Taking Off


It was definitely a wellie day. After almost a week of rain, the ground squelched and sloshed with each step. The thickest tussocks of grass were dry, but most of the ground was speckled with puddles. That wasn’t a problem though, and by the looks of the oranges and yellows appearing to the east, the sunrise was going to make some welly wading more than worth it.

Slinging my camera across my back and clutching tripod and camping chair in each hand, I threaded my way around the deepest puddles, leaving indentations in the grass behind me. The chattering babble of thousands of geese easily crossed the still bay, and in the gloom I could just about see them packed tightly together on a skinny sandbar. The tide was coming in so they didn’t have long. Neither did I, so I hastily set up the tripod and waited.

In minutes the sunrise had transformed from a haze of yellow to a blaze of scarlet and bruised purple. That was where the geese would soon be heading – taking off in swathes and moving inland to browse in the nearby fields. As if someone had turned up the volume, the honking increased drastically and a number of them took to the air, triggering others around them to follow. Most stayed behind though, leaving the ambitious few to form a loose skein that blew across the sky like a stray ribbon. They crossed from the pale navy light into the fiery sunrise and shrank to dots. A little while later another group took off, then another, and for the next hour and a half the crowd on the sandbar slowly diminished. It was lucky for me that they left in shifts because I had plenty of opportunities for photos.

Although I’d come especially for the geese, there was an unexpected bonus display from a large group of knot that was murmuring like starlings over the water. The tiny waders climbed high into the sky, and each time they twisted back on themselves the sunlight caught their white bellies and the whole murmuration flashed like a torch. As the tide continued to sweep in, the knot were pulled further and further towards us until they settled on the receding sand and began to forage among the oystercatchers.

Eventually, all the geese had departed for the day, and an unseen distraction had frightened the knot back into the air, where they circled several times before settling far across the bay and out of sight. In a fairly short time, the thousands of birds and their incessant chatter had gone, leaving the bay smoothed over by silence.  

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