bird behaviour, Black-headed Gull, conservation grazing, Curlew, ducks and geese, dunlin, flocks of birds, Glan y Mor Elias Nature Reserve, Llanfairfechan, Oystercatcher, pintail, ringed plover, roosting birds, shelduck, teal, Traeth Lafan, Turnstone, wigeon
We’ve had a strange winter thus far, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by today’s bright sunny morning, but now I just had to get out and enjoy it. Sunday is not my favourite day for heading to places I know are going to be busy, but I was very tempted to repeat yesterday’s walk on a sunny day. Recently my visits to Traeth Lafan at Llanfairfechan have been at times when the tide has been low, so before deciding to head there I checked the tide times and saw that high tide there would be at 10:36 am, so that settled it, I was going back to see what a difference the influx of water made.
10:24- I’d timed my arrival perfectly; almost simultaneously with me reaching the Promenade and looking over the sea wall a flock of small birds flew in and landed neatly, like a ribbon unfurling along the stony sea edge. I am always impressed with their timing and precision, each bird dropping neatly into place only centimetres away from its neighbour. There were an impressive number of birds here, at a rough count around about 200 and strung out in a line so long it was difficult to get them all into the same frame. (click on the image to enlarge it)
A first glance gave Dunlins, looking tiny next to the Oystercatcher that must have been startled to find itself suddenly surrounded by incomers; I wondered if perhaps the flock leaders had made it their landing beacon.
Within seconds of setting down many of the birds had switched to rest mode, tucking heads down and one leg up. They were just a few metres away from where I stood and I zoomed in on a small group for a closer look, realising then that there were similarly-sized Ringed Plovers amongst the predominance of Dunlins.
I was momentarily distracted from watching this peaceful scene by the cries and sounds of frantic flapping behind me. A gang of Black-headed Gulls were swooping down towards the edge of the lake where the Swan family had gathered to feast on food thrown in to them by a visitor.
The gulls had no hesitation in diving in amongst the Swans, not at all intimidated by the much larger birds.
Turning back to the flock of little waders I sought out more Ringed Plovers.
These birds breed here and I could see both adult and juvenile birds, some of which I could see were ringed: I wondered if they’d been born and raised here. There were ringed Dunlins there too.
10:30 It took a while to get to the end of the line, but when I finally reached it I was happy to see the tail-enders were a flock of Turnstones.
I could have stood and watched for longer, although the birds were resting, so not doing much, but I reminded myself that I wanted to make it round to the Oystercatcher roost before the tide turned and they all disappeared, so I tore myself away. Another Black-headed gull floating around on the sea caught my eye – I’m checking them all out in case one turns out to be a Little gull, which sometimes turn up along this coast. They look similar in winter plumage, both species having similar dark face patches, but the Little gull also retains a dark spot on its crown which this one didn’t have.
10:38- It really did feel like a completely different place here today. The sunshine and lack of wind made it feel almost warm (the car temperature gauge had said 10º); the tide was high, the sea was blue, calm as a lake and completely covered the sands. It was still quite early, but there were people strolling along the Prom, not speed-walking with heads down against the wind like yesterday. Almost everyone I met smiled and spoke in greeting.
I must have been doing the head-down-not looking-where- was-going-thing myself yesterday as I failed to notice the pile of huge rocks (rip-rap) that has been piled up and over the sea wall on the corner where the path bends round by the trees. I probably only noticed it today as I spotted the bi-lingual warning signs.
10:46-Almost at the end of the paved section of the path I see a distant flock of birds take to the air; something had disturbed and upped the Oystercatchers from their roost.
10:48- I try not to dwell on what may have disturbed the birds and concentrate on the scene before me; grazing sheep behind a line of resting birds. Although distant, from the size and colour of them they could only be Curlews.
10:50-Zooming in on them confirmed they were indeed Curlews, mostly lined up along one side of a deep channel of water. I smiled when I saw the next photograph and saw the two sheep standing face to face looking straight into the albeit-distant lens. It looks like one is whispering in the other’s ear.
I got onto the wide grassy track leading through the saltmarsh which forms one bank of a deep water channel, filled now by the high tide, which took me slightly closer to the birds. The majority of the Curlew were standing, all facing in the same direction with their backs to the water. They weren’t in a tight pack, but rather in small groups or standing alone; I reckoned there were around 40 birds. From this better vantage point I could see that there was a flock of Redshanks there too, standing behind the bigger Curlews and nearer to the water: they too were all facing in the same direction.
The sheep were travelling away, some were sitting down.
The birds are not far from the edge of the Menai Strait; the view behind them is of Anglesey and the town is Beaumaris – you can see Beaumaris Castle in the right of the picture.
A closer look at the Curlew shows most are standing still but not roosting with their heads tucked down. Perhaps these are the ones charged with keeping alert to spot potential dangers.
More of the Redshanks do seem to be sleeping.
10:58- I spot a pair of Teal rummaging around in the long grass on the far side of the channel I’m walking next to.
The male drake was probing the mud with his bill, digging it in deeply; I didn’t know they did that.
Another pair were foraging along the bankside from the water.
11:01-Across the other side of this channel stood a pair of Wigeon.
They had a good long look around them to make sure it was safe before getting down to preening.
11:02-A Little Egret flew in and landed in the water close to the Wigeon.
The egret stepped out onto the bank, watched by a Redshank.
11:06- A small flock of finch-sized birds passed overhead, twittering as they flew and landed on a patch of small rocks and pebbles. Exactly what Linnets do, which is what they were.
They are difficult to see amongst the stones.
11:10 I have a good clear view of a pair of Teal, their colours in the sunshine showing as they should be.
11:10- A larger duck was sailing along the edge of a channel. He was difficult to see properly as he was in the shade cast by a muddy bank and his dark colours weren’t standing out well. My first thought was Pintail – based solely on its overall elegant appearance and the shape of its tail, which as the name suggests is long and sharply pointed. Could I be that lucky? I had no idea as to whether they might be present here, so hoped the photographs I managed to get would be good enough to help me later.
Checking my reference books at home later on I’m happy my instinct was right and it was indeed a Pintail. I’m so chuffed to have seen it, albeit briefly.
11:13- The view over the watery saltmarsh to the sunlit mountains was amazing.
To be continued…