NA­TURE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - JOHN MILES

WEST CUM­BRIA MAY seem off the beaten track, but, for 15 mil­lion visi­tors to the Lake Dis­trict close by, it of­ten of­fers a dry day! This coast­line is of­ten missed by bird­ers, rush­ing past to Hod­bar­row and Wal­ney to the south and the cliffs of St Bees to the north, but it can make a nice change with dra­matic sandy spits cre­ated by the Rivers Irt, Mite and Esk drop­ping their spoils from the hills to the sea. To add to the day, you can ac­tu­ally see the high­est wall of a build­ing still re­main­ing since Ro­man times, with a wood­land walk adding to the habi­tats vis­ited. The area was once fa­mous for its Black-headed Gull colony, that num­bered 10,000 in 1976, fell to 2,000 in 1983 and then to none in 1984. Sev­eral species of terns nested with the gulls but now they only visit to feed with Com­mon, Sand­wich and Lit­tle Terns, mainly com­ing from Hod­bar­row. Lit­tle Egrets are a ‘new’ species seen 12 months of the year but as yet no real breed­ing at­tempts have been recorded, even though there is a large heronry at Mun­caster. Waders vary from Red­shank, Ringed Plover and Oys­ter­catcher in the breed­ing sea­son to re­cent win­ter­ing Com­mon and Green Sand­pipers, along with Greenshank. Wild­fowl in win­ter in­clude Wi­geon and Teal along with a feral Grey­lag Goose pop­u­la­tion, which has had the odd Snow Goose with them of un­known ori­gin and up to eight Green­land White-fronted Some flora is unique with Sea Kyle, Isle of Man Cab­bage, Sea and Port­land Spurge Geese. Pas­sage Ospreys have been seen mov­ing up the coast, along with records of Black Red­start and Quail on Eskmeals, while a Desert Wheatear was seen in au­tumn 2015.

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