After a week of offshore breezes, we are back to cool westerlies: white cumulus and blue skies with banks of dark grey rain bearing cloud over sea and mountains. As the sea continues to warm, fish activity increases: white & silver Herring Gulls plunge down to squabble for bait fish forced to surface by Bass & Mackerel, joined by slate-grey Great Black-Backed Gulls; slim Black-Headed Gulls, wings white-edged; black ‘W’ marked immature Kittiwakes. Terns hawk in buoyant flight; occasional stiff-winged Fulmar gliding in. Long, low, black-over-white Razorbills lift in and out of sight; thin, black Shearwaters skim fast over waves or flash pale bellies on the turn; brilliant white Gannets cruise, stiff-winged overhead.
Though dark cloud and bright sunshine lit a dramatic landscape, the wildlife walk lacked memorable moments until the breakwater overlooking a grey boulder shore bronzed with Bladderwrack bordering a blue-grey, choppy sea. Slim, white, Sandwich Terns rested at the water’s edge; short black legs and heavy dark bills; shaggy black spring crests thinned to black streaks and pale pates. First winter Shag stood high on the stanchion top, glossy black-green with yolk-yellow bill, wings half-raised into breeze like a gatepost Griffin.
Having distinguished delicate Whimbrel from heavier Curlew amongst the Bladderwrack, we started the beach return. Ringed Plover and Dunlin skimmed between a drift of boulders and dark, dry weed of the strand-line. A similar sized bird ran with snow-white belly, black legs and bill; first Sanderling of winter, back still scaly from summer. Then an even smaller, Dunlin-like bird, brown scale pattern forming two slight dark lines down the back; Little Stint, not much larger than nearby Pied Wagtails. A ‘Dunlin’ pricked the sand with an unusually long bill and when flushed, a clear white rump confirmed Curlew Sandpiper; two new sightings for the Wildlife Walks.
Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk