Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Miniature Rainforest

Hunt’s Bay is a little gem.  Perfectly shaped above a raised beach, there are rarely people here.  Locals find lobsters and crabs at low tide, but as usual I have the place to myself.  There’s a big kelp forest offshore, and spring tides can dump thick wracks onto the rocks and shoreline.  With calm seas of late, there’s just a little along an old tide line high up on the shore.  I turn it over with my foot, and sand hoppers spring into life, but in no time at all find refuge again beneath the kelp.  Flies too are disturbed, but take more time to settle.  I walk on, knowing that pied wagtails and rock pipits will take advantage of the newly feeding opportunity I just made for them.  The rock strata laid down after the last ice age in almost vertical folds, is enough to partially hide a heron fishing in the rock pools.  I catch glimpses of its head, but never enough to see if he succeeds.

Above the shore, the raised beach is clear of bracken.  The National Trust owns these cliffs, but allows a local farmer to take off the bracken each autumn.  This, and periodic burning of the gorse, enables a rich community of limestone flowers to thrive during summer months, which in some years can be spectacular. Fungi, many of which I find difficult to identify, are scattered about in small groups. I photograph a couple, hoping the field guide will later come to my aid.

To the west, I sit overlooking a deep gorse-covered slade sloping down to the sea, which from above resembles a miniature rainforest.  On the few limestone outcrops, golden lichen adds a splash of colour, and between them cotoneaster berries glisten in the evening glow.  As the light fades, shags arrive at their roost on the ledges by Bacon Hole.  They circle a few times, land on the sea for a while, before finally flying up to join others already settled in for the night.  A chough calls, then another, they too head for an ancient roost at Crow Hole, a small cave entered from above in a depression on the sloping cliffs.

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