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.
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.
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.
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.
Winkles, or periwinkles are numerous too.
At low tide, cross the rocks, skirting the pools of shallow water left behind
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.
You realise now why you see mussel shells everywhere.
All is ready for the avian invasion.