A Rare Close Encounter with a Chough
We arrived at the cliff above West Dale before the forecasted wind reached its peak. Even so small globules of sea foam blew up to meet us. We made our way down steps to the beach to find the bottom one already washed away by previous stormy seas.
We leaned into the wind and set off along the sand and shingle beach enjoying the dramatic wintry landscape. The bay is enclosed by Old Red Sandstone cliffs. Facing WSW it takes the brunt of prevailing winds. Huge crashing waves made a tumultuous roar as they rolled onto the shore making conversation difficult.
Amongst the flotsam and jetsam thrown up on the high tide line was the body of a Chough. It was a rare opportunity to make a close inspection of this seldom seen bird. Its glossy black plumage, bright pinkish red legs and long red downward curved beak told us it was an adult.
Choughs are scarce residents in the UK. Several hundred pairs only are to be found in south and west coasts of Ireland, in west Wales, on the Isle of Man, on a few Hebridean Islands, notably Islay and most recently in a small area of Cornwall. They favour coastal regions of sea cliffs, short turf for feeding and caves and cavities for nesting.
Once off the beach we followed the coastal path with spectacular views of Skokholm Island to St Ann’s Head and then back to Dale via the road. Heavy grey clouds threatened us all the way but we reached the Griffin Inn without getting wet.
The open fire made our cheeks glow as we enjoyed a warming drink before heading home for spicy parsnip soup, crusty bread and some reading up on British sea birds.
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