This August has been busy with visitors and wildlife. I continue to be amazed by what South Stack has to offer as we head in to late summer. The Heathland has turned a beautiful mosaic of light purple and yellow as the ling heather and Western Gorse bloom.
At South Stack Lighthouse last week I had a very inspirational day. It began with my descent down the steps to the bridge. I couldn’t help but stop and look at the folds and colours of rock on the cliff – a result of a process that occurred millions of years ago when huge earth movements folded and heated the rock to form these impressive features. And it is these very faults, cracks and crevices that our breeding seabirds come back to year after year to lay their eggs; now they lay bare as the auks are far out to sea. The wind was strong that day which meant my favorite birds were enjoying the uplift as they soared at almost eye level, so that I was able to see in detail the slight curve of the choughs beak, and subtle green and blue in its glossy plumage. Bright green caterpillars dotted the walls and we watched in anticipation as a Chough edged closer, “its going to take the caterpillar!” cried some children as it hopped closer still, and in a moment it was snatched up and swallowed. There was plenty more to see as above the waves Gannets plunged and below Porpoise surfaced and revealed their dark curved fins. Manx Shearwaters could also be seen further out flashing black and white as they tilted from side to side. These remarkable birds live out at see and only come onto land to breed, and like other seabirds, are very vulnerable to predation. To overcome this they return to their nest sites at dusk and enter their burrows under the cover of darkness. In the UK there are around 300,000 breeding pairs of Manx Shearwater, but in Winter they travel a remarkable 5,000 miles to the South American coast!
Keep you eyes to the skies too as Peregrine falcons use their agile and powerful flight to glide across the cliff tops. I was lucky enough to experience the presence of this beautiful bird of prey when I took a walk across the heath. I would have passed it by unawares if I hadn’t have heard its shriek call. I looked up to see its angular shape soaring high above. It circled for a long while without a flap of its wings, and I couldn’t help but feel I was being watched. Then with a quick turn of its body it headed out over the sea and into the distance.