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General > Wildfowling - Wigeon Flight at Lindisfarne
Wildfowling - Wigeon Flight at Lindisfarne

So far this season Sam and I have not had chance to do much wildfowling as we have been without a suitable vehicle for nearly three weeks – our Nissan Navara has blown it’s gearbox at 55000 miles! Not so good when you consider it also blew it’s engine at 35000 miles! I've made a lot of enquiries and it appears there are serious engine and clutch/flywheel/gearbox problems with the Navara, here are some examples At the moment we are attempting to get a response from Nissan....


Fortunately a nearby friend of ours, Stephen, shoots Lindisfarne a fair bit and we managed to hook up with him for a lift up to the Island. Word is prospects were decent, a friend had been up at the Island the week beforehand and there were about 4000 Pinkfeet in and the Wigeon were starting to arrive in numbers. Tides were good for morning flight and with a full moon later this week the main lot of Wigeon should be arriving so we were confident of getting a decent flight.

Wildfowling Permit
Wildfowling Permit for Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve


Stephen collected us just after 0330, earlier than I would have liked (!) but it was a good call as when we hit the road we had to contend with thick fog for the first 50 miles and that left us at a snails pace. Nevertheless a good run north of Newcastle saw us arrive at Fenham le Moor with some time to spare.


This morning we would be heading out across the mud and onto the mussel beds and hard sand on the main channel, that way we planned to intercept the Wigeon flighting from the feeding grounds on the Eel Grass beds and back to the sanctuary area in the south of the reserve. To get across the mud we would need to wear Mud Patterns (Army Surplus Snow Shoes!) to stop us sinking and this would be a new experience for Sam and as he is aged only 9 we had been concerned that he would struggle to walk in them. However, he had practiced in our field the day beforehand and persuaded me that he could do it!


Kitted up with decoys, guns, steel loaded cartridges, camera, calls, dogs, army bergen and with mud patterns strapped to our feet we headed across the mud heading towards Holy Island. The first 150 yards is a struggle but then the mud gets a bit harder and Sam did very well and, perhaps because of his light weight, managed in his Mud Patterns without any problems. A fairly easy 20 minute walk saw us hit the main channel where we split up and Stephen headed a couple of hundred yards north of Sam and I.


Wildfowler on the mud
Sam keeping his hands warm with his Arctic Mittens whilst waiting for the Pinkfeet to flight
Still early but with light fast approaching from the East I placed half a dozen Wigeon deecs into the channel whilst Sam got his gun and cartridges sorted. Ready for action we tucked ourselves down against the shallow bank of the channel and waited for the Wigeon to flight.


The arrival of the first packs of Wigeon were proceeded by shots from further up the main channel and to our north, it was pretty clear that other Wildfowlers had walked down and into situ from the causeway. The first of the Wigeon were high and fast when they came to us and you could hardly pick one out for a shot as they arrived from the darker northern sky so we left them and waited for a decent chance.  Light was fast approaching and Wigeon were constantly on the move from North to South but most were too far to our side for a shot or simply too high. One pack gave us both a chance of a shot by neither of us connected, I think their speed simply caught us out. I then took a single hen Wigeon from a high pack and it dropped next to us in the channel, luckily Woody was straight onto it as the moment it hit the water it tried to dive and would have made a tough & lengthy retrieve for the dog.


Next up I took a good shot at a crossing bird travelling the far side of the channel and it seemed to drop stone dead in the water. Woody swam across to the side and with the tide rising it gave him a swim approaching 60 yards. Once in the shallows at the far side Woody spent a long time in the water and on the bank searching for the bird but to no avail. He came back into the water and looking at the way he circled and stuck his head under water it looked like the bird must be a runner and that it was constantly diving. Woody searched for about 10 minutes but came up with nothing so I called him back. As I came back up the channel Sam had a shot at a Wigeon only 30 yards high and hit it hard with both barrels, the bird towered and I expected it to drop but it flew on. Very disappointing for Sam as that would have been his first Wigeon. When I got back to him he realised he’d loaded up with some old Tungsten Matrix loads and he has had terrible problems with these as we found patterns through the 20 bore are horrendous with them and they simply fail to stop ducks. We had spoken to the manufacturer about this and they had told us that there had been a problem with that particular batch and they had found that they “blew” their patterns in the twenty! So lesson learnt the hard way Sam stuffed a couple of Steel 4’s up the spout, he has used these to devastating effect. As I settled back down with Sam he spotted a dark shape floating in the shallows about 100 yards away from us downstream and thought it might be my Wigeon. I took Woody and sent him back across the channel, out on the far bank I waved him to the right and with a lift of his head he scented the bird and ran down stream and dived into the water – a great retrieve and good reward for his persistence.

Brent Geese pass close by at Morning Flight


The sun was now just rising from the mist beyond Holy Island and temperatures plummeted well below freezing. Poor Sam had cold hands and his feet were frozen, he resorted to slipping on a pair of British Army issue Arctic Mittens and they sorted out his hands but he still had to suffer with cold feet. Unfortunately with his hands in Mittens he could not react quickly enough for the fast approaching Wigeon so he tooled his gun up with Goose loads and settled down to watch the rest of the Wigeon flight and wait for the Geese to flight.


Sam did not have long to wait for the geese but rather than coming off the roost in front of Holy Island they came in mega high from inland, obviously they had spent the night feeding under the moon. The first lot numbered about 1500 and they made a super sight in the Salmon Pink Sky. They continued high up and whiffled down onto the sands close to the Island. 15 minutes later they were followed by another lot numbering about 2000 and these also came in high and dropped down unmolested onto the roost.


The tide had now risen up to our feet so I collected in the decoys whilst Sam moved our bags, guns and cartridges up to the little gutter where we had dumped our Mud Patterns. The rising tide had moved a few packs of Wigeon and the Brent Geese (protected in the UK) were on the move. As we settled down into the gutter we witnessed a great flight of Brent, Sam’s first proper sight of them and he was really excited at getting so close to wild geese. Mixed in the Brent were odd Wigeon and these passed very low overhead, I considered picking the Wigeon out of the pack of Brent but decided it would be to risky – it would be just my luck to kill a Brent with a stray pellet! Fortunately there were now plenty of Wigeon on the move and having squandered a couple of easy chances and then having my auto jam I took a really nice bird from a small pack.


Pinkfeet were now starting to flight inland and the first lots were coming off at a very shootable height so I stuffed some 3.5” Steel BB’s into my auto and got ready. Unfortunately they passed a quarter of a mile to our side and they went inland unsaluted. More Pinks flighted but they were obviously well educated and they stayed well out of gunshot. However time was getting on, it was coming up to 0900 and permit conditions mean we had to be off the mud by 1000 so we packed up our gear and strapped our Mud Patterns on ready to do battle with the mud.


Ready for home
Sam on the mussel beds with Mud Patterns attached ready for the walk home
On our way back across the mud we joined up with Stephen, he’d had a decent flight with 4 Wigeon in his bag. He’d been using a new Lincoln 3.5” Over and Under that he’d purchased from me a few months ago but up to now he’d struggled to adapt to, he was pleased to be shooting better with it. On the walk back to the car Pinks kept flighting in land so we stopped and got down on a few occasions just in case they came near, but they didn’t!


Back at the vehicle we stopped and watched the geese dropping into a field close to the marsh. Plans were set to come back and have a go at them under the full moon later in the week.


The journey hope was quick with a short stop at the Purdy Lodge for a “fry up”! Once at home I had a quick search on the internet and ordered Sam just what he needed – a pair of electric heated socks!

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