Monday, April 22, 2013

Exploring Wales, Part 1: Conwy Jackdaws and Other Birds

Last week, Paul and I ventured across the Atlantic Ocean and visited an exotic land: Wales! We stayed in Conwy -- a medieval walled city (castle included) on the northern coast -- and spent three glorious days exploring centuries- (and even millenia-) old man-made structures and amazingly dramatic countryside. We saw tons of things in our relatively short visit and had an awesome time!

There were old buildings and landscapes, of course, but we saw plenty of wildlife as well, mostly birds. It was really cool to hang out with these foreign (for me) creatures, and I even reached a new level of familiarity with a few recurring birds by the end of the trip. One of these was a bird that we saw everywhere we went in Wales, but which made a particularly strong presence at our home base in Conwy: the Eurasian Jackdaw.

These handsome birds (members of the crow family) were all over in Conwy, and especially in the main part of the town, where they were busy building nests in the tall, 13th-century walls:

I think these birds are extremely cool-looking, with those stark silvery outfits and brilliant eyes. And they certainly looked right at home among the craggy ruins of walls jutting up above more modern rooftops, watching over the town like sleek uniformed sentinels:

All throughout Conwy's town and castle, we saw Jackdaws peering out of holes in the old stone walls:

Basically, the Jackdaws seem to have some degree of ownership over parts of Conwy. And even more interesting to me, Conwy itself seems to have made the bird-town connection official. Surely that's a Jackdaw on top of this signpost in the center of town, yes?

The term "jackdaw" is also apparently used to refer to people born within Conwy's town walls. Overall, I feel like Paul and I got a special view of this town because we were paying attention to these birds.

The Jackdaws weren't the only birds vying for space among Conwy's walls and rooftops, but these other avian occupants were already pretty familiar (even if their home wasn't). Conwy's Rock Pigeons demonstrated why "pigeon hole" is a phrase:

And just as big and loud as they are here in North America, Herring Gulls staked claims on the walls as well:

Away from the Conwy town center and on our countryside travels, several other utterly delightful birds popped up. This Blue Tit was one of my favorites, and I was very happy whenever one of these fancy relatives of our chickadees and titmice appeared:

This Eurasian Wren was also adorable, perched here on an old stone wall near the small town of Dolwyddelan:

Wood Pigeons were quite common, and I thought of them as Mega-pigeons because they're so much bigger and bulkier than the Rock Pigeons that I'm more used to seeing:

Finally, we saw quite a few European Robins, and after three days, I came to love these gregarious little puffballs who popped up frequently to sing and show off -- often at eye level -- with very little fear of us. Their bright orange bibs certainly stood out among the predominantly brown (early spring) landscape:

These birds looked even more handsome, though, when they posed among new spring-green buds:

One robin landed directly in front of Paul and I as we rested on a park bench, and it proceeded to serenade us (LOUDLY) for several minutes:

Sing it, little bird!

But hey, watch where you're pointing that beak!

In all, I loved getting a feel for Wales through some of its common avian wildlife. We met a few other creatures, as well, who -- while not technically wild -- seemed especially Welsh.... But that's another post entirely! Stay tuned!

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