Alice’s Rabbit Pal
A small group of MNA members met at Chester railway station before boarding the train to Llandudno for our walk around the Great Orme. We admired the large carved wooden Rabbit – part of the Alice in Wonderland trail before heading down to the promenade.
A variety of maritime Plants with Spear-leaved Orache Atriplex prostrata, Sea Beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima, Sea Plantain Plantago maritima and a flowering clump of Viper’s-bugloss Echium vulgare.
We took the zig-zag path up the rocky slope opposite the Grand Hotel to Happy Valley noting a few dried-out spikes of Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae which is parasitic on the roots of Ivy Hedera helix, Tutsan Hypericum androsaemum, White Stonecrop Sedum album, Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Ground-ivy Glechoma hederacea, Wild Clary Salvia verbenaca, Wild Privet Ligustrum vulgare Red Valerian Centranthus ruber. A wild patch near the Camera Obscura held Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Wild Carrot Daucus carota subsp. carota, Sea Carrot Daucus carota subsp. gummifer, Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Yarrow Achillea millefolium, Oxford Ragwort Senecio squalidus, Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum. Ron Crossley spotted our first Humming-bird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum of the day hovering around a formal flower bed.
We dropped down through the public park at Happy Valley stopping at Alice’s seat and the scattering of Fly Agaric mushrooms and noting Round-leaved Crane’s-bill Geranium rotundifolium and three Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera spikes in the unmown area at the bottom edge of the park. Billowing Altocumulus clouds above the limestone escarpments of the Orme made for an impressive view.
We were soon notching up the familiars of this limestone habitat Pellitory-of-the-wall Urtica pilulifera, Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre, White Stonecrop Sedum album, Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor, Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Bloody Crane’s-bill Geranium sanguineum, Fairy Flax Linum catharticum, Thrift Armeria maritima, Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Red Valerian Centranthus ruber, Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea etc.
Conditions were becoming more overcast and blustery which kept the Butterflies and Moths hunkered down – we did note small numbers of Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Silver-studded Blue Plebejus argus, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Grayling Hipparchia semele, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina, Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus, Six-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae and Cistus Forester Moth Adscita geryon.
The Northern Fulmars were cackling away to their neighbours on their nest ledges, a Peregrine cried out as it zoomed over the escarpment summit. Out at sea predominantly Cormorants with the odd Shag flew by. Great views as a pod of a dozen or more Common Bottlenose Dolphins Tursiops truncatus and a few Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena. were swimming by off the end of the headland.
Whitethroats called from the scrub, Wrens and Dunnock added their songs and a pair of Stonechat ‘tacked’. A few Mepits parachuted down on their display flight and a Rock Pipit performed its best Flycatcher impersonation almost hovering whilst chasing insects. Along by the nesting cliffs beside the lighthouse were Guillemots and the odd Razorbill with a group of Cormorants loafing on their rock platform with wings-outstretched.
Further along more plants with Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare, Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris and Common Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris growing in a damp area were water was oozing down the rock face. Plenty of Lichens patterning the rocks on the stone wall beside the path. The rocks also held a variety of fossils with corals, brachiopods, oyster shells etc.
Yet more Plants with Ploughman’s-spikenard Inula conyzae, Wild Madder Rubia peregrina that we have never knowingly seen before growing to heights of 3ft as it scrambled through the Privet and Loganberry Rubus loganobaccus beside the path. Small scrubs of Juniper Juniperus communis and Western Gorse Ulex gallii were holding their own in the blustery conditions. It was the antics of eleven Chough that provided a finale for the day – tumbling and playing in the wind, tucking their wings tight by their body and diving before spreading their wings fully out again the straggly end feathers like fingers. They even wished us ‘Ciao.’
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.