Country diary: clouds of chattering sand martins swirl above our heads

Country diary: clouds of chattering sand martins swirl above our heads

Pagham Harbour, West Sussex: It is thought that seven pairs of cattle egrets have nested and at least 10 young have fledged here

We walk in single file along the narrow path that runs along the bank, overlooking the harbour. It’s not the first time that our local RSPB group has met for a walk in the last six months, but there’s a sense of revived camaraderie as we catch up with the latest news and point out birds and butterflies to one another.

To the south, glinting in the low evening sun, the water in the harbour is dropping as the tide goes out. Clouds of sand martins swirl above our heads, chattering away as they feed on the rising flies in the breeze. There are just a few lingering swallows among them. Waders are flying in to land, hungrily stabbing the emerging mud for worms. Among the redshanks, dunlins and curlews is a grey plover with its black, white and grey “judge’s wig” plumage.

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