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Birding on a snowy beach

With Ruth now off on Christmas holidays, we both headed out to make the most of the early morning sun, while avoiding the Christmas rush. The sky looked very atmospheric as the sun rose over the horizon, the pink tinge glinting off the snowy rooftops of Llandudno.

Sunrise over Llandudno

Our first stop was at Rhos Point to look for Purple Sandpipers. The sea levels were so high that spray was constantly splashing even the highest rocks, so the sandpipers sensibly found somewhere drier to roost. The view back to the snow-dusted Little Orme was still very picturesque.

Early morning at the Little Orme

Driving further east along the North Wales coast, we pulled into a snowy car park at Kinmel Bay, and wrapped up in even more layers to keep out the wind that was whipping across the tops of the waves. Target bird: Snow Bunting. Appropriate enough given the thick layer of snow that was still covering the beach - snow on sand, doesn't seem right somehow!

Snow on the beach at Kinmel Bay

We weren't the only people out and about, plenty of dogwalkers getting exercise too. One particular spaniel took great pleasure in chasing up and down the beach and wasn't satisfied until every last wader had taken flight.

Waders at Kinmel Bay

Luckily, birds are pretty used to this disturbance and it wasn't long before a particularly obliging bunch of Ringed Plovers settled back down on the beach within photographic distance. A collection of Skylarks also pottered around on the beach amongst the grass and on the thinner areas of snow. Footprints showed how at least one rabbit had come down onto the beach too - Snow Hare perhaps??! How on earth wildlife is managing to find food in these conditions we just don't know, so we did our bit to help by sprinkling a good layer of birdseed around some driftwood treetrunks on the beach, in the hopes that hungry birds will find it. Sanderling pottered along the strandline, while a collection of Redshank and Dunlin huddled together in a large group. Two Bar-tailed Godwit flew overhead, while just offshore, Red-breasted Mergansers bobbed in the surprisingly rough waves and flocks of Common Scoter skimmed over the water.

Ringed Plover on the beach

Unfortunately, the Snow Buntings were rather more flighty this morning. As we watched them on the beach, such attractive birds looking glorious in the sunshine, they were flushed by an exuberant dog and took flight before we managed to get a decent photo. All five birds flew right overhead, the splendid male really standing out amongst the females against the clear blue sky. The birds flew high and fast back towards the west, and although we walked some way along the beach to see if we could catch up with them, they didn't stay still long enough for a good shot. But hopefully they'll find our seed supply and stay put for longer so we have better luck with our camera next time.

Alan on the beach


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