Morecambe Bay Partnership’s dedicated birdlife volunteers, The Natural Ambassadors, are encouraging local families across north Lancashire and southern Cumbria to walk off the pud and spot some amazing birds over Christmas and New Year.
The Natural Ambassadors’ ‘Boxing Day bird’ is the knot – dumpy, short-legged and also easy to spot because of its short green legs and long, straight black bill. In winter, a knot has a silvery-grey upper body and white belly, as well as displaying a faint wing-stripe when in flight – not the only aerial clue to pick up on.
Anyone spending time around Morecambe Bay this festive season may well witness the mesmerising wheeling and turning motion of flocks of up to 100,000 knot, twisting this way and that. This is definitely something to snap, record and impress Christmas guests with.
Knot just love Morecambe Bay for its saltwater clams, found in abundance in the Bay’s rich mudflat-located ‘seafood bar’. Some knot stop to dine here during a migration from their Arctic breeding grounds to as far south as Australia. Others choose to stay throughout the winter, before returning north.
With a migration that is one of the longest for any species of wildlife, knot certainly create lots of talking points.
For New Year bird spotters, the Natural Ambassadors have picked Sanderling as their must-spot bird. This is a seven-inch-tall wader with a short, thick and straight black bill. Its upperparts are pale-grey and its lower body white, but look out for another distinguishing mark in the form of a black mark at its shoulder, where the folded wing meets its body.
This bird is another migrant, flying down from Arctic breeding grounds in Canada, Greenland and Siberia in autumn, to spend winter in the UK and other places, with some even heading as far as South America. Luckily, many choose Morecambe Bay for a long stopover.
It is a real delight to spot this bird, as it runs across the sand as if pedalling a bicycle, making its action rather comical to observe. It will also frequently stop to pick up food such as crabs and invertebrates, tucking in with gusto.
The Natural Ambassadors help adults and children alike spot these species, along with the many others – over 50 in fact – that view Morecambe Bay as a haven for the hungry. This is due to its abundance of seafood of all kinds, which can be found in the sands either side of high tide as the tide either comes in or recedes.
The Natural Ambassadors locate themselves at key birdlife points around The Bay all year around and are easily identifiable in their blue fleeces. Anyone with questions, or a desire to use some binoculars to study different species, should ask them for information and help in spotting their chosen birds.
There is also a new Morecambe Bay Partnership ‘Birds of the Bay’ leaflet, found in leaflet racks around the area, which explains all anyone needs to know about the reasons why all the amazing species should be celebrated. It also offers images and brief descriptions of 10 key species, including knot and sanderling, so Bay Bird Bingo can be a really interesting festive game this year, played outdoors in wonderful fresh air with an invigorating salty sea scent.
Morecambe Bay Partnership spokesperson Sophie Cringle says: “Christmas and New Year are wonderful times to walk off the Christmas pud, head to the shore two hours before or after high tide and discover how fascinating our wheeling knot and bicycling sanderling can be.
“Our new leaflet will also allow all the family to have fun, if they want to spot another eight species besides.”
Tide times for Morecambe Bay can be found at www.tidetimes.org.uk and some great places to head to for some free spotting opportunities are Morecambe Promenade and stone jetty, Potts Corner at Middleton and Hest Bank/Bolton Sands, Red Nab, Plover Scar, Warton Mires, Kent Estuary Marshes, East Plain and West Plain, south of Grange-over-Sands, West Shore Walney and Canal Foot near Ulverston.
Leighton Moss Reserve (RSPB), South Walney Nature Reserve (Cumbria Wildlife Trust site) and Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve (National Trust Site), are also fabulous places for Bay Bird Bingo, but charges may apply.
To download the Birds of the Bay leaflet, please use this link: https://bit.ly/2GmFDLP
For more information about the Bay’s wildlife please head to www.morecambebaynature.org.uk