire’s mild maritime climate attracts large numbers of Arctic and northern European-breeding birds during the winter months, most notably Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose on saltmarshes and arable land and Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit on inter-tidal flats. Most come to flee the Arctic winter and return north in spring to breed.
Along the shoreline, particularly during the autumn and winter months, large flocks of several species of wader can be seen moving and feeding up and down the coast, including Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Black-tailed Godwit.Yesterday’s large flocks were, to my untutored eye, more prosaic: Black-Headed Gulls onshore, with dense chains of Dunlin, I guess, flying just offshore parallel to the beach.
The coast, estuaries and dunes of Sefton and the rest of the Lancashire coast make it one of the richest ornithological regions in Britain. Huge flocks of waders and wildfowl can be encountered anywhere on the coastline from Liverpool to Morecambe Bay but the largest concentrations occur in the Mersey Estuary, the Formby-Southport beaches – and inland at Martin Mere.
The Sefton Coast’s international reputation for its huge flocks of wintering wading birds and wildfowl has led to its designation as a Ramsar Site (for wetland protection) and a European Special Protection Area. The woodlands at Ainsdale and Formby hold the largest number of species and the greatest number of birds , though largely composed of very common and unthreatened species.
Driving away from the coast as the light was fading, flocks of geese in V-formation flew above us, heading southwest towards the coast at Crosby and Seaforth.
Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
– Sandy Denny