As you look out across the estuary, ponder on the changing face of Flint’s coast. This former military stronghold and port was a seaside resort and then a bustling industrial area. Now it is peaceful again, internationally important for its birdlife, and a refreshing place to walk.
Built in the 13th century, Flint Castle was the first of Edward I’s formidable ring of castles along the North Wales coast, an imposing demonstration of his military strength and determination. The castle was held by Royalist supporters for much of the Civil War and afterwards was dismantled by Cromwell’s forces so that it could not be garrisoned again, leaving the striking ruin you see today.
Flintshire’s coast is a great place for bird watching. The rich estuary mud is full of invertebrate life, providing plentiful food, which attracts huge numbers of wildfowl and waders.
When the tide is out you can see them feeding on the mudflats but high tide is also good for birdwatching as the birds are pushed up onto the saltmarsh.
Many birds remain all year and breed locally.
Oystercatchers are probably the most commonly seen. They’re certainly the easiest to recognize- and the noisiest! Around 10% of the British population live here – you often see large groups on the saltmarsh at high tide or probing in the mud for cockles, when the tide is out.
Curlew – tall waders with long curved beaks and a distinctive call.
Redshank – smaller active waders easily identifiable as the name suggests by their bright red legs.
Shelduck – Large numbers breed here.
Little Egrets – Once only associated with hotter climes are now a familiar sight here.
Cormorants – Often seen swimming in the water or standing on the mudflats, sometimes holding their wings out to dry.
In winter, the resident birds are joined by thousands of wading birds and wildfowl that migrate from the Arctic.
Wigeon and smaller teal overwinter here. Many can be seen on the sand banks at low tide. Other birds are summer visitors and many others pass through in spring and autumn on migration between the Tropics and the Arctic. They use the estuary as a vital staging post, to rest and refuel.