3 September 2019

· Anglesey ·

It was pissing down when I got up. Not heavy rain, but the driving drizzle I’ll forever associate with Anglesey. Anglesey rain, Mum used to call it. With the exception of the tropical rainstorm I once experienced in Hong Kong, it’s the wettest rain I know. This morning, it drove across the caravan field in sheets. Discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to give the rocks a miss until after breakfast.

There was nothing much happening when I finally got to the rocks. I watched a herring gull rootling around on a seaweed-covered boulder just out to sea. It eventually hit the jackpot in the form of a crab. I watched for ten minutes as it shook the poor creature, then banged it against a rock, until all its legs had come off—but not the pincers. The gull then repeatedly stabbed at the underside of the crab’s carapace until it had worked its way in, then began to feed hungrily. It was only a medium-sized crab, but I’m guessing at close to the limit for a herring gull.

Far out to sea, a pair of gannets gleamed on straight, black-tipped wings. You can always tell an adult gannet by its sheer whiteness—as well as by its size.

My gannet-gazing was interrupted by two deep, cough-like barks. Definitely not a seal. Almost certainly a bird. But not a call I recognised. There it was again, this time followed by a pair of much higher-pitched barks in reply. I scoured the nearby sea, and eventually spotted a pair of guillemots: parent and child. The parent was already sporting its winter plumage. I watched them fishing together for the next quarter of an hour. Every time either of them surfaced, it emitted a pair of barks, as if to say I’m here! At times, when they became separated by a hundred metres or so, the young bird’s barks began to sound more frantic, whereupon the adult would rejoin its offspring before continuing to fish. I dare say the young bird will be fending for itself in a few days. Good luck, little bird, little William, petit Guillaume, little guillemot!

Guillemot

In the afternoon, we took a walk along the headland at Bull Bay: my favourite Anglesey walk—and quite possibly my favourite walk full-stop. The weather was still overcast, but that was good enough for me, even though it meant there was no chance of our spotting the mountains of the Isle of Man today, as we did, to our great surprise, a few years back. The sea north of this headland was the first place I ever saw dolphins—and gannets. The headland itself is a popular haunt for ravens and choughs. No dolphins or choughs today, but there were plenty of gannets far out to sea, and I heard but didn’t see a raven cronking from a gorse-covered hilltop. There were also linnets aplenty, and a couple of wheatears. And there was gorse and tormentil, ling and bell heather, sheep’s bit and the copper-tinted sea: yellow, purple, and blue; the colours I shall forever associate with Bull Bay headland. It is a very special place.

Bull Bay headland

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Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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