Up the Creek…Autumn Gold, Winter Grey

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Mevagissey

We are actually going to start today’s adventure with a rare recent coastal trip which included a circuit round Mevagissey’s inner harbour, serenaded by a male voice choir! The even rarer appearance of the sun makes the super-quaint coastal town look even more scintillating than usual.

 

Turnstones are regular winter visitors to the harbour walls and quaysides of all the coastal towns, and are often very tame. They are particularly tolerant of kayakers, but it’s unfair to get so close you disturb their catnap. So I don’t.

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Turnstone

Overlooking Mevagissey bay the autumn showers provide a hint of colour to the grey tones of the china clay country behind St.Austell.

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Clay country rainbow

I also had the briefest of paddles along the north coast of Cornwall at Bude during a lull in the swell. That’s certainly the last time this bit of coast will be suitable for a kayak for the next few weeks, the surf is going to be huge.

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‘Kayak-only’ beach near Bude

Up the creeks the mists of autumn add a mysterious flavour to the early mornings. It’s hard to be stealth with all the Canada Geese about, they are very vocal guard dogs and it’s impossible to sneak past without being noticed.

It’s amazing how the winding estuaries can be completely glassy when the open coast, only a few miles away, is seriously blowy.

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Every creek echoes to the flutey piping of Redshank

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and the call of the Curlew which is one of the classic sounds of the winter water.

Beady eyes are always watching.

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Grey Heron

This pic shows thelonekayaker demonstrating nice straight arms for the perfect paddling technique (although they only straightened from the usual slovenly position when the camera was noticed):

 

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Mike from Bideford kayak club shows how it is done without having to worry about what you do with your arms. His Hobie kayak, powered by pedal power that drives a pair of flippers beneath the kayak, speeds along faster than most conventional kayaks. I tried to keep up with him and was left behind rather pathetically.

The weather has been very autumnal and is now very wintry in a southwest England sort of a way. That is wet, windy, and although not particularly cold, feeling pretty miserable and not conducive to outdoor activities.P1400159

Now winter is upon us the colours in the rainbows are still as vivid, but they have leached out of the surrounding countryside which has assumed a more monochrome grey.P1000585

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The grey of winter

However there is a different spectrum of wildlife trying to keep a low profile around the edges of the creeks. Especially good if you have an ornithological bias, because most of them are birds.

Little Grebes (aka Dabchicks) have arrived for the winter up the estuaries. They keep close to the edge and are easy to overlook because they are very small and very elusive.P1000573

And stay stock still:

I like to get ‘in the zone’ as I paddle along, getting completely absorbed in the natural environment, and I have often thought that my senses become enhanced as I strain to see and hear everything that moves.

Anyway, my habit of scrutinising every inch of shoreline as I paddle along in complete silence certainly helped me spot this perfectly camouflaged Snipe hunkered down beside the estuary.

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Snipe

Common Sandpipers used to winter on the continent but increasingly they find the mild climes of SW England satisfy their needs (they obviously don’t mind the rain).

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Common Sandpiper

I find their flutey piping quite charming, but when it comes to decibels they are knocked into second place by the large and in-your-face Oystercatchers.

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Oystercatcher

I am not complaining though, on a drab winters day the clamour of a little group of Oystercatchers might be the only sound you hear, so it is always welcome.

On the mammal front I came across a Harbour Seal in the early morning mist up the Fowey estuary recently.

Once again I have to thank Sue Sayer from the Cornwall Seal Group (and her prompt replies and unending enthusiasm) for an individual id on this seal.

This is Serena Lowen, who I last saw at Looe island in July and who was last recorded up this estuary over two years ago.

There are only a handful of Harbour Seals around Cornwall, the vast majority are the much bigger Grey Seals.

Down at the estuary mouth I at first couldn’t work out what the regularly ‘plinking’ noise was coming from a rocky shore. It turned out to be a Crow who was repeatedly dropping a stone, with a limpet attached, onto the rocks to try to crack open the shell.

It was successful after about the fifth attempt, as was its mate who feasted on a mussel using precisely the same technique. They are worryingly clever birds. I wonder what else they know.

So the leaves and the colour are now gone. So is the sun,

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If it wasn’t for the hint of colour in my kayak, you’d swear this was a black-and-white pic.

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