Another regular work journey for me is out to Hull, and because I try to keep my carbon footprint down I’ll often take the train from York. In addition to being environmentally responsible, it offers me the opportunity to try spot some birds on the estuary.
It is easy to think of the Humber as some industrial wasteland, dominated by the shipping that goes into and out of Hull itself. It’s certainly true that a vast chunk of the country’s carbon output is centred there. But the estuary is also a wildlife paradise, designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area (SPA), and also under the Ramsar Convention for internationally important wetlands.
This is because the diverse range of habitats, including lagoons, mud flats, salt marsh, and sandbanks, as well as the plants and animals they support, are among the most important in Europe.
Whizzing past on a train it can be hard to appreciate this. But if you have your eye in, you will realise there are wading birds on the shore, with curlew in particular easy to pick out due to their size and long down-curved bill. At high tide they’ll even roost atop the flood bank, an incongruous sight.
You can also get lucky and spot predators such as marsh harrier coasting over the reedbeds. Just yesterday I saw a pair of them, and later as the sun set, a barn owl too.
I’ve spoken about train birding before, but hopefully this is a reminder that on any train journey you should keep an eye out, and consider what important habitats you may be passing.