Every year we are swept along in the surge of energy and events that is Spring; forgetting that the energy peters out as seeds are set and young are born and the world begins to focus on reaching maturity and independence during summer plenty and in preparing fat reserves and territory for winter. Birdsong is reduced as pairing and fighting is eclipsed by demands of feeding young.
Just this week are first signs of the tide turning: two sleek Wheatears stand tall on rabbit-grazed, salt-washed estuary turf, flashing startling white rumps as they flit fast and strong between boulder vantage points. These would have bred in dry-stone mountain walls, now returned to the coast, already moving southward.
Numbers of dun Curlew increases weekly, resting up, roosting or preening on the salting; often only heads visible as they stand in muddy creeks with ungainly long bills, but strong and fast in flight. On Tuesday, a lighter, more elegant wader stood apart, delving with straight bill in shining mud at the water’s edge, slight orange residue of breeding plumage. Black and white markings just visible under wing tips gave first Black Tailed Godwit of Autumn, also on its way south.
Whilst fishing for Bass in the sandy estuary, characteristic ‘pee, pee, pee, pee…’ calls of Whimbrel sounded occasionally from saltmarsh creeks behind. Though several Curlew in the gathering flock had more or less pronounced pale eye and crown stripes, none had the slight build and smaller size for which we were looking. Later, out on the boulder shore, the dog put up a finer bird with faster wing beat. Though no distinctive call, once settled back at the waters edge, crown stripes are clear as well as the slight build and less ungainly bill of Whimbrel, another first of the Autumn first.
Wildlife Wales Short Breaks: Autumn, Winter & Early Summer
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