Waterside Natural History Society visit Lymington Normandy Marshes

The visit started from the Yacht Club car park in Lymington early on a Sunday morning in February.

An atmosphere of hustle and bustle greeted the members on arrival at the quayside. The Wightlink ferry towering over all buildings nudged its way between the mudflats.

Keen amateur sailors were busy unloading their dinghy’s, raising the masts and unfurling the sails before carrying their craft down the slipway and into the water.

Cyclists and dog walkers were setting out along the coastal footpath swelled in number by the small group of Natural History Society members.

The footpath along the sea wall goes between the seawater baths and a marina.

At this time of year the baths are empty of water but the hustle and bustle of the quayside was replaced by the sound of wind blowing through the rigging of the yachts moored in the marina and the clanking of metal fittings.

A short walk through a boatyard led to the peaceful sight of marshes and the open sea.

Although the weather was mild for February there was a strong south westerly wind blowing which made it difficult to hold binoculars steady.

Much of the time was taken up by concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other rather than looking at the wildlife.

Normandy Marshes are used by many birds as a stopover on migration so it is not surprising that the birds differ from week to week.

At the time of the visit there were large flocks of Lapwing and Wigeon.

Many of the birds kept as low to the ground as possible in order to keep out of the wind but occasionally some disturbance made all the Lapwing take to the air at the same time.

Lapwings have a distinctive flapping sort of flight and look like the archetypal birds drawn by children on a picture.

They also have a high pitched mournful call that creates an atmospheric experience on a dull windy day.

Dunlin flock together in the same way as Lapwing or Starlings but they have the added advantage of producing a flash of white when they all change direction in flight.

One flock of Dunlin flew overhead so low to the ground that the sound of beating wings could be clearly heard even against the wind.

Many other birds were seen including Canada Geese, Teal, Redshank, Pintail ducks and Small Grebe.

Their larger relatives Great Crested Grebe could be seen occasionally popping up to the surface on the seaward side of the sea wall.

Apart from a few brave Cormorants there were few other birds seen on the sea.

That is not to say they were not there but the strong wind prevented anything but a cursory glance before continuing further on the walk.

A distinctive feature called the Observatory had been placed at one corner of the sea wall.

This had nothing to do with observing birds or stars but is an artistic installation erected by ‘Space Placemaking and Urban Design’.

It is either a ‘Sculptural installation that becomes an intervention, a space, a platform, a look-out for a series of artists residences to take place’ or a couple of burnt wood huts depending on your point of view.

Either way any interaction by the public is counted as a success.

The walk returned to Lymington Marina along Normandy Lane which because of its sheltered aspect and having the wind behind provided a pleasant spring like stroll.