Country diary: on the tail of heavenly godwits

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Whitley Bay, North Tyneside: The waders are happier here on the sand than out on the weed-strewn rocks

The driving new moon tides of early autumn have reconfigured the seashore. In recent times the seasonally shifting sands here have made headlines: in 2018, the March stormfront we called “the beast from the east” flayed this beach down to its rocky bare bones. Today there is drenched sand all the way up to the sea wall and a rich, gently fermenting “wrack zone” of weed deposited by the morning’s high sea. It’s a last bonanza of the English summer for the swallows, who scud at waist height through an unseasonal humidity, protein-loading on kelp flies for their six-week trip to Africa.

Below where I stand at the rail of the prom one swallow clings to the concrete of the sea wall for a moment, snatching for a fly I can’t see, before launching out again with a sort of overarm flourish, like a backstroke swimmer. Further down, on the sand, two tall waders are exploring the tidal pools. Their upcurved bills – gently retroussé, without the extravagance of the avocet – tell me that they’re godwits.

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