Every morning I enjoy a 7 minute commute. Despite the fact it is the shortest journey to work I have ever had, it is also one of the most exciting. I always have my camera with me, it takes pride of place in on my passenger seat – always turned on and ready to go. I have had some incredible experiences from my car; from stoats to shrews, owls to buzzards, this short journey has revealed a plethora of wildlife as I twist and turn along the thin, bumpy road on my way to my destination of Gweek. The village is small but beautiful and I get to drive alongside the Helford river every day and the recent spring tides have attracted some new faces to the village.
The past few days, as I have trundled along over the bridge, wading birds have started to show their faces. Every day, I have pulled my little car up and gone to the edge of the river to watch as these elegant creatures go about their day. So far, 2 egrets, a grey heron and a curlew have all been poking about; hunting for small fish and insects respectively. There is something extra special about water side birds; their incredible adaptations, the long legs and elongated beaks, and the individual way they move, all set against the exquisite backdrop that is the estuary. Whether it be at high tide when the sun glistens off the surface or when the brackish water has flowed out to sea, revealing the expanse of mud flats, and the ducks make a ‘schalp’-ping sound as they waddle about with hungry bellies.
Grey herons are a particular favourite of mine. I love their elegance; their long necks and quiet contemplation. They are expert hunters, stalking through the water atop their long legs, their eyes peeled above the surface, striking with their spears when they spot a movement in the depths. The Japanese have a long affiliation with the heron, calling them ‘the bird of happiness’, associating them with good fortune and long life, with some folklore suggesting the birds live for a thousand years.
The little egret, comes from the same family, and the similarity to the birds is noticeable, with the bright white plumage of the egret the most noticeable difference. I have noticed on my recent follies, that the grey herons are more confident than the egrets, so stare at me pointedly, seemingly deciding whether I am safe or not. I always maintain my distance when watching the birds and thankfully, none of them have yet flown off in my presence. I work wasn’t calling, I could happily watch the birds all day. I find them stress reliving; their long, slow movements punctuated by sudden and deliberate lunges into the water to retrieve a mouthful, before moving along.
The birds are always solitary, which contrasting to the curlews, who arrive at low tide in their droves. Unlike the members of the heron family, their plumage is particularly unstriking, but their beaks put them in their own league. Long with a delicate downward curve, built for burrowing for worms in the mudflats. This, coupled with their small round heads and large dark eyes, gives them a cute appearance. They arrive in the area at the tail end of breeding season. However, they are usually expected to summer in the North of the UK, so their presence in Cornwall is always exciting.
Of course, if you aren’t quite lucky enough to spot such birds, then there are always the gulls. Herring, black backed or black headed, you are never too far away from a gull in Cornwall….and nothing makes me happier.