I had driven along to Colwyn Bay to have a closer look at the beach-building, not because I am lazy, more to do with there being a bitterly cold wind blowing with too few compensating warm sunny intervals to make it a pleasant place to be. I did stop for few minutes though and bought a mug of tea from one of the snack shacks to warm me up a bit while I stood perusing the beach, which I’m glad I did. Over the last few days I have spotted a few small flocks of small birds flying in across the sea and there were more as I watched then; finches by their up and down bouncy flight and I’m pretty sure goldfinch by the contact calls they were making. I never have binoculars when I need them, which was a shame today as I also had sights of incoming house martins; fortunately very close ones, so no doubts there. There’s nothing like the first sight of these amazing little migrants, it is always uplifting and hopeful.
As I drank my tea I was entertained by a courting couple of herring gull, both looking bright eyed and beautiful in immaculate plumage and freshly coloured beaks.
One of the best aspects of living here is that within a very short time and distance you can move into a completely different environment, so as I was close by I headed up to Fairy Glen to seek out some wildlife in the shelter of its trees. As I’ve said before this small local nature reserve within the bounds of Old Colwyn village can be a bit scruffy when viewed through human eyes, but the presence of the fast-flowing stream of water and a well-established variety of trees, shrubs and woodland plants combine to make this the perfect oasis for an impressive number of woodland bird species as well as those that have learned to live amongst people.
First to attract my attention was a Collared Dove that was pottering around on the ground by the side of the river before fluttering down onto a rock to take a drink. There are usually a pair of these pretty doves here, but as there was just the one today I hope the other was sitting on a nest.
Next to come into view was a pair of magpie, which I had never seen actually within the woodland before. This is another opportunistic bird species that gets bad press and is not much liked by a lot of people, but they are elegant birds, strikingly handsome in appearance and in common with most members of the crow family, clever and characterful.
There were numerous blue tits out hunting for food, minutely examining twigs and leaf buds for insects as they do. Blue tits have the inexplicable knack of timing their egg-laying to coincide the hatching of their young with the emergence of caterpillars. This cold but rather dry spring may well have set them back by a few weeks this year; I have only seen one butterfly so far this spring. There were great tits too, in lesser numbers as always, and I was pleased to see a coal tit, always one of my ‘target’ birds here and generally to be spotted in the same spot, close by to where there are a number of large conifer trees, some type of cypress, maybe overgrown leylandii.
I heard several birds singing, blackbird, robin and wren most frequently and one short and sweet tune of a dunnock. I spotted a dunnock bathing in shallow water at the edge of the ditch that runs along the side of the footpath and collects run-off water from the high bank above it. It flew into some brambly scrub to dry off and sat for some minutes shaking water from its feathers and preening them back into shape.
There were some wildflowers to be seen, lesser celandines, one or two wood violets, a single stem of kingcups on the boggy part of the riverbank and on a sheltered bank under the trees, the first primroses.
I had been looking out for grey wagtails; I know they have returned as I’ve seen them around the houses in the vicinity of the lower end of the river, so on my way back to the car I walked along the lower end of the river down to where it flows into the sea. Although I was watching for them, the grey wagtails saw me first and took off from the water up and away. At least I saw them, if only briefly. To compensate though I heard a bird ‘singing’ that I didn’t immediately recognise and traced it to a large evergreen tree; I could see several small birds, I think four, that I first took to be blue tits feeding in the top of the adjacent tree, but they and the singer were coal tits.
I think perhaps my favourite sight of the day though was of crow attempting to pick twigs from a small tree. It was having big problems trying to balance on the slender branches and despite valiant efforts the twigs were too well attached to snap off easily, but fair play to the bird it kept on trying.