The theme for the September Wildlife Watch article must be “look up”! Every day we have the cries of young buzzards in the skies all around the parish. There must be at least six nest sites in the area, and we have two within 1000m of Croft Close. The buzzard cries are so loud, as they seem to argue with each other overhead, and some adult birds come to within a few metres of our rooftop as they perhaps try to drive youngsters away. At a nest site near Hockenhull Platts I have seen five birds in the air together, all calling from the trees, or circling on thermals rising above the lake. Red kites have also been seen in the skies above us, with one over the Platts on August 12th and another near Waverton Station on August 19th.
Just a few weeks ago Beryl and I were on holiday in The French Alps and I have included a few of the images I took from our base at Chamonix, including a magical day on Aguille du Midi, where we stood in shirtsleeves at 12,200ft watching Alpine Chough call to each other whirling around the sky below Mont Blanc. Last week we saw chough in Anglesey and I have put both in this sequence so you can see the difference, Alpine chough have yellow bills and yellow legs, and the choughs in the UK, red bills and red legs. I have also included a picture of a black kite, which was the most common bird of prey around Lake Geneva, to compare with the red kites we see in the UK.
The views from the top of Aguille du Midi were spectacular. We could see the mountains of Italy, France and Switzerland all around us for what appeared to be hundreds of miles. I guess it probably wasn’t that far, but we did have a superb view of the triangular shaped Matterhorn in Switzerland some 80miles away. What was extraordinary at that height is that breathing was quite a challenge, and although we were feeling quite relaxed in the warm sunshine, there were 4ft long stalactites of ice hanging from the ski station roof, just below where we were standing. Hundreds of fully equipped mountaineers or ski mountaineers were leaving the Ski Station at 12,200ft through an ice cave, to climb carefully down onto the curved ridge below the ski station. Many could then be seen plummeting down the slopes on their skis to the glacier below, whilst others roped up in groups of three or four with ice axes in full use, were trekking beyond the ridge and taking the long steady climb to the glistening white domed summit of Mont Blanc above us. This was the most amazing experience for us, and we were so privileged to be able to see the highest mountains of the Alps, and almost the whole of Western Europe spread out beneath us on such a crystal clear day.
We completed this magical day by taking the cable car down to the intermediate ski station at 7,000ft, and trekked across a narrow footpath, the Grand Balcon Nord towards the next valley, and the hamlet of Montenvers and the famous Mer de Glace glacier. As we ambled across this path we had really good close up views of alpine chough, as they were eager to sample any food we could spare. If we were careful and waited patiently, we were often able to get glimpses of a number of marmots. These beautiful golden brown and quite secretive animals about the size of a badger were living amongst the jagged rock outcrops overlooking our path. They also seemed to be enjoying the warm sun and we were pleased to get really good views of them. Having spent an hour or so along this delightful path, we found that conditions were suddenly becoming quite tricky underfoot, with the warm sun melting the occasional deep lying pockets of snow, so we headed back towards the ski station at Plan de A’Guille. 30 minutes later by complete chance we reached an area of newly emerged meadow grass, and there tucked down close to the ground, we saw some superb newly emerged deep blue mountain gentians, of both the common and the tubular varieties. This was just the icing on the cake, and we enjoyed a well earned ice cream sitting on the terrace in the sun waiting for the next cable car down to Chamonix. I hope you enjoy seeing these images.
Chough at South Stack
Chough in flight
Buzzards at Hockenhull
Aguille du Midi
Aguille du Midi