42/365 Strata

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190211 St Mary's Well Bay strata

I know nothing at all about geology so I’m not even going to attempt an explanation of what these rocks are, what the formations are called, which periods they date from. I just think they look damn cool! This photo was taken on today’s walk from Sully back to Pernarth, looking east across St Mary’s Well Bay, with Lavernock Point in the background.

41/365 Oak trees

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190210 oak trees

I’ve been trying to find out how old these Oak trees are but haven’t managed it … yet. They grow on one side of the green that surrounds All Saints Church in Penarth’s Victoria Square. I did discover that the church itself dates originally from 1891, though it had to be rebuilt after being reduced to a burnt-out shell when 100 high explosives and 5000 incendiaries were dropped on Penarth during a bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe on 4 March 1941. I don’t know if the trees were also damaged in that bombing or whether they date from the 1890s … or even earlier. Whatever their age, they are magnificent.

40/365 A rose by any other name?

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In this case, though, my rose is not a rose but a lichen that I thought looked a lot like the outline of a rose – my warped imagination perhaps, but pretty nonetheless. I spotted this on a gravestone during a wander around the graveyard that surrounds St Augustine’s Church here in Penarth. I presume it’s one of the Caloplaca species of lichen, possibly Caloplaca decipiens, but many of this species seem to look alike and I am not at all skilled in identifying lichens.

190209 Caloplaca lichen

39/365 Who’s black-and-white?

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I took advantage of a two-hour break in Storm Erik’s passage early afternoon to do a quick circuit of the Ely embankment, just in case the storm had driven in any unusual birds. Apart from a lot of Black-headed gulls and Coots taking advantage of the shelter afforded by Penarth’s cliffs and three Redshanks enjoying a companionable snooze, it was fairly quiet. But I did find this gorgeous Cormorant perched on a pontoon in the marina, drying its wings. They’re so often thought of as black-and-white birds but just look at how colourful its facial markings are.

190208 cormorant

A well-travelled Black-headed gull

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When I was in Barry earlier this week, I noticed one of the Black-headed gulls at The Knap was colour-ringed so I took its photo and reported my sighting by checking who was ringing what where on the European Colour-ring birding website.

Today I heard back from Paul Roper of the North Thames Gull Group (NTGG) and the information he supplied is fascinating. This bird was ringed as an adult (‘third calendar year or older’) at the Pitsea Landfill Site in Essex on 12 March 2016 but it doesn’t seem to spend much time in England. As Paul commented in his email, ‘This one is particularly interesting as it appears to breed in Finland and goes there via Germany’.

190208 Black-headed gull

Another thing that intrigued me was how site faithful this bird is in its choice of where to over-winter and Paul confirmed that, from their records, many birds ‘do seem to stick to a site faithfully in the winter’. From sightings dated 11 November 2016, 15 August 2017, 5 February 2018 and my sighting on 4 February 2019, we can see that, once it’s finished breeding in Finland, this little Black-headed gull heads back to Britain to spend its winters in Barry, in south Wales. You can see a map of its movements on the NTGG website here. There must be something about the fish and chips in Barrybados that keeps bringing it back!

38/365 The seed-eaters

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Shame on me! I bought a big bag of bird seed at one of the local cheapo shops for just a pound. It was a mistake, a case of false economy, as it’s almost 90% large seeds that the littler birds, the robins and tits, can’t eat, and it’s those littlies that I like to feed – I figure most of the larger birds can take care of themselves.

190217 tufted duck

Still, the cheap seed needs to be eaten. So, today, battling blustery winds, sheltering from hail behind too-narrow tree trunks, I bore two containers-full to Cosmeston, one lot for the Tufties, who lived up to their name as diving ducks by plunging constantly underwater following the sinking seed, and one for whichever of the bigger birds wanted the bounty I broadcast under the trees, which turned out to be a small clattering of grateful Jackdaws.

190217 jackdaw

37/365 Ever upwards

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190206 treecreeper

Up! Always and forever, the Treecreeper goes up, up, upwards. Never down, hardly ever sideways, though often, in the process of going up, spiralling round and round a trunk, a branch, to the top. And then, flying quickly down to the bottom and heading upwards once again. Unusually, today, this little Treecreeper flew down to the very base of a huge Lime right in front of me and I followed it round and round the tree, until it was too high to see. What a treat!

36/365 Staring at gulls

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I’m sure I’m gaining a reputation as ‘The woman who stares at gulls’. I don’t think of myself as a larophile, a gull-worshipper – I’d just like to become better at identifying them. With their annually changing plumages, the juveniles are the most difficult; generally, the adult gulls are easier, if you can get a good look at them. Today, at Cosmeston, while staring at the gulls as usual, I actually found something different, not one of the usual Black-headed gulls or Lesser black-backed gulls or Herring gulls, but this lovely Common gull. Fortunately, it was close to the shoreline so it was easy to pick out its distinctive bill and head shape and colouring. A very pretty little gull!

190205 Common gull

35/365 Little egret

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After the rain and low cloud cleared late morning, I headed to the seaside for the afternoon, to Barry, a short train ride west along the south Wales coast. Despite the chilly wind blowing in off the sea, the day was glorious and I walked around the Knap, the Old Harbour, the beach at Barry Island and then along the old docks to catch the train home. The tide was out so it was a good time to check the now-silted-up Old Harbour for birds and I was delighted to spot this Little egret puddling about in one of the channels, trying to stir up something for its lunch. Such an elegant bird.

190204 little egret

34/365 Beachcombing

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As part of this morning’s local meander, I went for a beachcomb at the base of the cliffs at Penarth Head – not too close to those cliffs as they’re continually shedding small stones and occasional larger boulders but it’s safe enough nearer the water’s edge when the tide’s going out. I didn’t linger long as people arrived to run their dogs, sending sand and stones everywhere. However, I did find this little beauty before they arrived – a fossilised seashell I think.

p.s. My fab Facebook friend Mark says that the only ‘Jurassic bivalve with that pattern in my books is something called Oxytoma inequivalvis’, so now we have a name. Thanks, Mark.

190203 fossil