Wildlife On Our Doorstep
The Mill is surrounded by miles of open countryside, with the coast only a couple of miles away. We have the canal on our doorstep, and the nearby Lune estuary, making for a huge variety of wildlife to enjoy. A short drive away is a viewing point at Pilling where you can see thousands of wading birds, including Shelduck, Lapwing and Icelandic Geese on their migratory routes from Iceland, Europe and Africa.
Watch the elegant white swans ply the canal. At breakfast save a slice of toast and feed the curious birds. With their stark white plumage and long S-shaped neck they are bold and beautiful to look at. We have regular families of swan at the Mill who often breed and nest in the reeds of the canal. Do keep an eye out for newly hatched cygnets as mum and chicks swim in line searching out food.
Gaunt grey herons are among the most familiar of our local water birds. Fresh or salt, clear or muddy each is acceptable so long as it will yield something worthwhile. They stalk through the shallows with long deliberate strides, neck muscles tensed for spearing. Eventually a fish will pay the price of carelessness as the heron's kinked neck is straightened with startling speed and the sharp bill stabs its prey - sometimes several times.
At rest and in full sun, a kingfisher is a superb sight dressed in cobalt-blue and orange-chestnut. Bright sealing-wax red legs and feet add a final touch of colour. All one usually sees, however, is a flash of brilliant blue. The bird travels as such high speed that it is almost impossible to see the whirring wings. Outside the breeding season kingfishers are mostly solitary and secretive, roosting in dense cover near water. Each bird arrives at most after dark and departs before dawn.
Very elusive, the playful otter is equally at home in the water and on land. They make homes in burrows near water's edge. They swim by propelling themselves with powerful tails and flexing their long bodies. They have webbed feet and water repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. On land, river otters runs well, if not quite as effectively as they swim. They love to slide down muddy hills, often ending with a splash into water. Otter families can be seen enjoying such fun, which also teaches survival skills.
At close quarters you will note the Lapwing is not really black and white although looking so in flight. Iridescent purple-green upper parts and rich chestnut patches above and below the tail contrive to give a truly handsome appearance. Well worth watching, Lapwing spread apart to feed, each bird running short distances then pausing to watch for any tasty movements.
Little grebes are persistent divers, either slipping below without surface disturbance or with a vigorous jump, creating a shower with lobed feet. Dives may last half a minute or the birds may reappear immediately. If alarmed, a dabchick will submerge until only its head remains above water.
The birds are small and short-necked, with 'powder puff' rear ends. In breeding plumage they sport yellow gape and chestnut faces and neck and have a distinctive trilling call.
Sand martins are the smallest of the european martins and swallows have sport dark brown upper parts and dark under wings contrasting with otherwise pale under parts divided by a distinctive dark chest bar. Agile fliers, feeding mainly over water, they will perch on overhead wires or branches.
A smallish wader with contrasting brown upperparts and white underparts, the sandpiper habitually bobs up and down, known as 'teetering', and has a distinctive flight with stiff, bowed wings. Its presence is often betayed by its three-note call which it gives as it flies off.