Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
A misty day on the beach at Llanudno, but we can still see the pier dating from the late 1800s stretching out across the sea. The pier is the longest in Wales, being 700m (2,295ft) long. Beyond the Grand Hotel where Winston Churchill once stayed, is a glimpse of the Great Orme.
Here he or she is just coming into view. Full of spring, full of life, hardly ever keeping still. Always on the move with poor nanny not far behind, ensuring he or she does not get into any serious bother, like falling off the edge of the cliff.
Stopping for a chobble, or doing one of those old western tough guy impressions. ” Howdy partner.”
Off again …
I wouldn’t go that way though if I were you … thank goodness for nanny!
Edit: This is the kind of trouble they can get into …
Kashmiri Goats, Great Orme, Llandudno. April 2017.
This little Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), is very difficult to see on a stoney beach and could be another pebble until it moves. I followed this one as it ran along the shoreline. It hopped on the odd, larger stone as if to get a better vantage point or just to rest.
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) wasn’t shy at all when it came and landed on a seawall above the cliffs close by. It was so close you could almost reach out and touch it. It came even closer, and I thought perhaps it was expecting a food handout, but it had already got its beady eye on a crisp some passerby had dropped on the ground. As nimbly as can be it jumped off the wall, picked up the crisp in its beak and swooped off over the cliffs with it.
I cease to be amazed how adaptable these crows have become by the sea. I have even seen them follow the seagulls out at low tide to go and search for crabs and other invertebrates between the exposed rocks and the seaweed.
These intelligent birds are the smallest member of the crow family, and they are so devoted that they will form strong bonds with their mates and will pair up for life.
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
These are the blighters that will swoop down and steal your ice cream or fish and chips whilst on the beach or the seafront. A few years ago I was sitting on a pebble beach and was about to tuck into a nice custard tart when one dive bombed me from behind and snatched the lot from my grasp in its beak.
This one landed on the roof just outside my hotel window. When I was a young lad I only used to see these beside the seaside, but now they fly overhead and have even landed on my garage roof here in the West Midlands where I am completely landlocked. Many have adapted well to a life inland, living off the rubbish we leave in our wake.
Yes despite their adaptability they are on the RSPB Red Status list here due to a moderate decline in numbers over the last 25 years. I have to say I do have a soft spot for them, despite the reputation they get sometimes. Yes they are scavengers and will virtually eat anything, and will attack small birds and other animals, yet their piercing cries and their streamlined forms as they soar aloft in the high blue yonder is alway quite something to experience.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), West Shore, Llandudno, Wales.
I have admire this little bird for its resilience as it survives the wilds of this prominent headland’s rugged terrain. I think these are all males with their Zorro masks on and their orange buff breasts. It winters in central Africa, and then migrates here for the summer where they breed, mainly in the north and west of Britain.
Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
At the start of a 4 mile walk around the Great Orme from the West Shore, I discovered these beautiful flowers growing on the cliff faces. In the first two images you can see the rock strewn beach below. It is usually found in southern climes, and here, on the Great Orme, it is at one of its most northerly outposts. Mainly a garden plant, it usually only naturalises by the sea, which it has appeared to have done so here.
Also called ‘Dog Fennel’, it is an evergreen perennial with mats of intricately shaped leaves which are mostly silvery in the growing season. Apparently they give off a pungent aromatic scent when warmed by the sun. Hasten to say, I couldn’t smell anything on the day which was overcast.
Sicilian Chamomile (Anthemis punctata ssp cupaniana), West Shore of the Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
Walking along the beach front one morning I came across quite a few of these small finches, and they always appeared to travel as a pair. The female, as seen in the top two images, although beautiful does not stand out as much as the male with his rosy-pink flushed breast. See below.
It can be seen all year round, and is common and widespread throughout Britain except for the far north. It often feeds in groups, which I observed for myself that morning, on seeds on the ground. Can also been seen on heaths, rough grassland and farmland.
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) male and female, West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This is quite a familiar black and white little bird that keeps bobbing its long tail. Found in various habitats, it appears to get quite used to people, especially in urban environments like towns and cities. I followed this lively one along a pebbly beach before it found this rock to sit on for a better view. Common and widespread throughout Britain, it mainly feeds on insects.
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This little songbird was a delight to see as it suddenly appeared on this coastal stonewall before me. Present all year round, common and widespread, it is found in various grassy habitats, but favours rough grassland, heathland and moorland. It feeds on invertebrates on the ground. Unfortunately, like many of our birds, they have seen a decline over the years and are of an Amber status.
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
No, not cheese on toast, but a bunny from Llandudno with a beautiful seaview home who was just so chilled out on his front porch he didn’t want to move even though I was but a stone’s throw away snapping my camera and saying how cute he was.
Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017
The small flowers of Herb Robert have five rounded pink petals, which fade to white towards the centre. They have two reddish stripes along their length and bright orange anthers. The hairy, scented leaves are deeply palmately divided. The hairy fruit bears a very long beak.
