Category Archives: Seaside

Walking from Aberdovey towards Tywyn along the beach

Yesterday’s walk along the beach was extraordinary.  I had intended to park by the cemetery, but by accident parked opposite the row of houses at the foot of the road from the Trefeddian Hotel, crossed the golf course and emerged from the dunes at the Second World War pillbox.   The sun was hazy and incredibly pale, but at the same time reflected off the wet sand, creating some beautiful colour and light combinations.  I walked for far longer than intended, and it nearly became a case of walking into Tywyn and getting a bus or taxi back to my car!  Instead I retraced my steps, and because of the light it was like doing an entirely different walk.  It was lovely to see a pair of oyster catchers, obstinately refusing to do anything other than stand, preening in the sun!  They are in the video at the end of this post.

 

 

New strandline discoveries

Monday’s walk along the beach produced some more interesting strandline finds to add to those found on my previous strandline expeditions.  The sea was nearly at high tide, so the strandline was shifting all the time, wet weed and shells changing position as the waves pushed forward and retreated.  Sunday had been an endless day of really strong gales, complete with Met Office weather warnings, and although I expected this to have stirred things up a lot, I was not expecting to find much at high tide, so it was interesting to see what there was.

Barrel Jellyfish, Aberdovey shoreline

The most anomalous find was a dead barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo), a common enough sight in warm summer months, but the first I have ever seen in winter.  The barrel jellyfish is distinguished by a thick rubbery bell and “arms” rather than tentacles, which have a distinctive frill along their edges. This is a  small one, but they can reach up to 1m in diameter and are the largest of jellyfish to be found in UK waters.  They have a mild sting.   The Marine Conservation Society collects sightings of jellyfish (and turtles, crawfish and basking sharks) throughout the year, so if you see one it is worth going to the MCS’s sightings page and filling in their online form.  There’s a good jellyfish identification guide on the IWS website, from which the following is taken:

Barrel jellyfish details

I also found two new eggcases.  If you are new to eggcases, have a look at my post on the subject, where I go into some detail.  These were very unlike the nursehound case that I found on the beach that day, but very distinctive.  Using the Shark Trust’s identification guide, it was possible to narrow them down to a Thornback Ray (Raja clavata) and a Spotted Ray (Raja montagui).  My photos of the two cases are below, together with the Thornback Ray  relevant page from the Shark Trust’s identification guide.

A page from the Shark Trust’s identification guide, accompanied by photos of the two eggcases found today.

Common piddock (Pholas dactylus)

The bivalve shell I picked up and kept is neither unusual nor relevant to any conservation programmes, but it is simply very attractive, with a wonderful textured surface, and I had never seen one before.  It’s a common piddock (Pholas dactylus), one of four species of piddock found mainly in the south and wet of Britain, all white. They are specialist borers, using the ridges for drilling into hard substrates to create burrows.  They have feeding siphons which reach out from the burrow into the sea to collect nutrients, and in the case of the common piddock the siphons are bioluminescent and glow green in the dark.  Shells can be up to 12cm long, and this one is exactly 12cm long.

I picked up a piece of seaweed that was a deep pink when I found it, and it turned black when I left it to dry out.  It’s a new one on me so I looked it up:  clawed fork weed (Furcellaria lumbricalis).  It only has the pods at the ends, which are its reproductive structures, in winter.  It tolerates low saline conditions, so will grow even in estuary waters.

 

Snow on the hills on the Ceredigion side of the Dyfi estuary

Snapshots today, walking down Balkan Hill for some odds and ends in the village.  Not very sharp, because I was using the tiny camera I keep in my handbag.  I didn’t dare take my good kit because I knew if I had it with me I’d end up walking along the beach for a couple of hours, and I didn’t have time today!  The very short video at the end is just the view over the estuary and Cardigan Bay beyond from my window as the sun went down, with pink smoke!  The days are getting noticeably a little longer, although it seems like a very long haul to get from the shortest day on 21st December to the end of March.

 

 

 

 

 

Gales and bleak skies yesterday, sunshine today, a mad but wonderful contrast

Yesterday morning my first job was to go and retrieve the blue bins that had cascaded down the hill when their trolley fell over during the night.  I was awake much of the night listening to it.  Today was an amazing contrast.  Things started off a little grey, with sunshine filtering through the clouds, but by the afternoon the sun dominated, and although there were still clouds, they were an attractive gradient from pure white to dark purple and charcoal, the perfect foil for the brilliant cerulean blue.  I had only walked down to go to the Post Office, but somehow found myself cutting through the dunes and striding along the incoming tide on the beach. So happy.

Oystercatchers on the foreshore at Aberdovey this afternoon

I was so lucky this afternoon to see two wonderful oystercatchers on the foreshore.  I was on the members’ terrace of the Literary Institute (I promise that I am a member and wasn’t trespassing!) and heard a high-pitched peeping noise coming from below.  And there they were.  Squinting into the sun, I suddenly saw two absolutely perfect little waders rushing around on their spindly pink legs picking up mussels from amongst the seaweed and bashing them with their long, strong orange beaks against the stones.  You can hear the peeping and bashing noises on the video below.  The camcorder did a remarkably good job, given that I was shooting straight into the sun.   Oystercatchers also target cockles, limpets, small crabs and shrimps, all of which are available in the area.  Although oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) are common on coasts, and I have seen them at the mouth of the Dysynni, I have never seen one at Aberdovey before.  I was utterly charmed.  Wonderful to watch and to listen to them.  When they took off, startled by some people walking along the foreshore, the lovely white streaks against the black of their wings were clearly visible.

January in Aberdovey

Wednesday last week was one of those rare but gorgeous January days that provides a welcome reminder that spring lies ahead.  Almost too good to be true. The tide was on its way out, always a beautiful sight as dips in the sand fill with still water reflecting the blue sky, and the millions of deeply scored fractal patterns in the sand are revealed, with the contrast of the dark shadows and bright surfaces always a sensational feature of the low winter sun.  Apart from a few dog walkers the beach was almost empty, sensible people remaining in the warm.

My garden continues to be a source of wildlife activity, all the local species filling up on solid carbohydrates to see them through the bitterly cold nights.

The goldfinches, which turned up in my absence over Christmas, are now a daily presence, between two or seven of them at a time, four on the nyjer feeder with the others bouncing up and down in frustration in the tree. When they first arrived I was very taken by their beautifully minimalist movements and intricate eating habits, but when there are more than four trying to get onto the feeder at a time there can be real jockeying for position in a great thrashing of brightly coloured feathers, with some of the angelic looking little things chasing off others quite ruthlessly.  A gaggle of goldfinches is called a “charm.”

Since I moved here in August, all the feeders have been popular, but in the last month the mixed seed feeder has been completely rejected, no matter where I hang it.  Instead, most activity is concentrated on the fat ball, mealworm and peanut feeders.  Do note that I put a soundtrack on the following video, just to get used to the software that I am using, but it is a really lovely piece of Bach, so hopefully not too intrusive.