The Winter Trees and The Flock of Curlews

dsc07926Two days after Christmas it is cold but still and a good day for walking. So Sarah and I drive over to the far side of the Wirral and do our favourite walk, our favourite meditation. It’s The Shining Shore walk and I’ve written about it many times on here before. So today I won’t write about the walk so much as a few observations on the way round. And some more pictures of those curlews.

Setting off late morning more or less in silence.

Setting off late morning more or less in silence in our familiar place.

We gather some company along the way.

We gather some company along the way.

This is Belle, she was really with the people walking some way behind us but seemed to have appointed herself as our scout.

This is Belle, she was really with the people walking some way behind us but seemed to have appointed herself as our scout.

Nosing through kissing gates and pointing out interesting things to smell.

Our first stop in the hilly wooded Dungeon.

Our first stop in the hilly wooded Dungeon.

For lunch.

For lunch.

Where, as ever, the food tastes better outdoors.

Lunch eaten and tea drunk, Sarah collects twigs and bark.

Lunch eaten and tea drunk, Sarah collects twigs and bark.

Both to use getting the fire going on her allotment.

Meanwhile I look at the winter trees. The trees that can be seen in all their naked intertwining now the leaves are gone until the spring.dsc07878 dsc07879 dsc07880 dsc07882 dsc07883I am always at peace here among these trees. Whether under the canopy cover of high summer or the open to the sky of now. I’ve come to this place for years now, mostly with Sarah but also with other friends and we never just walk through. It’s a place that seems to ask you to stop. Stop walking. Stop worrying if you’re worrying. Stop thinking if you’re thinking too much. Just stop. And be.dsc07891dsc07889And today I stop and I only think of the trees. And this is enough.

We walk on.

We walk on.

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Looking back at this solo tree like always.

Looking back at this solo tree like always.

Past this 5 bar gate into Heswall Field.

Past this 5 bar gate into Heswall Field.

And on to the shore of the Dee.

And on to the shore of the Dee.

The cloud following the shape of the land over there at Talacre.

The cloud following the shape of the land over there at Talacre.

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Soon it's time for another sit.

Soon it’s time for another sit.

The day is very very still. As quiet as we’ve ever heard it down here. So we speak quietly too.

Noticing the boats waiting, all dilapidated, to be refloated by the next tide.

Noticing the boats waiting, all dilapidated, to be refloated by the next tide.

I also notice the cliffs, the boulder clay cliffs of Thurstaston and their continuing erosion. Here’s me from four years ago:

“The cliffs at Thurstaston are a thing of great beauty. Made of eroding boulder clay, they are a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and cannot be protected from erosion – it is the erosion that is important to their status. But the erosion is now proceeding faster than we’ve ever seen because of the extremely heavy rainfall that’s been happening much of the time since last Summer.

The boulders in the cliffs are rocks transported to Wirral from Scotland and the Lake District underneath  glaciers during the last Ice Age, ending between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago. (Much more about the geology of here can be learned from ‘A History of Wirral’ by Stephen J. Roberts, a reader of this blog, which I’ve just borrowed from the library.)

And I get that the cliffs are naturally eroding. The tide reaches them most days after all. But this rate of collapse is extraordinary and is explained by the amount of water the hillside is attempting to hold. The whole of our walk today would have to be described as ‘squelchy’ – and that’s been true of all the walks we’ve done here since last Spring. The weather has changed radically, and the rapid collapse of the cliffs would seem to be one result.

So if you love them, come and see them soon. We can’t save them, we can only bear witness.”

Today, at the end of 2016, I bear witness.dsc07914 dsc07917dsc07920dsc07919Seeing the falling forward that’s going on here feels like saying goodbye to an old and faltering friend.

Then the flock of curlews put all thoughts of sorrow and geology out of our minds. Sarah notices them first.

Many of them, many hundreds

Many of them, many hundreds in the mud where the tide’s just gone out.

While I’m taking this picture a soft drumming which is the beating of all of their wings whooshes suddenly louder…

And they all take off.

And they all take off.

My hands and my eyes and my soul know this is special so I follow the flock with my camera as it swoops and soars and I take these photographs.dsc07923 dsc07924 dsc07925 dsc07926 dsc07927 dsc07928 dsc07929 dsc07930 dsc07931 dsc07932

As the flock heads off over to Wales we both breathe out again, breathing the word ‘murmuration.’ Except these are definitely wading birds and not starlings.

Gorgeous and miraculous.

And for the next show?dsc07933 dsc07936 dsc07937Special in their way, but if their motors had buzzed over us a couple of minutes ago then the curlews might not have done what they just did.

We walk on, quietly stunned.

We walk on, quietly stunned.

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By the beauty and the inhabitants of The Shining Shore.

By the beauty and the inhabitants of The Shining Shore.

Then our day ends at Parkgate.

Then our day ends at Parkgate.

With the everyday miracle that is Nicholl’s Ice Cream. Perfect.

The curlews today.

The curlews today.

Later on I check if that was a murmuration we saw and the word does only seem to apply to flocks of starlings. Still, if you google ‘flock of curlews’ you’ll see some pictures similar to the ones I took today.

8 thoughts on “The Winter Trees and The Flock of Curlews

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thank you. Also ‘herd’ in the way we use it is more agricultural, implying a degree of human influence or even control that certainly didn’t apply to those curlews yesterday.

      Reply
  1. Pete

    I can’t get a proper look at the pictures on my phone but there look to be a good number of black-tailed godwits in that flock, maybe some golden plovers too.

    Reply
  2. Jan

    Fantastic photographs of the trees and stunning capturing the “flock” of curlews. Enjoyed my stroll with you both.

    Reply

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