Friday, December 16, 2011

Snow, Storms, Skua & Harrier

Street lamps gleam orange from puddles and wet road, village black under greying sky. A light coat of icy snow on cars and slate roofs; mountains loom white over dark woods and grey fields. First Buzzard mews overhead; Tawny Owls hoot from woods; Wood Pigeon coos softly; Robins trill and tic and Crows stir from roost.

High tides and storms bring tier upon tier of surf surging up the beach, back-swash rattling grey rocks and pebbles mixed with windblown foam and spindrift. Inland, only gulls make headway in wind slowed by dunes, banks and stone walls. Suddenly, a very dark, sharp-winged gull skims low and up over the Gorse and fence-topped bank. Almost overhead, characteristic tail projections give Arctic Skua, forced inland along with gulls it likes to harass.

In the lagoon, high tides force animals and birds to move as brown, choppy waters creep in, inundating salting, marsh and causeway. Skylarks and Pipits flit up in strong winds; Shelduck and Wigeon ride the chop, feeding intently on seed-loaded flotsam. Redshank hurtle fast and low, thin-winged grey and white over ruffled waters; long-legged dun Curlew stand amongst flooding sedges, lifting off heavily when too deep even for their long bills. Scanning flooding marsh and swaying reed-beds, a characteristic narrow white strip advertised a large brown bird alighting a projecting fence-post, long wings and tail shimmied into shape. By the time the telescope was set up, the post top was vacant. One Buzzard watched from the airfield control tower, another buffeted by strong winds over the runway, yet another sailing on up-draughts among the dunes before a long tailed, angle-winged form lifted into sight behind sere reed-beds, repeated again and again as the female Hen Harrier hunted, hanging and side-slipping low over massed feathery reed tops swaying purple in the wind.




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

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