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.
Standing amidst the sand dunes watching the sun slip down the distant horizon is such a beautiful spectacle to behold. Soaking up the changing atmosphere as the colours of the sky and sea alter simultaneously, almost like they are melting into one another, a cooling breeze ruffling through your hair is purely awe-inspiring.
Distant gulls screech and sail through the pink and sepia flushed skies, voicing their last for the day as the light gradually fades, our star appearing to sink into the ocean afar, but rising out of the deep to brighten a new day somewhere on the opposite side of the world.
I wonder who maybe standing there in a strange far off land, as I am standing here now in the moment, marvelling at such a wonder of cosmic perfection and splendour slowly unveiling itself in reverse.
I can’t help but wonder what thoughts pass through their mind, and if they are thinking and feeling the same as I do. A star connecting two minds, as it connects us all.
Copyright: Peter Hillman Camera used: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Date taken: 19th April 2011 Place: West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales
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.
Even from a distance one can spot the goats which roam wild on the rugged headland of the Great Orme. I am always amazed how none of them slip off over the edge of the perilous high cliffs as they wander near the edges to fall to their deaths. We came across a small group of these Kashmiri Goats, some of them just relaxing and sitting down on the grass, others nonchalantly chewing on it. None appeared bothered by the two-legged beasties which made strange noises as we snapped photos of them.
The ancestors of these goats once roamed the mountains of Northern India, Kashmir, and there are around 200 strong here now on this Welsh headland, which has been their home since they were bought over sometime in the middle of the 19th century. The numbers are controlled and watched over, otherwise they would get out of hand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The shell has numerous fine, concentric rings and grooves. It is dirty white, yellowish or greyish in colour, and is flat, thin and delicate in form. Length 6.5cm.
It is found in sheltered, brackish habitats, like estuaries and muddy shores where it burrows up to 20cm, leaving behind a star-shaped tell-tale impression on the surface. It is a deposit-feeder, and when the inhalant siphon is extended it is often eaten by crabs, fish and wading birds, but it is regrown fairly quickly. Common and widespread all around the UK.
This mollusc has a shiny white to yellow, purple or greyish-brown slender wedge-shaped shell. Growth stages show as pale bands. The inner surfaces are tinted white, purple, yellow or orange. Length up to 38mm.
Found on the middle to lower shore where it burrows into coarse sand and lives just below the surface. The Banded Wedge Shell is a filter feeder, and when the tide is in it extracts food particles from the water via a syphon. Common and widespread on all British and Irish coasts, but less common further north on Scottish coastlines.
The shell is elongate, thin and brittle. There are numerous fine concentric lines, with a group of fine radiating striae. It is white or light brown, light olive or yellow. The hinge and ligament is positioned about a third of the way along the length of the mollusc. Length up to 130mm.
It burrows deeply in fine to medium course sands in the lower shore and shallow sublittoral. Found on the south-west coasts of England, Wales and Ireland.
This is one of the larger waders, and certainly one of the most distinctive with its black and white body, dazzling red-eye and long, vivid orange-red bill. It has short, pale pink legs, and long and broad white wingbars with a white ‘V’ on its back can be seen when in flight. In the winter it has a white-collar and a dark-tipped bill. Length 40 to 45cm.
They feed in large groups probing sand and mud with their long bills for marine worms and molluscs, or they prise shellfish from rocks along with seaweed. They will also eat earthworms and other invertebrates when venturing inland if food is in short supply on the coast. They breed on almost all UK coasts, and within the past 50 years further inland. They form a shallow scrape in shingle or sand, often amongst rocks or grassy tussocks where they lay 2 or 3 eggs in 1 brood from April to July. They can live for up to 15 years.
Seen all year round, and they often occur in enormous tight flocks where they may dominate whole estuaries. Also seen on sandy, muddy, and rocky beaches, grassy islands, shingle or riverside grassland, and grassy fields. They are common and widespread, occurring on almost all UK coasts. Most UK birds spend the winter on the coast, where on the east coast their numbers maybe increased by birds from Norway. The RSPB have given them an amber status due to their vulnerability of the over-fishing of cockle beds which they rely on for food.
