coastal birds, Curlew, great black-backed gull, Oystercatcher, redshank, Rhos Point, Turnstone, turnstone flock
Colwyn Bay, on the Irish Sea, has big tides and at some high tides water levels can rise by 8 metres or more. On windy days big waves are driven in and as the tide reaches its highest point they crash dramatically, in places causing spray to rise and splash over the sea defences. Regardless of the weather, for the gulls and wading birds that feed here it is business as usual. For people, walking along the promenade on such days can be hard work and exhilarating, but for the birds that feed here on Rhos Point it has to be business as usual and whatever the weather or state of the tide the birds know instinctively exactly when to arrive and depart to best take advantage of fresh deliveries or deposits of food.
Interested to see how the birds responded to challenging conditions, I took these photographs on an exceptionally windy day when the incoming tide was set to be particularly high.
12:51 – Curlews begin to leave.
12:52 – Most of the oystercatchers that feed here don’t travel far, passing the time between the tide-turns gathered together on the rocks of the seabreak in Rhos Harbour, a short flight away. Some linger longer than others.
Herring gull, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Redshanks
12:53 – A group of Turnstones all facing towards the incoming water
12:54- Big and bulky, Greater Black-backed gulls seem impervious to the rough conditions.
12:57 – This photograph of an adult and juvenile Great Black-backed gulls cries out for a caption doesn’t it? I’m leaving it to your own imaginations though.
12:58 – Turnstones on the sea edge, most standing on stones to keep their feet out of the water.
12:59- Another Curlew leaves, calling to announce its departure.
12:59- Turnstones and Oystercatchers. Interesting that they are all facing towards the incoming water but weren’t actively foraging for food. I think they are all facing into the wind, which would make them more aerodynamic and streamlined so they don’t get blown over.
13:03- Smoothing feathers ruffled by the wind back into place.
13:05 – A Turnstone takes a bath, or is that a jacuzzi?
Turnstone rock- hopping to higher ground
13:07- The Turnstones are more-or-less gathered together now. They are difficult to count as they merge so well into the background of small rocks, but I got up to about 56 individuals and I’m sure there were others behind rocks and one another, so the actual number is probably 60 plus.
13:08- Some Oystercatchers are getting restless, preparing to go while others seem in no hurry
13:18- As the tide encroaches some begin to leave
But the turnstones stay put, despite the rising water
13:21- A Crow arrives and announces his presence loudly
13:23- Another Oystercatcher is ready for the off.
Some stay and scrutinise the water for any last-minute tidbits
13:25: The Turnstones seem unperturbed by the water rising up around their small rock islands
and are the last birds standing.
13:45- The water has covered the Point.
Black-headed gulls are the only birds still flying. Low to the surface they seem to positively enjoy the rough conditions.
13:53 – The bigger gulls are unphased by the rush of the incoming tide and rather than fly away simply allowed themselves to be launched onto the water and rode the waves.
13:54- Wind-driven waves smash onto a flight of concrete steps and shows how high the water would reach if the rip-rap defences were not there; those steps below the middle are worn smooth and their edges rounded by the regular scouring of the waves.
Very nice sequence of photos. Were you in a bird hide on the beach?
Thank you. I was actually standing in the open on the promenade, with the tide coming in that’s just a few metres away from where the birds were! When fully out they are harder to see, but it never ceases to amaze me how few people seem to notice they are there at all.
Very dramatic and a wonderful snapshot of life on the edge of the sea. It always amazes me how these birds live their lives. Thanks for capturing this.
Thank you for your kind comments. The more I watch these birds the more I realise the expression ‘as free as a bird’ must have been thought up by someone who didn’t know much about their daily battles to keep themselves fed and alive!
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Steve Schwartzman said:
I imagine rough weather is a fact of life up there. An 8-meter tide is something to be reckoned with.
Yes indeed, although our town is quite well protected others further around the coast have been badly hit by winter storms in recent years. The sea is truly a phenomenal force of nature, particularly when driven by strong winds.
Love the crow, so incongruous on the beach!
I’m used to them being there now and have seen crows and rooks foraging on estuaries before, but what still amazes me is that some of the crows here have learned to fly up with shellfish and drop them onto rocks to break them open! Clever birds, corvids.
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wow . . .they are incredible birds aren’t they. Always quite liked the idea of having semi-tame ones in my garden.
Patricia Tilton said:
Those are some big waves. Wish we went with the ebb and flow of the tides and adapted like the many birds. Beautiful photos!
Thank you Pat, life would be simpler and probably flow better if we all reconnected with nature. Having to focus on feeding ourselves as a priority would certainly give less time for fighting amongst ourselves.
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Nature on the Edge said:
That is a huge tidal difference and a dramatic movement of water. I enjoyed the minute by minute action Theresa – such variety of sea birds too. The curlews are rather elegant. It’s a dynamic scene with the inrush of water and those are pretty impressive wave shots showing up the force of wind and water.
Thank you for your comments. I am constantly amazed how such fragile looking birds survive, let alone thrive in such wild conditions; they’re clearly tougher than they look. I heard recently that plans have been mooted to build an energy-producing barrage right across this bay to take advantage of the tidal forces and provide watersports facilities to generate income. Hopefully the costs involved will be prohibitive.
Nature on the Edge said:
Oh! Meddlesome man with his selfish intentions. Hope the plans are scuppered.
Yes indeed, me too!
Nice to hear from you Theresa and all your great photo`s of Ireland. I lived in Cork. Paula
Thank you Paula. My photos are not quite from Ireland, but the other side of the Irish Sea in North Wales. Although it’s quite close now I live here, I have never visited Ireland, something I hope to put right soon!