I had been booked to dog-sit last weekend for my cousins from many months ago, and to be honest the timing could not have been better, although I didn't know that at the time.
When my two favourite cousins announced they were taking their families to Blackpool for the weekend, I offered to dog-sit their little darlings. My cousin David, his wife Joe and their kids Aimee and Jack, own the delightful Buster. My cousin Karen, her hubby Dave and their kids Melissa, Harrison, Michael and Brandon, own the other delightful pooch, Keith.
After my recent 'mini melt down', this little break was exactly what I needed. An evening with my cousins then a few days solitude with two dogs and the sea shore, then another evening with my cousins. Absolute bliss.......
My last visit to Rhyl was back in February (see my blog post from then here) which was just two months after the huge tidal surge in December 2013 that flooded out some of David and Joes neighbours, and many of the coastal roads from the Splash Point area right along the prom and golf course. If you look at my blog post from that visit (link above) you can see the immense destruction that surge caused. Ten months later and for most of the community things are almost back to normal. But the beach itself will never look the same, and the tides that now come in are more destructive than ever before.
But back to my weekend......
My two 'charges', Buster and Keith, have known each other all of their little lives. I was to stay at Busters abode, with Keith and myself being the 'guests'.
I'm an animal lover. Everyone who knows me will tell you that. I love all animals. I love pets. I love dogs. But I have never owned a dog. For the last 15 years I've owned cats. I've rescued cats, re-homed cats, kept a few cats and always been known as a cat person. But this weekend I was going to be looking after two young dogs. It didn't worry me. I could handle it with no problems. Or so I thought..........
Buster and Keith had me wrapped around their little fingers from the minute all of my cousins piled into their cars and left........
|Buster and Keith|
More about these little darlings later......
At home I have my bird-watching 'patch' which is Cranford Park. When I'm staying at my cousins in Rhyl, I also have my little 'patch' which is from Splash Point, all along the prom, sometimes on to the beach, and up to the sand dunes at the end of the golf course. I don't know how long that walk is, but my legs can tell you now that after walking it twice a day for four days, that it is quite a long way !!
|and the remnant ancient tree stumps and rock pools left behind.|
From all my previous visits over the last 5-6 years, I can guarantee there will always be sightings of the following three birds......
Also becoming a familiar sighting is the Little Egret. I never used to see one on the Rhyl shore, but during my last three visits I have always seen at least one. He/she prefers the little rocky pools left behind when the tide goes out. There are two areas of rocky pools that are right by the prom wall, so you just literally lean on the wall and look down. As long as you don't make too much noise or movement, the Little Egret will feed right below you.
The Curlew is also being seen more and more. I rarely used to see one, but this weekend at least three individual birds were feeding along the shore and in the rocky pools on my usual walk. I still get a buzz of excitement from seeing this large wader. There's something majestic about this bird.
Sandwich Terns are always around during the winter months. I don't know where they breed, but I have seen them at Rhyl during October in previous years and the flock is often a mixture of juvenile and adult birds. They don't come too near to the prom wall, but often settle on one of the many sand banks exposed when the tide goes out. Their loud grating 'kerrick' call is often what first alerts me to them being near. During the winter months they lose most of their black caps, leaving just a band of black around the base of their heads. Fully mature birds have black bills with yellow tips, but juveniles and some younger adults have all black bills.
I used to see Sanderlings on a regular basis then I didn't see them for a couple of years, but there were a few individuals around this weekend. They are comical little birds, almost like wound up clockwork figures as they run around.
Over the years the number of Ringed Plovers that I see at Rhyl, have dramatically increased. I used to be pleased if I saw one, but this weekend I ended up losing count of how many were around. Like the Turnstones and Little Egret, these gorgeous little birds favour the rocky pools. Sometimes you cant even see them until they move. Their wonderfully marked plumage hides them well amongst the stones.
On the prom path itself there were several Pied Wagtails running around, with more flying over.
I often see Meadow Pipits when I go on my Rhyl 'patch' walk. They flit from the golf course over to the shore. With all the area of ancient tree stumps being exposed by the strong currents, they can also be seen picking their way through the muddy channels left behind.
Prior to my last two visits I used to only see Stonechats when I went into, and behind, the sand dunes, but back in February and again this weekend, there were several feeding on the scrubby areas on the golf course. One particular female bird gave me some wonderful views as she flitted to and from the golf course and the prom wall.
On the golf course itself there were several Northern Wheatears. I counted five on Friday, three on Saturday, one on Sunday and three again on Monday. On no occasion were they really close enough to photograph, so you'll have to make do with this distant shot.
And lastly for the birds, there were the gulls. My identification skills aren't too clever when it comes to gulls. I wouldn't be able to pick out a Yellow-legged amongst the Herring Gulls for instance, but my basic knowledge picked out five individual breeds........
The Common Gull
The Herring Gull
and the Lesser Black-backed Gull.
There were also big numbers of Black-headed gulls (one of which I've photographed with the Sandwich Terns above), and I spotted at least two Great Black-backed gulls but they were more distant.
So that was my long weekend of bird watching. How did the dogs, Buster and Keith, cope with that ? They didn't as I found out the first time I took both them, my bins and my camera out. I couldn't hold my bins or camera steady enough while holding onto two excitable little dogs at the same time. In fact I nearly got a black eye while trying to view a bird through my bins whilst holding on to the leads, as Buster saw a dog he liked the look of he pulled away causing me to whack myself on my nose.
So we came to an arrangement. I'd walk the dogs in the morning, noting where all the birds were, then settle them back at base before venturing out on my own with my bins and camera. It seemed to work well for all of us, except I got better views of the Wheatears when I was with the dogs than when I was on my own. But the dogs certainly kept me entertained. I haven't laughed so much in ages, and our evenings were spent crashed out on the sofa watching TV. Even the lack of sleep (these lovely little dogs barked at every night time noise) didn't put me off.
So to end my blog here are some photos of Buster and Keith.