the winter face of Morston has more birds and animals than humans and boats. the grey seals are giving birth in the marram dunes at the end of the spit, and the pontoons and moorings in the creek only harbour a few boats now.

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there are still seal trips for the hardy, and at low tide the mussel fishermen and cockle or bait diggers are busy, but the show is the birds.

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winter migrants or local all-year-rounders like redshank, oystercatchers, curlew and little egrets catch my eye as I walk the outermost edge of the saltmarsh, and their calls mingle with the moaning calls of mating seals and the low sounds of wind and wave thrashing the shoreline out past the point.

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a poor winged brent goose waddles across our path, unable to fly and weak it plays dead in front of the dogs, flat to the ground and neck stretched out, then gets up and walks off. wild-fowling starts in October and continues until the spring.

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clouds of knot fly above the mud saltings, turning and twisting, displaying their bellies in a flash of white which travels through the flock. little parties of black brent come and go, arrowing across from feeding ground to fen, purring their calls above our heads. we slither down the mud bank of a creek and walk across the river; at low tide there is only about six inches of water over a bed of gravel and shell. we walk along its edge, below the mud flats, at eye level with another party of geese. when the weather is harsh they come inland and graze on the young corn, but they are happy with what they can get on the marsh here at this time of year.

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by the Stiffkey channel one oystercatcher dwarfs the little waders with its huge orange beak, picking around the sacks of mussels which lie stacked to be cleaned by the river at high tide. the mussel fishermen started their season about six weeks ago; it’s a tough job – back-breaking and exposed to all weathers through the winter – wading a small boat out to the beds in the lagoon at low tide, forking it full of grey weed-beribboned mussels, and towing it back, and sorting them in a big riddle into the sacks. it has its own rewards if you love wild-life, peace and quiet and the outdoors.