Friday, September 30, 2011

Last of Summer with First of Winter...

Sudden change from blustery, showers and sun to a mistral-like hot wind: big swell from the Atlantic kicking up sand at every wave break. At one of the lowest tides of the year, a wide sandbank is exposed running parallel with the boulder shore, waves peeling cleanly over and crashing down on the seaward side to sweep across the sandbar into the relatively calm outflow channel behind; possible to walk nearly a mile along the coast, calf deep in foam-strewn cross-flow. Initially, only the odd small fish turning in shallow water in the channel and a couple of tail swirls in the surf, but as the tide turns to cover exposed sections of sand bar, large fish caught between waves streak back to the sea in only inches of water, water coned over head and back, powerful tails jetting spray into the air.

Inland, Swallows flit southward jinking for insects along the way, several spotted low over waves in the bay. First Wigeon of winter hurtles, sharp winged and needle-tailed, up the estuary, white panelled wings and pale belly highlighted against dark cloud. Likewise, first tiny warm grey Teal, fine drake with green highwayman mask and buff triangle under the tail, swim together, low in shallow water between stilted dun Curlew probing the mud with long, down-curved bills.

Except black and brown Cormorants resting up on the sand banks and thin Grey Herons in the shallows, most estuary birds stand or rest parallel to the ground. At the sandy lower end of the estuary, a dark shape stands distinct from a strand of blackened Bladderwrack, upright but strangely wide at base. Binoculars reveal black hooded Peregrine, slate wings half open, ‘mantling’ to protect prey gripped in yellow talons, yellow based, sharp hooked beak pointed back at us between ripping tugs.




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

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