The Great Orme rises behemoth-like from the sea and sprawls along the north west of Llandudno as if biding its time before slipping noiselessly back into the water and sinking beneath the waves.
This prehistoric limestone headland is rich in wildlife and history. Accordingly it is designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Heritage Coast and has been managed as a Country Park and Nature Reserve since 1980.
This wonderful old rock holds a very special place in my affections. Not only was I raised in its shadow but my family dwell both on and beneath its ancient crust (my grandparents are buried in the old cemetery at St. Tudno’s Church). Moreover, I was employed here as a park warden – Information Officer to be precise – during the early to mid 1990s.
Last Wednesday D and I joined family and friends for lunch at the Kings Head, which is situated at the base of the Orme, followed by a brief jaunt around the Marine Drive, stopping off at the Rest and Be Thankful Cafe for an ice cream before heading towards the West Shore.
We sat at a picnic table next to the cafe, chatting amiably while gazing out towards the wind farm, which was shimmering pleasantly in the heat. Before long we observed a buff-coloured bird with distinctly white undersides dashing about on the grassy slopes, bobbing its tail in a similar manner to a wagtail. Every so often it would hop in the air or skittishly take flight a few feet above the ground before resuming its frenzied activity. There was no doubt to any of us that this was a Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) – a regular visitor to the headland during the late summer and early autumn.
Presently, a second Wheatear flitted into view, its blue-grey mantle and black wings over a white rump with black ‘T’ shape on the tail quite plain to see. The two birds went about their business, seemingly oblivious to their appreciative audience, providing us with some terrific photo taking opportunities.
Interestingly it is said that the Wheatear’s name derives from a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon descriptor ‘white arse’.
We were entertained for a time by a solitary Wall (Lasiommata megera) butterfly, so named for its habit of basking on walls, rocks and other stony surfaces. This individual, which was feeding on hawkweed, was almost certainly a second (possibly third) generation male. He would perch restlessly on a flower and feed greedily on its nectar before taking off to patrol his territory. He did several circuits as we watched, his rich orange-brown markings glowing handsomely in the sun. Sadly his display was futile. With the exception of ourselves, not a single female was there to admire his impressive performance.
Photographs by © Eve Parry, 2012