Virtue Signalling

Main beach at St Bees

I’m probably being too clever by half with the title, so let me explain. Last Saturday morning there was a Cumbria Bird Club meeting at St Bees, the western outpost of the county. As a Club committee member I wanted to go, but I didn’t feel driving to a birding jaunt so far away was appropriately green. I looked at the timetables and it was possible with an early start to get there by train (signals, virtue signalling – geddit).

I’ve written something more detailed for the club newsletter but a precis follows:

Friday night – double check the trains are running and they aren’t, at least via Barrow as planned. Going via Carlisle instead still allows me to get there on time.

Saturday morning – walk to Blackpool North station to catch the 4.44 to Manchester Airport. Expect the station to be deserted bar people leaving for package holidays, forget it’s summer and the weekend and there’s a party still in full swing.

Get to Preston where my conveyance north is apparently both cancelled and passing stations to the south. Cancelled unsurprisingly wins that battle. No trains at all north for over an hour, call it a day. Heading for the Blackpool North platform when it is announced there is a replacement bus service. A French lady who speaks little English and myself are effectively given a roomy taxi minibus to Carlisle and Glasgow respectively.

Arrive at Carlisle having missed the connection as expected. However the sun is shining contrary to the forecast and it’s great to be somewhere I wouldn’t normally visit. Catch a later train across to the coast and down to St Bees.

The group are meeting at altitude at Sandwith, but I’ve missed my offered lift so it’s the walk up from sea level at St Bees for me. I follow a very fit and organised looking group who have also got off the train, I wonder whether they are starting the internationally famous Coast to Coast walk.

There are a couple of flocks of gulls and guillemots in feeding frenzies as I pass them. I give both several minutes attention. I don’t actually expect to see dolphins but I do, a couple of Bottlenose which may have attracted the birds to fish or maybe vice-versa.

First ascent
Respite passing Fleswick Bay

When I do meet up with the group I am able to show them their first Puffins of the morning. We also see a Harbour Porpoise accompanying the third swarm of birds I’ve seen during the day. It’s a glorious day to be up close and personal with the only high rise seabird city in north west England.

Guillemots on the cliffs
Much closer Razorbill (and Herring Gull chick and distant Kittiwake)

Several hours late I finally get to enjoy the south Cumbrian coastline birding that was part of the plan for the day. Crossing six estuaries there are plenty of Little Egrets, a flock of around 70 Eider on the Leven and a Common Sandpiper on the Kent Estuary. It has all been worth the effort and very cathartic, and the shine isn’t taking off it by the raucous fare dodgers on the last leg back to Blackpool. They were a lot quieter when they went to hide in the toilet in any case…

from the train at Grange-over-Sands

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: