Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Walking the Humber. Stage 8. Hedon Haven to Paull

I park by the sea wall at Paull. The tide is low, and there is light cloud with a few sunny spells developing later. It is very mild, with little or no wind. I climb the sea wall and walk up the estuary towards Hedon Haven.
 A dozen Curlews feed on an arable field by the village called South Pastures, a reminder that much land by the estuary was flooded at spring tides and was therefore grazed. After the sea wall was built to protect the village from flooding, the field could be ploughed and used for crops.
 From the other side of the wall, I hear the hoarse croaks of squabbling Shelducks. Many of them are scattered across extensive mudflats feeding on the wet mud.
Chasing Shelducks.
Shelducks feeding on the mudflats by Paull village.
A couple of Cormorants make use of wooden structures marking the deeper section of the Hedon Haven channel.
The tidal river that is Hedon Haven roars down, swollen by yesterday's rain all the way up to Pollard Clough (top shot). The Clough is a sluice which prevents sea water from going upstream during high tides and eases flow at low tide, preventing flooding upstream. Teal, redshank and a lone Black-tail Godwit rest on the shore...
and a Curlew feeds on the other side of the Haven.

The old carcass of a large ship is beached on the saltmarsh opposite, like a fossil witness of the era when Hedon Haven was used for navigation, holding a fleet of shrimping boats.
I cross the clough and continue on the other side of the Clough, downtream.

 I am surprised to see a pair of Roe Deer, at the other side of the fence on the Salt End grounds, with the towering presence of a cooling tower of the power station as background. They seem completely unperturbed and carry on grazing.
Female Roe deer.
Male Roe Deer.

There are a few ponds with some grassland around. On the path the remains of gravid frogs, the uneaten spawn of at least three, maybe eaten by a fox.
I reach the end of the path, with a metalling fence blocking the way around the Salt End site, so I return towards Paull. The clouds are parting and is noticeably warmer
 I get a straight view towards the Humber Bridge, with the exposed mudflats and feeding birds on them.
 The beach at Paull, with a couple of rotting boats. The shipyard is on the background on the left.
The sea defences at Paull are being repaired or replaced around the shipyard and just north of the lighthouse. This is the view from the street, into a courtyard. Instead of making the sea wall higher in front of the houses, a reinforced glass window has been placed atop the wall, allowing the visitors and locals a view of the Humber.

Paull Lighthouse.
The long glass wall around Paull.
As I cross the playing fiend by the sea well works, a Small Tortoiseshell, my first butterfly of the year flies past, setting ahead on a mole hill.
I take a little detour into the woods by Paull Fort, which is on a small promontory (about 10 m high) on a glacial moraine, which also explain other hills near Paull. I flush a Woodcock from the undergrowth just by the ditch around the fort wall.
 I continue into the old sea wall holding two lighthouses. This is Paull Holme Strays, which I will explore more fully in the next stage.
 I have lunch on the wall by the red lighthouse. Past the breach, a flock of Golden Plover circles and then settles on the mudflats. There are Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin, lots of Wigeon and Curlews. Again, a telescope would be very useful as the birds are mostly distant.
Golden Plover.
Carrion Crow on drift wood.
The western breach at Paull Holme Strays.
Meadow Pipit. Just landed from its parachute song display.
Some House Sparrows sand bathing on the side of the road at Paull village.
Time to head back home, really looking forward to the next stage!
Featured Bird
The Shelduck is our largest duck and it can be found in the Humber all year round. It is a striking bird, hard to confuse with anything else and easy to identify even at long distances due to its bold colour patterns. They appear black and white in the distance or at poor light, but on close views its pink legs and bill and dark green metallic head and maroon bands become apparent. The male is visibly larger than the female, with a large knob on the bill. Shelduck are Amber status, and the Humber holds over 4,000 individuals during winter and a moulting aggregation in late summer, when these ducks are unable to fly and therefore vulnerable. They also breed in the area.
Today's stage walk, 9.37 km.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Walking the Humber. Stage 7. King George Dock to Salt End

