Sitting on a bench beside the Humber Estuary one evening recently noticed, on the incoming tide, two animals. One I pronounced a sea otter, having once heard from the late Miles Hopper, an eminent local naturalist, that they may sometimes be seen in the Estuary. Only its head was occasionally popping above water level so on that evidence alone I suppose it could have been a seal but the head didn’t look like that of a seal. However, the reference book tells me that sea otters are native only to North America so no wonder it looked tired!
On the flow tide the salinity of the middle and upper Estuary increases, decreasing on the ebb tide. The salinity in the lower Estuary stays pretty constant. Shore bank fishermen (persons) may be seen rod-and-line fishing as far up the Estuary as the Humber Bridge on the flow tide, these hoping to catch sea fish swimming up with the tide, then swimming back on the ebb tide. Back in the 18th century it was well documented for the Humber and other east coast estuaries to have salmon swimming up estuary and up the River Ouse and its tributaries, especially the R. Derwent, to shallow fresh-water spawning grounds, the fish able to adjust between sea and fresh water. Water quality in these estuaries has been so improved over the last 40 years as to be similar to that of the 18th century and before.
The other animal seen from the bench was a young gull, clearly unable to fly, probably abandoned and starving, bobbing about on the surface floating on the tide near the water’s edge. Unfortunately it was carried into a bed of saltmarsh plants on the foreshore and, as the tide continued to rise, probably drowned. It was not wise for me to scramble down the reinforced flood bank and wade out so I didn’t.
Walking back along the bank the storm-clouds were gathering, the first rain for weeks, bringing life back to the land while the waters of the Estuary took a life nearby.