March 28th 2018
16:50 The shop is closed and the day’s last tram has departed, taking most of the late-afternoon visitors to the Summit back down to the town. Outside the wind is still blowing fiercely and although sunny, it felt even colder than it was when I got here. In the wildflower garden I stopped to watch a Pied wagtail scuttling around on the short turf between the flower borders and the path. These skittish little birds are fascinating to watch. Almost perpetually in motion they walk jerkily, craning their necks forward as they scan the ground in front for prey, wagging their long tails constantly. In pursuit of prey they can move at speed, half-running half-flying.
Pied Wagtails have adopted a wide range of habitats and landscapes as hunting grounds, from urban streets, wastes and car parks to seashores, wilder stream sides and reed beds. Most often seen singly, in the late afternoon the birds gather together, sometimes in their hundreds and fly off as a flock to roost communally. They often choose roosting sites on roofs such as factories, sewage works, hospitals and supermarkets.
There is often a Pied wagtail up here around the car park area. This tarmacked area is bounded by stone walls with a strip of rough grass left in front of them and I’ve watched them make a circuit here, making a thorough search of the area. I guess that the combination of the nooks and crannies of the wall and the vegetation make it a good hunting ground.
16:52 The tide is out and the cloud has lifted above the Snowdonia mountains although a great bank of it still hovers heavily above the peaks.
Puffin Island and Anglesey behind it are visible but obscured by mist. The light and shade on the sea and the cloud make a beautiful sight but it’s too cold and windy to stand and admire it for long.
16:56 Driving up or down here I always have my car window open, partly to enjoy the super-fresh air but also to listen out for bird sounds. That paid off this afternoon as I drove past a hawthorn tree and heard the unmistakable song of a Greenfinch. I was delighted to hear it, particularly as my sightings of these finches have been very sparse in recent years. In fact, the last time I saw one was last year and not too far from here, singing then from the highest point of St Tudno’s Church roof.
I stopped just past him and took photographs from the car so as not to frighten him away. Then I thought I’d stop further along at the pull-in I stopped at earlier and walk back to attempt to record his performance. Not to be, a Crow had usurped him and now squatted there, feathers blown akimbo by the wind.
The Hawthorn tree the Greenfinch was singing from was the perfect choice for him. Almost completely covered with lichens, it had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago when I’d stopped to check whether it had leaves!
Of course it didn’t, but that’s how green it appeared to be. A closer look revealed the lichen, an almost-perfect match for the green-yellow of a Greenfinch.
In the few minutes I’d been gone my car had been staked and claimed as a look-out by the Herring gull I’d photographed here earlier. OK by me as he hadn’t left any guano behind!
17:05 Further down, opposite the church, another favourite gull perching post was occupied.
I’d past the point where I thought I may have spotted a Meadow pipit or Stonechat, but there was still hope for Chough. Back down on Marine Drive now I slowed to check every black bird I saw, but all were Jackdaws or Carrion crows until suddenly I caught sight of two birds flying towards the sea; definitely Chough. I stopped and got out of the car and was instantly distracted by another bird that flew into view then hovered, braced into the wind high above the turf-covered clifftop. A male Kestrel.
The Kestrel, once known as the Windhover has perfected the art of hovering to the highest degree. They fly into the wind at the same speed as it is blowing them back, thus remaining stationary in relation to the ground, which saves them a great deal of energy.
I had stopped by a feature of the Great Orme I hadn’t noticed until now, probably because I’m usually looking in front of me or out over the clifftops as I’m driving. A sign informs that here is Ffynnon Gaseg, or Mare’s Well in English.
There are many natural springs feeding wells located around the headland, and there is no factual information about this one or why it was so named, but it’s thought likely that it was created when Marine Drive was constructed as a drinking place for the horses that pulled the carriages of Victorian sightseers for whom the road was originally built. The blackness of the rock where the water emerges is staining from the peaty ground it runs through.
As I turned back towards my car I spotted the black birds again so crossed the road to try to get a better view just in time to see them fly down and along over the sea. Definitely Chough and though not the sighting I’d hoped for, a sighting none-the-less.
I made a stop to photograph the former Lighthouse as it was nicely lit by the sun. It’s surprising how the light affects the ‘mood’ of a building; this one can look rather intimidating on a gloomy day.
17:25 The clouds had lifted or perhaps drifted a little further over the mountains now revealing the snow that covered the highest peaks. Hardly surprising it felt so cold.
I’m looking forward to watching the seasons develop here Wednesday by Wednesday.