Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year’s Day and, despite decent forecast, fine drizzle set in as two keen families arrived for the Wildlife Walk. Checked what was happening on the beach whilst hoping for improvement, but even difficult to see the thousands of black Scoter on the bay through rain smeared lenses. However, the sea was calm enough to hear them mewing and a patch of light sky approached from the south, so we walked down the beach toward the breakwater, reversing the usual circuit.

Soon, young eyes were finding items of interest on the strand line: hard, dark ‘Mermaids Purse’ Skate egg-cases; tiny Starfish; more Sea Squirts. A large dark, horseshoe-shaped shell with white inner surface was not Horse Mussel as thought, but Arctica islandica, an Icelandic Cyprina or Ocean Quahog, oldest non-colonial animal known to science, living up to 400 years according to the number of ‘annual rings’ comprising its shell. A long, smooth, pale-streaked Mermaid’s Purse was found occupied: slit with a knife, first a white baby Shark head emerged, snout and cheeks unaccountably tinged red, entire animal slipping out onto the sand, about 225mm long attached to a white foetal sac.

One family had already mentioned geese on the beach and first spotted them amongst boulders. No larger than a nearby Herring Gull, three diminutive, dark-necked, pale-flanked Brent Geese foraged amongst boulders before moving out onto a sand bank behind. As we watched, a single, very fast duck flew high over the breakwater from the sea, a slim, needle-tailed silhouette: first Pintail found on this estuary that soon returned to give good views on the bay. Sky now cleared, we found all the usual winter suspects, including Grey Plover amongst boulders, plus first ever Coot found on our little estuary; a solid start to the year with rich memorable moments.












Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk

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