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General > Water, Water everywhere!
Water, Water everywhere!
by "Stotty"

14th November 2009: ‘Forty Days and Nights of Rain!’ the biblical story recalls in Genesis Chapter 6.  For my own sins, I was beginning to wonder if the 2009-2010 wildfowling season was about to be abruptly halted by some Divine intervention. For the last two weeks torrents of rain had perpetually fallen across Cumbria, causing the rivers to overflow and the inland fields to submerge. It had to be the wettest November on record. When the estuary catchment is full to capacity, wildfowling below the mean high water mark is demanding, as well as dangerous, with so much ‘run off’ gushing seaward. Additionally, the glut of ‘choice’ gastronomic delights inland, has the local wildfowl population abandoning the estuary to dine on the protein rich banquet behind the seawalls. It had been a pitiful beginning to the ‘Gun Powder month’. Estuary outings on the 1st and 7th had drawn complete blanks, with not a duck to be seen at morning flight. A week earlier I’d had my bag of ‘field test’ Flambeau wigeon decoys nicked by thieving pikeys right under my nose as I came off from morning flight. Robert of Paddlesdown Ltd kindly volunteered their immediate replacement. The last two weeks should have seen a bigger influx of wigeon into Morecambe Bay but so far only the vanguard of the migrants had arrived. Reports from other estuaries around the UK also indicated a significant depletion in wigeon numbers normally expected for this time of year. Water was the only thing that wasn’t in short supply!

Rolo & Cock WigeonMorning flight of Saturday the 14th was no exception. Rolo and I were grimly seeking shelter from the maelstrom, behind a large stone groyne that aims to divert the riparian flow of the river out into the centre of the bay. The rocks afforded some protection from the incessant sheets of driving rain but most importantly, good cover for the fowler from the watchful eyes of wildfowl. The tide had long ebbed leaving the estuary looking drenched and desolate. Dark and moody nimbostratus hastily scudded low overhead as the wind mercilessly drove mud spattered foam across the flats. This was Nature untamed! This is the ‘fowlers world! Experience knew that the prospects were slim this morning, but a wildfowler is an eternal optimist. Eyes remained forever vigilant, scanning the sky, the tideline and the vast expanse of mudflats in front for even the faintest glimpse of flighting fowl. The startling overhead appearance of pack of Curlew suddenly threw the body into a violent spasm as if jolted by some unforeseen invisible hand. Spectral cries, wrenched from gritted throats, ridiculed the lone figure below them, as they speedily glided past; these were the phantoms of the marshes. The body muscles relaxed, the heart beat slowed and the grip lessened on the auto. Damn it! Just where are the wildfowl?! Cursing the Curlews fine trickery under a sardonic grin, my eyes unexpectedly converged on two quickly approaching forms skimming the channel to my left. Bloody hell! Incoming wigeon! A pair were being buffeted sideways, fifteen feet above the spray-swept The Stotty!!mudflats. Their current flight path would convey them straight over us! The cock bird seemed outlandishly colourful against the iron-grey back drop of the estuary and it was to him my attention was immediately focussed. Wheeoooo Wheeoooo, the ‘brass charm’ resounded. Fifty yards and still coming….forty, thirty, twenty-five…!! The pair never faltered. Two swiftly directed charges of Steel 3’s had both birds simultaneously cart wheeling into the river channel in front of me for a lovely executed right and left. Rolo dived into the water with gusto for the double retrieve. With the hen wigeon to hand, he exploited the current to take him quickly to the second bird, and, turning hard, he battled powerfully against the strong outflow. He’s a formidable swimmer and within minutes he had powered his way back to the rocky outcrop launching himself at me with the cock wigeon held triumphantly aloft. The November duck drought was finally broken! It had been well worth the recent fruitless efforts for this single magic moment. Tucking both wigeon carefully inside my jacket pocket I looked out across the estuary at a slowly intensifying glimmer of light on the distant horizon. Momentarily the wind had died, the rain had actually stopped but now was the perfect time for us both to leave our waterlogged refuge and head homeward towards the seawall.

 ‘Stotty’ Paddlesdown Wildfowling Prostaff

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