Saturday, 21 February 2015

High tide on the Dee

Reaching 10.3m at 12.42, it was the highest tide of the year today on the Dee estuary, and as usual Parkgate was the place to be. I arrived early at 10.30 to make sure I got a spot on the car park because it was bound to be busy.

I walked north from the car park, past the golf course up to the point where the footpath disappeared. It was pandemonium on the saltmarsh, with birds everywhere. Waders, ducks, egrets and gulls were flying in all directions, and two short-eared owls were flushed by the rising tide. A merlin shot past scattering everything that had time to see it. A hen-harrier had been seen before I arrived but I missed it.

Then I walked back to the Old Baths car park at Parkgate. The tide was now very close to it's peak and I wanted to be in place for when it broke the bank and flooded in up to the wall, because that's when the snipes and water rails are flushed, and also when the small mammals can be seen fleeing the saltmarsh.

I wasn't disappointed, a single jack snipe went up, and I saw at least two water rails. There were shrews and voles swimming in the water, and best of all somebody spotted a harvest mouse. Also on the tidal wrack, a single water pipit.

Soon there was no saltmarsh left, it was just water, and everything that was going to flush had already done so, and ground hunting raptors such as harriers and owls had nowhere to hunt. I left Parkgate at 13.30 and headed to Denhall lane in the hope that there would be some uncovered saltmarsh left here, and perhaps that was where the raptors would be. Fortunately this proved correct, somebody pointed out three short-eared owls on the ground, I found a peregrine perched on a post, a ringtail hen-harrier flew past as did a great white egret. All in all a tremendous day on the Dee.

Parkgate Old Baths at high tide.

Looking towards the Boathouse and Parkgate.

Short-eared owl.


This water rail was on a rapidly decreasing island!

Eventually the island floated away and right past me!

Eventually it decided it was time to leave and flew over my head into a hedge. I'm pretty certain I've never managed to get a photo of a flying water rail before.

This harvest mouse was alongside the wall at the Old Baths.

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