My partner, Jen, and I took a week's holiday in Anglesey at the start of September. It was the fourth time in five Septembers.
I don't know if it was because we were a week earlier this year, or because summer is running later, but there seemed to be less wildlife about this time. No wheatears, only a few gannets, and a single tern. But it was still a wonderful holiday, there were plenty of flowers still in bloom, I saw ravens, a seal and goosanders, and I got to take an extremely jammy photograph of a black-headed gull watching a bottle-nosed dolphin failing to catch a fish:
Natural Selection is very much alive and kicking in Anglesey. (As it is everywhere else.)
More photos from our holiday »
We had been getting anxious for bats, not having seen any flitting above our patio this year. But we finally saw one—just one—on Tuesday evening. The bats are attracted to the house by insects, which are themselves attracted there by the residual day-warmth radiating from the stones of our south-west-facing house. The warmth was very noticeable. Jen and I could feel it from at least ten feet away. Our own little micro-climate!
Seeing the bat made my week.
Then, on Wednesday, we made a day-trip to Whitby to buy crab and to eat fish and chips. We took our farmer friend along for good measure. The fish and chips were excellent, as was the crab, which we ate in a sandwich for lunch on Thursday.
Herring gulls in Whitby harbour.
I had a day-trip to Grange Over Sands on Saturday to watch my friend Mike launch the wooden kayak he has just finished building (with a little help from a professional boat-builder). Around 20 of Mike's friends turned up to watch him splash a small bottle of champagne over the bow of Lynne, named in memory of his long-term partner, and wife of only a few months, who died after a long illness last year.
Mike names his kayak.
Some of Mike's more adventurous friends had brought boats of their own along, so, while they made a brief tour of the Kent Estuary, the rest of us hung around eating pork pies and drinking champagne (a classic combination). I'm sure Lynne would have been very pleased. She was a nice lady.
Canoeists off Grange Over Sands.
Grange Over Sands.
Oh, and I saw my first swift of the summer, not far from Skipton. It made me happier than was strictly reasonable.
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I can't remember seeing the Dee Marshes in snow before. They had a somewhat Siberian air to them.
The birds were keeping their heads low. I can't say I blamed them. I was eventually rewarded with a (very distant) view of a short-eared owl on the hunt. It was the long, flappy wings that gave it away. Other than that, I only spotted a few gulls and a couple of grey herons. I'm guessing there were also little egrets about, but they will have been uncharacteristically camouflaged.
Grey heron, Burton Marshes
More photos here.
A day out to Blackpool on Thursday (Jen's birthday). The weather was atrocious: incessant driving rain. We took flasks of tea, bought chips at Harry Ramsden's, and ate them in the car looking out to sea. There was nothing to see, apart from some very miserable-looking gulls and starlings. But it was a day out.
As we rounded the last bend up the hill towards home, a weasel scuttled across the road in front of us and disappeared into the grassy bank. Not as good as a badger, but pretty nice to see.
From now on, I shall refer to that corner as Weasel Corner.
Nothing much happening on the natural history front. A mixture of very wet weather and a guest staying with us over the New Year period meant that I haven't managed to get out much.
I did, however, manage my 24th consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau in North Wales. As I stood drinking tea with my friend Carolyn and her family at the top, we were treated to a spectacular view of a merlin semi-circling the summit before dipping behind a wall. Carolyn's oldest seemed far more impressed that a bird had the same name as one of her favourite TV characters than by the bird itself.
The midwinter storms have brought plenty of gulls inland to Hebden Bridge. If the weather here is a relief for the gulls, I can't imagine what it must be like on the coast.