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Rhos Point from the Little Orme

Rhos Point from the Little Orme

Rhos-on-Sea is a popular seaside venue that is busy with people visiting most of the year round, particularly at weekends and when the sun shines, but they don’t come here for its beach. The seashore, wrapped around the flat fortified headland of Rhos Point, is not the most beautiful in North Wales: a general first impression may well be of an expanse of flat shoreline littered with variously sized brown-coloured rocks and boulders. No easy strolling or picnicking here.

The stumps of posts are the remains of an ancient fishing weir

Rhos Point shore looking towards Colwyn Bay-the stumps of posts are the remains of an ancient fishing weir

The rocky shore of Rhos Point from Penrhyn Bay

The rocky shore of Rhos Point from Penrhyn Bay

However, between the rocky shore and the sea lies an expanse of long-established Mussel beds which is highly attractive to visitors – of the avian variety. Large numbers of a variety of species of sea and shore birds will be returning here this month from their summer breeding grounds to spend the autumn and winter to feast on the gourmet seafood on offer here.

Rhos Point across the rock strewn shore to the mussel beds

Rhos Point across the rock strewn shore to the mussel beds

Part of the expanse of mussel bed beyond the rocks

Part of the expanse of mussel bed beyond the rocks on a sunny day

There may be a few early arrivals, maybe a Turnstone or two, but for now, approaching mid-August, the resident breeding birds, the Herring gulls, a smallish number of Lesser Black-backed gulls, Cormorants, plus a few Oystercatchers have the place more or less to themselves.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Black-backed gulls, adults & juveniles, Herring gull & Oystercatchers

Rhos Point shoreline with fishing weir posts cormorants & gulls

Rhos Point mussel bed, juv. cormorants, oystercatchers & gulls

Soon they will be joined by large numbers of Curlews, Redshanks, more Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Sandwich Terns. If we are lucky there may be a few Purple Sandpipers in the mix, and there will doubtless be a few temporary visitors stopping to feed before escaping to warmer climes. There will be Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails amongst the huge rocks of the sea defences. So much to look  forward to!

Without the movement and cries of the absent birds the landscape appears harsh, a sombrely coloured, barren place devoid of life. But look more closely and you’ll see it is in fact a living landscape, richly populated by hosts of small sea creatures, which is of course why the birds head here for the winter.

On close inspection, the rocks that appear a uniform brown colour from a distance are actually encrusted with colonies of barnacles, millions of them.

Barnacles and winkles cover the surface of a rock

Barnacles cover the surfaces of rocks

Acorn barnacles

Acorn barnacles

Barnacles and winkles

Barnacles and winkles

Turnstones camouflaged amongst the barnacle-covered rocks

Turnstones will be perfectly camouflaged amongst the barnacle-covered rocks

Winkles, or periwinkles are numerous too.

Winkles

Common periwinkle or Winkle-Littorina littorea

At low tide, cross the rocks, skirting the pools of shallow water left behind

Rock pool

Rock pool with more winkles

A flower of the sea -Beadlet anemone - Actinia equina

A flower of the sea -Beadlet anemone – Actinia equina

and soon the crunch of shells accompanies every footstep, as you are literally walking across the surface of a dense mass of living Mussels. It’s a very strange feeling.

Live mussels

The Mussel bed – live mussels amongst empty shells

You realise now why you see mussel shells everywhere.

Mussel shells under water

Mussel shells under water

141017TGNW4-Seashells mixed & crab legs

Live mussels & a live cockle amongst empty shells and crab claws

Mussel shells on the tide line of Rhos Harbour beach

Mussel shells on the tide line of Rhos Harbour beach

All is ready for the avian invasion.