Thursday, December 31, 2009

Face-aching east winds and Rhinog Mountains loom white under grey skies. Lapwing numbers multiplied since last week. On Saturday, distinctive squealing cries are heard faintly downwind, a cloud of black dots lifted from low-lying wet meadows beyond the estuary, wing beats winking white against a dark wooded hillside, undersides occasionally flared white in unison as the flock bank and turn. Still no fine-winged Golden Plover amongst paddle-winged Lapwing though, as last week, a few Starlings remain.

By Monday, an excursion to find the same flock meets only with a large party of Black-Headed Gulls hovering low over black rushes, heads to wind on fine, white and silver wings, occasionally alighting briefly to snatch a scrap.

Out on the salting, an elegant, white and grey wader stands in a sandy creek accompanied by a Redshank, small and dun beside the related Greenshank. Narrow triangles of white flare up tails and backs as they fly, Redshank with white trailing edges.

Driving to the next estuary, several low-lying reclaimed meadows hold scattered parties of Lapwing standing about with distinctive upright stance or dipping to feed. Stopping to check for Golden Plover, faint cries bring the main flock to view way across the fields, first in tight formation, gradually thinning as danger passes, individuals peeling back to return to winter-feeding.

Returning by the upper road, closer to the main flock, we stop to check for Golden Plover. None found, we move up to the next field, looking at a handsome Great Black-Backed Gull, huge by comparison, when several hundred Lapwing lift from fields beyond, lined out at tree height, before the whole flock suddenly jinks and drops in unison before recovering formation.

Scanning back to locate the cause of alarm, the only sign is a column of white feathers hanging in the still air.
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Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk

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