Every now and again I manage to catch the tide just right; just before it becomes full at Timber Beach. By then water has already covered most of the mud on the south of the Tyne and the waders walk towards you; slow and cautious before flying to roost. In still conditions with glassy water you feel the power of the flow as twigs and branches push past going the wrong way –right to left. These tides hold things, only slowly letting them leave, like the fridge that bobbed for a few days outside a friend’s flat.
At low tide, the edge –where mud meets water, is not visible and falls steeply away into the river. Waders then are reduced to sounds, being best viewed with a scope from the north bank. The glare of the sun on mud and water this week has made this an interesting array of shadow puppets whose characters act out a wordless play. The neurotic Lapwings, the begging calls of Herring Gulls still persist, the Curlew brings the moors into the city and the occasional plop as a Cormorant breaks the surface after a dive; sounds that blend together.
Comedic effect is offered by two Common Seals hauled out on the mud catching the rays all day. I have seen them arrive, never together, as the tide ebbs. The water leaves them on the bank of mud at a safe distance from the people where they await the return of the water, to carry them away. Today they looked like kids who wanted to play for just five more minutes, raising both their nose and tail out of the water until more resistance was futile. They are popular with people down here; many of whom fail to notice the birds.
Other entertainment is provided by the Black-tailed Godwits that eventually made it to the NZ26 party. Three are often seen on the north mud opposite the Staith, four are often seen on or near Timber Beach. It is not clear if this amounts to three plus one or if seven are spending their time arguing as they plodge through the mud.
And now that the Common Sandpipers have long since left there has been an arrival of Golden Plover. At least 17 picked their way daintily between the Lapwings, never fully exposing themselves outside the group; wide-eyed and innocent they bring the threshold of winter that bit closer.