A very noisey bird, especially as they form tightly packed flocks, producing penetrating kleep sounds.
The Redshank has a straight, black-tipped red bill and red legs, as the common name suggests. It has a marbled-brown back and a white, black-spotted underbelly. The males and females are similar, and the juveniles have yellow-brown legs. Length 27 to 29cm.
To feed they probe mud and sand with their medium-sized bill for molluscs, worms and crustaceans. The nest in a hollow in the ground often with a grass canopy formed above it where the female lays 4 eggs in 1 brood from April to July. They can live for up to 10 years.
They breed in saltmarshes, wet pastures, marshes and near lakes, but during the winter on the coast on estuaries and lagoons. They maybe observed all year round.
Widespread and frequent on many coastlines, with up to almost 40,000 breeding UK pairs, and 120,000 wintering birds in the UK. The RSPB has given the Redshank an amber status due to declining numbers due to loss of salt-marsh habitats, and in areas where farmland is drained.
Also called ‘Black-eyed Lichen’, it is a crustose, warty lichen, pale grey in colour with distinctive disc-like black fruiting bodies, each with a raised, pale grey rim. Thallus 10cm in diameter. Fruiting body 3mm wide.
Found well-lit coastal rocks in the splash zone, on seabird perches such as cliffs, and stone walls inland. Rarely found on trees. Common and widespread throughout the British Isles.
This is a small, dark green lettuce-like algae when wet, which forms flaky coatings over rocks and boulders. Length 1cm.
It grows on rocks and stones in the splash zone, mostly frequented by seabirds which drop their faeces from which it gets its nitrates to flourish. A common and widespread species, but mainly seen in spring and early summer.
Greenish in colour when young, but becoming purple-red as it matures, and is very resistant to drying out and the action of the waves. It forms thin, delicate sheets which cling to rocks and has a polythene-like texture. Width 20cm.
Found attached to rocks in sandy habitats. Abundant and widespread on rocky shores throughout.
Purple Laver is used to make laverbread in Wales, which is a traditional Welsh recipe.
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.
Also called the ‘Edible Periwinkle’, the shell is variable in colour, from black and grey to brown, white or red, and usually patterned with spiral dark lines. It is conical in shape with a pointed apex. This is the largest British periwinkle, but is usually smaller than 50mm.
It favours rocky shores upper to lower zones with a good covering of seaweed. It can also be found in mud-flats or esturaries. The Common Periwinkle is a herbivore which grazes on seaweeds. Widespread and abundant throughout.
A bluish-grey springtail with 3 thoracic segments and 6 abdominal segments. It has 3 pairs of legs. The entire body is covered with white hydrophobic hairs which allow it to stay above the surface of the water on which it spends much of its life. The Rock Springtail cannot leap like other springtails. Length 3mm.
They feed on dead and decaying organic material, especially dead animals. Found on intertidal rocky shorelines, often in rock pools, often in large clusters. Common and widespread on all British coasts, and often abundant.
The Dog Whelk’s shell is variable in colour, from white to dark brown, yellow or banded. Thick-shelled, it is broadly conical bearing spiral ridges with a short spire. Shell height 3 to 5cm.
It is a fierce predator of mussels, barnacles and other molluscs. It bores a hole into the prey’s shell using its radula. Its digestive juices dissolve the prey and it sucks it up with its proboscis. It produces yellow egg capsules which are fixed in clusters under rocks. It can live for up to 10 years.
Found in all types of rocky shores from the middle shore downwards, on rocks, under overhangs and in crevices. Common and widespread.
Photographs taken April 2014, Llanduno, Wales, and August 2015, Meadfoot Beach, Torquay, Devon.
The Sand Mason Worm fashions a tube made from cemented sand grains and tiny fragments of seashell. It has a frayed edge around the mouth, and can be seen at low tide protruding from the sandy beach.
The worm itself is pink, yellowish or greenish with white tentacles and red gills. It can have up to 300 segments, and grows up to 30cm long.
It may be found solitary or in great masses, and as many as several thousand can be within one square metre. Found on exposed and sheltered beaches where it feeds on organic food particles beneath the water via its tentacles which protrude from the top of its protective tube. Common and widespread.
Photograph taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales.
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.