11 September 2020

· Anglesey ·

A final session down on the rocks, watching Sandwich terns teaching their young how to fish. As I’ve noticed before, the adults are far more accomplished hunters than their offspring, aborting dives far more often, and diving in at much steeper (i.e. vertical) angles. The young clearly got the idea they were supposed to dive vertically, but always seemed to chicken out at the last moment, hitting the water at a much shallower angle. The also never seemed to abort their dives. But practice makes perfect, and learning from an expert must really help.

Sandwich tern
Sandwich tern

As I was about to head back to the caravan, a rock pipit joined me briefly on the rocks. Very similar to the far more common meadow pipits that populate my beloved Moor, but noticeably different: darker, with more pronounced markings. A bird I shall forever associate with this beloved rocky coast.

Rock pipit
Rock pipit
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9 September 2020

· Anglesey ·

Down to the rocks again first thing. Sun dazzling on the water. Cormorants and razorbills fishing off the rocks. Gulls, oystercatchers, and the occasional curlew passing by. I briefly spotted either a porpoise or a dolphin about 300 metres away in the bay. A dolphin, I think. I waited for it to resurface, but I saw no further sign of it. Perhaps it drowned!

In the afternoon, another of my favourite walks along the north coast of Anglesey from Porth Wen via Hell’s Mouth to Porth Llanlleiana. The views were as stunning as ever.

Hell’s Mouth
Hell’s Mouth

Spotted a pair of choughs on a large rocky outcrop. There do seem to be more of them about these days. Fantastic birds.

Choughs
Choughs

Having struggled up the final, very steep climb from Hell’s Mouth, we took in the view from the Coronation ‘Tower’ of Edward VII. It’s more like a derelict concrete bus shelter than a tower, but the view across to Ynys Badrig is wonderful. This is the small island where the Briton now known to the world as St Patrick is said to have been shipwrecked en route to Ireland (in Welsh, Ynys = island; Badrig = Patrick). We then descended to Porth Llanlleiana, where we enjoyed our packed lunches while watching a trio of grey seals out in the cove, after which, we headed back to the car along the winding lane festooned with autumnal fruits.

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8 September 2020

· Anglesey ·

Down to the rocks first thing, the low light sparkling on the sea, illuminating the village and island; the mainland shrouded in shadows.

Moelfre

After a while, I spotted a distant commotion in the glare out towards the Great Orme. A vortex of seabirds had formed a couple of miles out to sea. Gannets mostly. Lots and lots of gannets, with more joining all the time. The avian tornado circled clockwise, birds continuously plunging after fish from on high, down into the sea. The water was full of bobbing, squabbling seabirds. Many of the gannets in the water took off again, always to the right, into the wind, rising and circling clockwise with the general flow until they had gained sufficient altitude to dive again. At its height, several birds were hitting the water every second. After ten minutes or so, the commotion subsided, the twister lost its identity, and the gannets just disappeared, leaving hundred and hundred of gulls to mop up.

Bull Bay headland
Bull Bay headland

To Bull Bay in the afternoon for my favourite walk along the headland. In the unlikely event I turn out to be wrong about the non-existence of heaven, I imagine it would be very much like the north coast of Anglesey. I took all the same photographs I take every year because, well, why wouldn’t I? Gannets soared high above the sea. Gorse, heather, thrift and devil’s-bit scabious coloured the headland yellow, purple, pink and blue: Anglesey colours. Unusually, there was no sign of any ravens, but I did hear the happy, playful calls of choughs, and eventually managed to spot a secretive pair dibbing for worms with their curved beaks. In the unlikely event I also turn out to be wrong about the non-existence of reincarnation, I think I might like to come back as a Bull Bay headland chough.

Chough
Chough

A real thrill as we approached one of the kissing gates: a pair of common lizards sunning themselves on some black rubber that used to spring-shut the gate. Frustratingly, behind a wire fence as they were, it was impossible for me to get a decent photograph with my fancy camera, but then Jen had the brilliant idea of using the camera on her iPhone. I followed suit. Sometimes, the best camera for the job is the one you can squeeze through a wire fence! I was delighted with the result.

Common lizard
Common lizard

Having reached the far end of our walk overlooking Porth Wen, we took shelter from the strong onshore wind behind a low cliff and had a brew. Then it was back the way we came towards thrill number two: a pair of porpoises—mother and child—fishing just off the rocks.

Absence of ravens aside, a perfect walk!

Porpoises
Porpoises

Back to the rocks early evening. Scores of house martins milling about, stocking up on flies in the lea of the headland. They’ll be away soon. Most of the swallows have already gone, although there are still quite a few stragglers about. Or perhaps they’re not stragglers, but passage migrants from farther north.

