Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morfa Dyffryn is a slack of many acres, more or less flat-bottomed, rimmed by sand dunes like a moon crater. Tufts of Sharp Rush stand dark and stiff across flashes that hold water in wet times. The sward is sparse, rabbit-grazed over sand and silt: poor in grass, rich in wildflowers. Dwarf Willow spreads in maroon patches with a few clumps of Sallow. Wet flash-pool margins are rich in animal tracks; a good location for making plaster casts.

Last weekend, when approaching the area, a medium-sized bird with unusual flight was glimpsed flying from grassed dunes to Sallow clumps. Moving again, distinctive, flattened, undulating flight on square-ended wings, depressed crest and sicklebill denoted Hoopoe, even before pink hue and bold black & white wings were discernable. Further clear views as the bird flew restlessly to yet another clump of stunted trees before Gorse & Bramble prevented our further progress.

Returning to the purpose of the trip, we walked then climbed a dune over and into the Morfa Dyffryn moonscape. Plaster casts were set on clear Badger prints in sandy mud, but were not set by time of departure.

Next morning, the walk between estuary, salting and reed beds on the one hand and airfield on the other brought nothing of note, nor was Hoopoe relocated. Casts were recovered and cleaned off in the nearby flash pool, each with five rounded pads set with claws in a row: Badger tracks like those of small Bear.

On the return, a large, long-winged, mottled-brown bird lifted from between Sharp Rush clumps, floating away in buoyant flight. As it turned slightly into wind, distinctive, truncated owl profile and crescent-moon markings on paler under-wing denoted Short-eared Owl before it lifted up a dune side and disappeared over the crater rim, dive-bombed by yelping Herring Gulls.

Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer

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