Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saturday morning is warm with sunshine and light south-west air movement but dramatic skies: bright white Cumulus cauliflowers streaming in over the sea turning to heavy grey Stratus obscuring inland mountains; blue skies stretched across with a high layer of fine spun white Altostratus.

Stopping at the farm gate to scan the village, farmland, and wooded escarpment beyond, a record 29 species are counted before moving on, including several fine black darts flitting high under lowering grey cloud: first Swallows of the year.

Sand Martins usually arrive before Swallows, so for the past few weeks the telescope has been trained across the estuary lagoon onto the sand cliff behind the harbour wall. Until today, though black holes can be seen under the buff Marram grass fringe of the sand cliff, only Skylarks have been located, flitting and chasing over the low Marram-topped sand island. Today, the expected compact, dark forms jet past the tunnels and circle wide across the lagoon and creeks.

Scanning from the breakwater, two thin-winged forms work their way northward high over the horizon across the bay; sudden jink and swoop eventually confirm first Terns of the year rather than Black-Headed Gulls, so probably Sandwich Terns, common in this area. Later, two even finer white thin-winged Terns work across southward before jetting into the chop, smaller with lighter flight thus probably Common or Artic Terns. Likewise far out, a large stiff-winged form rises from waves - lit bright white against the lowering Llyn Peninsula - to wing its way high above the sea before swooping then jetting with a plume of white into the sea; first Gannet of the year.

The walk ends with 49 species noted; not an end in itself but a spur to stay alert to movement in a busy and fast-changing spring landscape.

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