Once in a lifetime experience

That special moment and a once in a lifetime encounter for two Lytham and District Wildfowlers Association members, Steven Heyworth and Gary Turner. 

It’s amazing what you bump into out on the marsh, or should I say what bumps into you. This Merlin was chasing a Red Shank. At first we thought it was being mobbed by a corvid but as it drew nearer, we realised he was obviously after the little wader for breakfast. The aeronautical display it put on for us was amazing and fantastic; swooping over the spartina grass and into the gutters on the saltings. Back and forth then climbing high before diving fast and low skimming the mud flats in the bottom of the gutter, then swooping up and over the grasses once more diving into smaller gutters no more than a meter wide before climbing again. I felt for the little chap, surely his number was up, but also excited as we could be about to witness a true aeronautical display of cat and mouse leading to the spectacle of the kill by the Merlin. Then, at break neck speed the Red Shank again darted skimming the mirrored water as the tide flooded the gutter and this time it made another desperate bid for freedom. He made an abrupt right turn and shot up the gutter that Gary and myself were in and as fast as a blink of an eye he then swerved between Gary and myself and shot up and over the banking that we were leaning on, causing us and my Labrador to duck and dodge to try and escape a collision. As the Red Shank departed at what seemed like 100mph over the top of the bank, Mr Merlin didn’t make the turn as fast, with a flare of wings and tail feathers he managed to wedge himself into the banking between me and the mud, on his back looking up at me with a very surprised look as if to say, “Where the hell did you two come from?”

I made a grab for him and after an inspection and deciding he was ok, nothing seemed to be broken, he was made to pose for the obligatory photo shoot before I released him back into the wild. Gary snapped a couple of photos with me holding him, I said to Gary get ready for the next photo, I’m going to let him go on 3. So 1,2,3 and up into the air he went, he took to the sky immediately  and headed out to the river like a scalded cat, to the cry from Gary “I bloody missed the shot, I don’t believe it I think I missed it”. Seconds later Gary was interrogating his phone and he let out a cry, “I’ve got it, I’ve got the shot! Wow, it looks fantastic. That made my morning, I’ve got the shot.”

So contrary to what people think, it’s not all shooting out there. This time we were shooting with a camera, and the welfare of the Merlin was paramount. The photo speaks a thousand words, a truly once in a lifetime encounter and a once in a lifetime photo.  A magical moment out on Lytham and District Wildfowlers Association marshes, where the biodiversity is unbelievably good and it’s members do everything they can to help ensure we have a salt marsh we can be proud of.

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