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7 September 2020

· Anglesey ·

Drizzle and rain forecast. A drab but exhilarating start to the day down on the rocks, where several campers were fishing. Curlew, oystercatchers, distant gannets, and a little egret. You never used to see them here. As I climbed the headland on my way back to the caravan, I watched a pair of razorbills fishing just off the rocks. The sea was so still and clear, I could see the white flashes of their flanks darting below the surface. They were incredibly fast underwater, just like penguins. I don’t suppose this should have come as such a surprise: the razorbill’s nearest known relative, the extinct great auk, bore the scientific name Pinguinus impennis, whose genus name was later applied colloquially to superficially similar flightless aquatic birds encountered by European explorers in the southern hemisphere. Auks and penguins are not closely related. Their similar(ish) body shapes are an example of convergent evolution, in which similar lifestyles have resulted in similar design solutions honed by natural selection.

Razorbill

Later, a spin out to a very drizzly Beaumaris for a bag of chips. Sadly, the pier was closed, but the gulls were every bit as annoying as we dined on a bench at the edge of the beach.


6 September 2020

· Anglesey ·

Down to the rocks first thing, the early sun sparkling on the sea in that special way it does. I watched first one and then another yacht sail away from the village in the general direction of Puffin Island and the Menai Straits. I knew there was a good photograph in there somewhere, so I kept snapping away until I got one.

Sailing away

Late morning, took our customary first-day’s walk north along the coast. Part of the coastal path was closed due to a landslide, so we had to take a diversion along the road. There was far more people about than usual, presumably on account of their having to reschedule their holidays due to the pandemic. Glorious weather. Cormorants and shags drying their wings in the sun on the island. Distant gannets.

Towards Lligwy

We walked along the headland as far as the pebble beach where Mum found fireflies when she was a little girl. People had been stacking stones all along the shore. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s just a bit of harmless fun, but I think beaches look best when they haven’t been ‘improved’ by people feeling the need to express themselves. Still, I suppose pristine normality will be restored, come the next storm.

Back down to the rocks after lunch. As I sat on my favourite rock, I had a visit from an eponymous rock pipit. It was remarkably well camouflaged among the stones. I idly watched what I initially took to be a curlew flying towards the island, but something about its jizz made me question my assumptions. As it sped determinedly towards its intended destination, my binoculars revealed it to be a peregrine falcon! What sort of nature writer mistakes a peregrine for a curlew?! My sort, apparently. I followed the peregrine until it became so small I lost it. I assumed it was intending to launch an attack on the birds on the island, but there was no commotion, so it must have been heading off around the headland.

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31 August 2020

An afternoon walk along Burlees Lane. Several times, we heard a buzzard mewling somewhere above the valley: a relatively rare bird in these parts. I spotted it eventually, gliding back the way we had come. Then I heard and spotted another, which was evidently trying to catch it up. And then a third tagged along. So, perhaps buzzards are becoming a little less rare in these parts.

Someone had pinned a sign on a trackside bench warning passers-by of a wasps’ nest. There were certainly plenty of them emerging from and disappearing underneath the bench. That’s the second wasps’ nest we’ve spotted this week.

A kestrel perched on a lamp, staring down at the field below. After a minute, it parachuted down to the ground after some hapless prey. Meanwhile, a rabbit sunbathed in the llama field. Clearly, it hadn’t heard there were three buzzards in the area.

Rabbit, chilling.
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28 August 2020

Mushrooms popped up all over our front lawn overnight. We usually have a few, but never so many as this year. I suppose the dreadful wet August is to thank.

Mushrooms

As seems to happen every year, the first signs of autumn appear before we’ve even been on our summer break. I suppose it serves us right for preferring to take our holiday in September, when all the schools are back. I wonder how many kids will still be about this very non-standard year. Quite a few, I expect.



23 August 2020

It looks as if crane fly season is upon us once again. Having defenestrated one before bed on Wednesday, I lay awake listening to another tap-tap-tapping against the ceiling, anxiously expecting it to land on my upturned face at any moment. A few moments later, it landed on my upturned face, and I emitted an involuntary bellow. Call me over-reactive, but I’m very highly strung when it comes to flappy things landing on my face.

The lights back on, I eventually managed to capture this second crane fly and chucked it out the window to join its buddy.

The light off once again, it took a good five minutes before the tap-tap-tapping resumed. Then another crane fly landed on my upturned face, and I emitted a second bellow.

By the time of my third bellow, I was wide awake. So I tossed the offending insect out the window and went to do some work in the study until things calmed down.

Crane fly trapped in spider’s web
A crane fly trapped in a spider’s web on our gate this morning.