I was leaving sunny Rhos-on-Sea to start heading back to rainy Spain this evening (with a few days in London first), so a last walk along the promenade and seashore was a must this morning. It was a good day to leave on, the morning was bright sunny and warmish, cooled by a bit of a breeze that made for a pleasant temperature for walking.
My first stop was at the rocky breakwater, where I was hoping there may be some birds foraging, but there were only Herring Gulls. As I was about to move on though I heard the familiar ‘tschissick’ call of a Pied Wagtail and one duly arrived, landing just a couple of metres away from me. I’d had a couple of previous sightings of the birds, around the golf course area and a male ‘singing’ from a rooftop, but this was a perfect view of a female. The male bird is all black above and has sooty-grey flanks; female is dark grey on mantle/back but has black crown, rump and uppertail-coverts. Slightly different in appearance to the race of Motacilla alba we see in Spain and the rest of Europe, this is Motacilla alba yarrellii that occurs in Britain and Ireland and locally on adjacent Continental coasts.
The tide was on its way out exposing a narrow strip of pebble beach, so I walked down to it via a concrete ramp to see if anything interesting may have been left by the receding sea. On the walls of the ramp, nicely warmed by the sun I noticed several little insect-things scuttling about, which on closer inspection turned out to be Bristletails – of the 3-Pronged variety.
The insects belong to a primitive group of wingless insects (Apterygota) that are dependent on humid conditions. The 3-Pronged Bristletails belong to a small order ( Thysanura), all the members of which have 3 ‘tails’, comprising 2 cerci and a central projection known as the epiproct. The most familiar member of the group is the Silverfish. I am open to correction on this, but from my research and based on their location I am assuming the ones I saw to bePetrobius maritimus:
Description: A slender brown insect, up to 15mm long, with antennae that are almost as long as the body. Central ‘tail’ distinctly longer than the 2 side tails. Habitat: Close to high watermark on rocky coasts and short distance inland in crevices. Status and distribution: Common and locally common throughout in suitable habitats.
I’ve seen very similar-looking insects to this on our covered terrace walls in Spain, but we are a kilometre or so inland from the sea, so perhaps we were closer once upon a time and they got marooned and have adapted. I must try to find one and compare them.
Reaching the beach I disturbed a group of Herring Gulls that had been foraging on the sea edge. They flew up and began circling around, voicing their objection loudly and their proximity gave me a moment of anxiety as I visualised a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. Then it occurred to me that they may have been alarmed by my long camera lens, so if they thought it may be a gun I was quite safe from attack. Phew.
I was soon distracted by birds I had been hoping to see, a number of Oystercatchers, very handsome in their immaculate black and white plumage, were standing on rocks at the sea edge looking down at the receding water and anything edible it may be leaving behind.
Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus
I became absorbed by the sight and was enjoying my close-up views of the birds, so the arrival of a man with his dog startled me. He stopped to chat to me and I told him I was watching the Oystercatchers – the camera with a big lens may have given him a clue I was taking photographs too, but he carried on walking straight towards them anyway. Needless to say they all took off to look for somewhere more peaceful.
The expansive mussel beds located here attract large numbers of Oystercatchers, although they also feed on cockles, limpets, small crabs, shrimps and worms. Breeding takes place after the wintering flocks have broken up, in mid-April in the south and May or June further north.
I turned to retrace my steps up to the promenade, almost stepping on this huge stranded lump of a jellyfish.