It flowers May to September, and it is found in semi-shaded places along old walls, woodland glades, hedgerows, and well-drained, rocky sites. A common and widespread species.
The Sea Campion is a loose, scrambling plant which produces distinct white flowers with conspicuously veined sepals joined into an inflated tube. The leaves are green, hairless and waxy, and some remain green throughout the winter.
It flowers March to October. Discovered in coastal habitats such as shingle banks, sand dunes and cliffs, and also inland on high mountains. Widespread and locally common, the Sea Campion varies its growth form according to its environment.
I have shown the two gaper shells on one post to illustrate how different they are, beginning with the Sand Gaper above.
Sand Gaper (Mya arenaria)
A large and robust bivalve, the shell is oval in shape, the anterior end rounded, the posterior end more pointed. It has concentric ridges and is off-white, grey or light brown in colour. Shell length 15cm.
The Sand Gaper burrows to a depth of 50cm into mud and sandflats, where it filters organic matter from sea water. It is often found in estuaries, and is widespread and locally common.
Blunt Gaper (Mya truncata)
A thick-shelled, robust bivalve, rectangular in shape with a truncate posterior margin. It also has numerous concentric lines and is off-white in colour. Shell length up to 70mm.
It is commonly found in estuaries where it buries itself to a fair depth. Widespread and locally common, especially on the east coast of Britain.
Also called the ‘English Sparrow’, the male of the species has quite bold markings, with a reddish-brown back plumage, grey cap with reddish sides, a black bib and unmarked grey underside. It also has a distinctive white wingbar. Both sexes have a thick black bill and a pale whitish eye stripe. The female is not so bold, and is generally brownish in colouration. The juvenile has plainer plumage. Similar to the Tree Sparrow and the Dunnock (Prunella modularis). Length 14cm.
It feeds on buds, berries, and many insects. Visits bird tables for nuts, seeds, and various titbits. The nest is made of grass and feathers built-in roof spaces, wall cavities, or in bushes and leafy vines. The female lays 3 to 7 eggs in 3 to 4 broods from April to August. They can live for up to 5 years.
Seen all year round. It thrives in villages and towns, and farms, not far from human habitation, and has lived closely alongside people since the Stone Age. The House Sparrow is a cause for concern, for over the past 25 years their numbers have declined by 50 percent in rural England, and up to 62 per cent in towns and cities. Nobody is entirely sure as to this rapid decline in numbers, but it is thought that changes in agriculture practices in rural areas maybe a cause, and lesser green space in urban areas another. It is on the RSPB Red List.
Also called ‘Flat Wrack’, it is a dark olive-brown or greenish seaweed with a prominent midrib with no gas bladders. There are often pairs of swollen reproductive bodies on the tips of the frond branches. The fronds have a tendency to twist. Length 15 to 20cm.
Occurring on the upper shore, preferring sheltered to moderately exposed shores, where they cling to the hard surfaces. It also extends well into estuaries. It reproduces from July to September. A common and widespread species.
This seaweed is dark greenish-brown in colour when dry and yellow when wet. It has no gas bladders, the fronds have no midribs, and they are curled along the length forming a channel. Height 15cm.
Found on the upper shore attached to rocks. Reproduces from August to September. It is very resiliant to desiccation, and can survive for up to eight days without water. A common and widespread species.
Also called ‘Knotted Wrack’, this is a yellowish to olive-green seaweed, which has long, narrow chain-like fronds with gas-filled bladders. This is a slow-growing seaweed which has no mid-rib. Height 0.5 to 2m.
Found on rocky shores, often on the mid-shore, preferring sheltered conditions, extending into estuaries and usually attached to rocks. It reproduces April to June. Egg Wrack Wool (Polysiphonia lanosa) is commonly found attached to it in clumps. A common and widespread species.
I enjoy being nosy in rock pools when I visit the coast, and when I first set eyes on one of these I had no idea what it was, so I had to look it up. It is a mollusc, and this particular species has only been around for about 500 million years, and belong to one of the oldest animal groups on earth. And in all that time it has hardly changed at all.
Chitons are also called ‘Sea Cradles or ‘Coat-of-Mail Shells’ because they look like interlinked chain mail. At first glance they may look like tiny fossils, but they are living creatures. The shell is composed of eight arched plates which fit closely together. They cling to the rock surface by a large muscular foot and the form of the shell helps them especially on uneven surfaces. The body is oval-shaped, and chitons can curl up into balls like woodlice, their hardened shells helping to protect them. The colours are variable with alternating light and dark bands. They can grow up to 28mm in length.
They feed by using a radula, a kind of mollusc tongue which they use to scrape off and eat microscopic algae growing on the surface of the rocks.
The Grey Chiton can be found on the lower shore affixed to rocks in rock pools. This is the most common and widespread chiton to be found in the intertidal zone.