I start the stage at Holderness Drain. The tide is high and ebbing, but there is no exposed mud. It's cloudy, with a steady SW wind, but not too cold. King George dock, built on 1914 is the most recently built at Hull Port. The land it uses was reclaimed from marshes and pasture commons at the foreshore of Marfleet village. The Public Right of Way on this stretch follows the sea wall, with metalling fences on one site separating the container and ferry loading area of the Port of Hull from the concrete path just by the sloping stone wall.
  The P&O 'Pride of Rotterdam' ferry sits by its dock (top shot). The path climbs over the access road to the ferry loading area. There are many gulls about, especially Lesser Black-backs, Common Gulls and Black-headed gulls, which I check with my binocular. An adult Mediterranean gull flies just by the ferry close to me, but it is too fast for photos.
 I reach King George Dock lock and just then the alarm starts sounding and flashing and the lock opening, so I have to wait. Two cargo vessels, the Frif Jord and the Rix Owl leave the dock in quick succession. The whole operation takes just about just 10 minutes.

I cross the lock. The path then becomes straight and pretty monotonous, a whole km with little on it, just the sea wall and the occasional truck passing by at the other side of the fence. I imagine this must be impassable in windy, high tide conditions, when the Humber must be splashing against the sea wall. It makes for claustrophobic walking despite the open skies!
There is a large flock of gulls feeding in the distance and that provides some entertainment. There is mainly Black-headed gulls, with a few Mallard and Teal, which are feeding in a spot that smells like a sewage outlet.

I arrive at the end of the solid sea wall into an area that was reclaimed from Marfleet marsh, formerly known as 'The Growths'. The side nearest to the estuary is a large brownfield site. Huge mountains of coal and grit on the coal depot loom to the north of it.
One of two Roe Deer with the background of a large deposit of grit.
The Coal depot behind the grassland.
A Carrion Crow sits atop the coal.
The flat brownfield area is covered on grassland, reed patches and some scrapes holding water. The straight path is mowed and appears well trodden, but I haven't come across anyone. A Skylark rises and sings. There are plenty here, I count six one or two singing all the time.
Singing Skylark.
Mowed Public Right of Way.
 I flush four Curlews, then two Fieldfare and a Snipe. I feel like an interloper, as the area seems to have very little human disturbance as it is a dead end. There is a group of Teal on the scrape, piping.
The large cranes servicing the container port, looking west.
I reach Lord's Clough and glimpse its extensive mudflats, with the jetties of Salt End in the distance. I stay away from the wall edge, trying not to be too visible and flush the feeding birds, as there are so many birds on the mud: Curlews, Redshank, a large flock of Dunlin, Lapwing, some scattered Grey Plovers, a few Black-tailed Godwits, Teal. I wish I had a telescope at hand! Then I just see four Avocets at the other side of the fleet.
 I carry onto the path parallel to Lord's Clough, leaving the wonderful mudflat view behind. The path becomes muddy, between reeds. I reach the end of a railway line. A strange, repeated piercing call that I cannot recognise draws my attention, under a hawthorn bush I glimpse two weasels chasing.
I'm just opposite Salt End Chemical plant and power station and Lord's Clough marks the boundary of the City of Hull. There is no access around Salt End, so the next stage will begin at Hedon Haven. I didn't like that I had to miss a stretch by the Humber but I wonder if this is done to reduce disturbance in this large stretch of mudflat, which extends to the village of Paull, and is likely to have areas used as roosts at high tide.
Salt End jetties.
Grey Plover
Time to turn round. A kestrel hovers over the grassland and two Roe Deer bound over the grass away from me. The tide is very low when I return to the car. A Curlew and a Black-tailed Godwit feed, funnily enough, almost in the same position as a couple of weeks ago, when I finished the last stage. 
Common Gull on summer plumage.
Curlew feeding on ragworm.
Black-tailed Godwit by Holderness drain.

Featured Bird: Avocet
This beautiful wader is at home in wet wetlands and estuary mudflats, feeding on midge larvae, small shrimps and other invertebrates, which it picks up from just under the surface of the water with its upturned bill, sweeping it side to side as it wades. The Humber is of international importance for breeding and wintering area for this amber listed species. About 250 pairs breed in several sites in the Humber, the main one is Read's Island. A few pairs have also bred at Kilnsea Wetlands, Blacktoft Sands, North Cave Wetlands and Far Ings. Over 1000 winter in the Humber as estimated by WEBS counts. (note: the photo above is of Avocets feeding at Cley Marshes, which I took on31/3/2015). Today's Avocets were unfortunately too distant for photos.)
King George to Salt End Today's stage. 3.6 km each way.