Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, O'er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, there soft by the pillow.
Oh, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, no shark shall overtake thee
Asleep in the storm of slow-swinging seas.
We made our final trip to Donna Nook to say Bonn voyage to the seals. We should have been earlier but I was still battling my lurgy. After 2 rounds of antibiotics, a week on steroids, plenty of drink and rest, I had recovered from the chest infection from hell and finally emerged from a self-imposed exile. And I still haven’t had my flu jab yet. The doctor told me that I can’t have the jab when I’m still under medication. Phew… I took things very, very slowly trying to get back to normality and this trip was a treat for getting back on my feet.After 3 hours, we arrived at Donna Nook in one piece. As expected, the usual car-park was full. But we weren’t worried because we can always park in a nearby field for only £1. There were hundreds of car already in the field. It was freezing with the very bitter winds and sporadic sleet falls. We were wrapped up like the Michelin trying to keep warm. From the top of the sand-dunes, we could see hundreds of seals of different ages and sizes, littered along the beaches. We joined the crowd and jostled to get the best seat in the house. The first thing we noticed was that most of the baby seals had grown up. Seal pups were born with shaggy white fur, called lanugo, and after 2-4 weeks, it moulted away . When we were there, there were 470 bulls, 839 cows, 1188 pups. There was a very big departure of females from last week, almost 400 have gone. After mating, the females had returned to the sea to feed because they’d been fasting during lactation. We’d missed both the mating and birthing sessions which we were blessed to have seen last year. The total pup numbers born on the reserve this year was1471 and passed last years total of 1438.We managed to drag our eyes from these adorable pups, when a flock of Barnacle geese flew in, yapping away. Then a flock of Turnstones, aptly named as they could flipped stones of its own body weight, flew in very close to where we were standing. These short-legged and dumpy wader in their duller brownish-black winter colour were taking advantage of the after-births, feeding on the rich protein. After hundreds of shots, we went back to the car for hot coffee and pasties to warm the cockles. Then it was a long drive back home before the predicted atrocious weather arrived. 29 flood warnings had been issued in the Midlands. Torrential rain and howling winds had deluged the whole country. River levels were at record high as the weak winter sun was unable to dry out the saturated ground. Our favourite playground was flooded. The foot-paths towards the main hides was un-passable even when we’d our wellies on.
The rain it rains without a stay
In the hills above us, in the hills;
And presently the floods break way
Whose strength is in the hills.
The trees they suck from every cloud,
The valley brooks they roar aloud—
Bank-high for the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!
The first wood down is sere and small,
From the hills—the brishings off the hills;
And then come by the bats and all
We cut last year in the hills;
And then the roots we tried to cleave
But found too tough and had to leave—
Polting through the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!
~Rudyard Kipling, The Floods~
We checked out the only ‘dry’ hide, Wright hide. The islands had completely disappeared and most of the waders were taking refuge on the banks. We spotted more than a dozen Common Snipes, well-camouflaged among the reeds. We walked through the forest where the air was filled with the smell of wet earth, rotting leaves and musky fungi. And through the leaves, we saw the most perfect sunset. The strong winter sun was low down in the horizon, casting long shadows across the reserve and tinting everything with a wonderful golden hue. Just beautiful end to the day.
I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.
We went to BMNR again in the weekend to see if the flood had subsided. But first, on the top car-park, we saw a group of photographers armed with their impressive cameras scanning out the trees. What was going on? In the visitor’s book, we found out that a flock of Waxwings had been spotted there earlier during the day. We might check the area on the way out. We met Chris and Ray who showed us their shots of the birds. I was soo jealous. As we walked towards Baldwin Hide, a flock of birds flew onto the Alder trees. When we looked up, it was a flock of Siskins, Goldfinches and Redpolls.We then checked out Baldwin Hide. The island was still submerged underwater. Hundreds of Canada Geese and Gulls were floating around the island, wondering what had happened to their island. A flash of blue whizzed past us and the Kingfisher disappeared into the undergrowth. We spotted a male Golden Eye in the distance and was thrilled when this handsome Great Crested Grebe in its winter colours swam past us.
Then a pit stop at East Marsh Hide. It was freezing in the hide. A flock of Common Snipes flew in and an angry wren was making itself heard. We were about to leave when I saw this huge bird flying past the hide. I thought it was a heron at first but when I photographed it and to my upmost delight, it was a Bittern. My first sighting for this year. Woo hoo. The sighting made up for the disappointment of not seeing any Waxwings when we went back to check the area.What a week it had been. I had fully recovered (fingers and toes double-crossed) and looking forward to resume my favourite activities. Christmas and the long holidays are just round the corner. I need the break to recover, again. I also liked to wish my sister and my brother-in-law a wonderful silver anniversary. May you have many, many more years together. I love both of you. Mwah…mwah.
Hold on to the centre and make up your mind to rejoice in this paradise called life.