Amidst rolling sand dunes, there is a vast open area comprising shallow flash pools, most currently dry with scattered dark rush clumps, and low, grassy mounds honeycombed by Rabbits. Sand & silt is colonised by grasses & wildflowers, with carpets of bright green moss, cushions of silver-grey lichen and dark, curled liverwort. Smooth sand is criss-crossed with tracks of mammals & birds: neat, oval Rabbit paws; bear-like Badger with prominent digging claws; star-shaped Polecat prints like a cat’s in pale sand. Last week, a clear pale grey and black male Hen Harrier hawked low across stunted Sallow before disappearing amongst dunes.
Waders lifting off as a flock from the estuary are always worth checking for raptors. Last week, a Merlin twice sped low over grey waters putting up Curlew, presumably bent on taking smaller Ringed Plover or Dunlin by surprise. This week, the powerful, slate-grey backed, black-hooded form of a Peregrine separated itself from wheeling, calling Curlews after an unsuccessful sortie.
Still unable to locate Grayling on the Dee, but warm sun with cold wind and light snow flurries made a fine March day. Unexpected sighting of a striking pair of Oystercatchers on a grey shillet bank, departing downstream with ringing calls, bold black & white zigzags over a winter-bleached landscape. Two small ducks surprised below a weir pool climb steeply to avoid trees, bold white wing panels giving drake Goldeneye with dun mate. Penetrating whistle shows Kingfisher in direct downstream flight, speck of electric blue held in a blur of wings.
In sunlit spume & whirl of the weir pool, amongst the swirl of silver bubbles an occasional dark form swings down: insect nymphs struggling to hatch into dark, up-winged flies with grey wings and two tails; first Iron Blues using early warm sun to dry new, emerging wings.
Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer
For details, telephone (01341) 241469