Time to make some use of the extended freedoms we still enjoy in Cumbria, with a road trip out to the Solway. It's the first time I've been around the industrial parks on the north edge of Carlisle in a while, and they've certainly expanded quite a bit (this appears to be becoming a bit of a theme 😁)! However, onwards we travel through the antiquated rural idyll of Port Carlisle, through the salt marshes, and finally to the nature reserve at RSPB Campfield Marsh. A fairly bitter wind was blowing, but that didn't appear to have dissuaded the local RC club from coming out and driving their new Christmas toys around the sand and salt pits in one corner – not exactly the peaceful birding experience you would have hoped 😂
Still, a helpful volunteer nipped out of the closed visitors' lodge to give us some at-the-time clear guidance on the best walking routes, that nevertheless turned out to be unintelligible once we'd set out, and off we went. The combination of the cold and Mum's desire to see the sea (the reserve is inland on the old floodplains) meant that any hopes of a lengthy amble were quickly diminished, but we stretched our legs up and down the main path, had a quick look through a couple of hides and slatted fences, and even got chatting to a local warden who was doing his rounds.
On the birding front, Campfield Marsh looks like a local gem. We say little egret within minutes, as well as all the usual ducks, geese, swans, and hedgerow birds. In the distance we could hear buzzards, and eventually spotted one in a tree practically on the horizon, but unfortunately no sign of the marsh harriers. At the far end, a fleeting glimpse of a small flock of LBJs could have been either willow tits or one of the warbler family, both of which the warden had just seen in the area, but unfortunately it was too fleeting a sighting to get even a partial ID. Similarly, whilst a couple of local twitchers were adamant they'd just seen fieldfare in one of the low meadows, all we could see were more common thrushes. Still, for the small amount of time we spent, and how little of the site we explored, it's definitely somewhere I'd be happy heading back to in warmer weather.
Having given in to Mum's calls for the sea, we left the car and went out onto the coast road. Unfortunately, the tide had considerably retreated at this stage, and the actual path doesn't go too much into the salt marshes at any rate (what with all the quicksand, hidden channels, and standard marshy bits), so the views were limited. We found a clearing on a slight rise and scanned the mudflats for a while, before some more sherry and treats appeared out of one bag or another. We never managed to locate the fabled long-billed dowitcher that has been getting local wildlife enthusiasts excited for a few months, though it had been spotted earlier that day. Still, a kestrel flew right overhead and landed on a nearby barn, followed shortly after by a wheeling buzzard, and the views in general across to Scotland and out towards Ireland were beautiful in the dimming light.
A small part of me still hoped to get lucky, however, so as the others went back to the car I struck out alone along the coast road in the direction we'd ultimately be heading in. I still didn't see any of the rare wading birds we'd been hoping for, but did have a superb sighting of a small family of treecreepers. Normally only spotted high up in a canopy, the low-lying gorse thickets meant it was possible to actually get close shots for once, and I'm glad to say that I managed a couple I'm pleased with, despite their freakish speed and propensity to jump perfectly behind a twig at the last second 😁
One scenic, looping drive later and we were back home. I'm glad we managed to do a little exploring whilst we still could and it was great to get out in the sea breeze, even it was a bit nippy at times.
- Little Egret
- Pink-Footed Goose
- Mute Swan
- House Sparrow
- Mistle Thrush
- Carrion Crow