Above the surface the open sea remains very quiet with hardly a circling Gannet in sight. There are just a few Guillemots, which nest on the local cliffs, sitting about doing a bit of fishing. They are sometimes very inquisitive about kayaks and paddle right up close for a bit of a look.
This one all but climbed in my kayak. So close you can see the refection of me (plus boat) in its eyeball!
Below the surface it’s a different story, with large numbers of Barrel Jellyfish still wafting about, concentrating along the tidelines. They always give me a bit of a start when they are close to the surface because not only are they a bit ghostly but they are very BIG.
The marine wildlife has been so thin on the ground I have even had to resort to looking at the scenery, like a normal person. Tough.
Along the shore I came across an ornithological treat near Marazion….this little pack of Sanderlings, rushing in and out with the waves, which is what Sanderlings do. You can see why; this one has just caught a snack-sized sand shrimp exposed by the waves:
This is them in action:
These Sanderlings were sporting a variety of colours because they were in transit from grey winter plumage to very smart buff breeding plumage. Although you might think it was getting a bit late in the season for this, they nest above the arctic circle so are not in any particular rush because their nesting area is still probably frozen solid.
Although these little birds are only on the cusp of smartening themselves up for the breeding season in the land of the summer sun, birds local to Devon and Cornwall are in full swing.
I did a bit of a double-take when I saw this Shelduck on the river Torridge. I assumed it was an adult because it could fly well and had classic Shelduck plumage apart from a bit of a white face, although it was significantly smaller than its parent.
It must have been this year’s chick and a combination of cunning sleuth and smart mathematical calculation (incubation is 28 days and the young fly at 45 days) would suggest that it was the abnormally mild weather in late February that prompted the duck to lay her eggs three months earlier than usual.
A more seasonal brood of Shelduck was a bit further upstream:
All along the coast as well New life is bursting forth. These are the first Herring gull chicks I have seen this year.
And nearby the nestling Shags are swaying about in the nest in a very reptilian way.
Similar to the Shag the parent Canada Goose has a ‘yellow alert’ warning to its offspring (and me) when they perceive I am a bit close for comfort. The Goose does a bit of head-bobbing as well.
The youngsters don’t tend to take much notice of their parents (not a surprise) and anyway I always back away because it is unfair to worry them.
The Swans on the Torridge are still sitting on eggs. Although swans on the water cut a classic image of grace, elegance, and whiteness, they are quite cumbersome when on land. And a bit clumsy…this one makes a bit of a horlicks of the housework and actually falls out of the nest. The husband, no doubt.
The breeding cycle for birds is challenged by problems and threatened by danger from start to finish. These Housemartins from Bideford, like the ones down at Looe, have been forced to use estuarine mud to build their nests because there is no freshwater alternative as all the puddles have dried up due to lack of rain. I have never seen them using this source before, and hope the salty mud from brackish water is a good enough building brick.
Lovely to see, but suddenly the whole lot took off at speed amid a clamour of trilling alarm notes as a Hobby falcon (which catch and eat Housemartins) raked overhead.
Life as a family of Mallard isn’t all fun and games either, as both mother and newly-hatched ducklings seem to attract unwanted attention. This little posse are lucky not to end up as dinner for a crow as they are left exposed when their mother is nearly mugged by a group of lairy males, and takes a while to get back to protect them.
You can clearly hear (and see) the angst from Mrs.Mallard as the family are pursued by unwanted suitors, and the casual-looking crow on the bank which is thinking of a duckling-sized lunch.
The drakes force the mother to leave the little family vulnerable to attack from the prowling corvid.
Fortunately she soon returned and managed to guide them away from the aggressors and they found somewhere to chillax and process in the Spring sunshine. Happy ending. Phew.
Everywhere you look is a baby bird-fest at the minute. And drifting along in complete unobtrusive silence in a kayak is the best way to enjoy it.