I thought this year I’d make a Christmas wreath from the flotsam and jetsam on our local beach in north west Wales. All that plastic and coloured nylon rope would bring a welcome bit of colour to the house, the beach would be a bit cleaner and the wreath would be a useful reminder over this coming month of extreme wastefulness.
Today was a glorious day. Quiet, sunny and a deceptively warm 100C. Just perfect for beachcombing. We spent about three hours dawdling amongst found objects, wondering at their history and potential, and filled a few bags with rubbishy goodies. The greatest find of the day though was a gannet skull, bleached clean, lying under a purple wig of seaweed.
Back at home, my ideas and enthusiasm faded fast. The momentum had been lost and the build up to the Wales v Australia rugby match had started in earnest. The haul of discarded materials was just a fuzzyness of plastic and the brittle limbs of sea-smoothed wood refused all attempts at being fused into a merry seasonal ring.
But the gannet skull. That was something else. A new find for my skull collection. These birds dive for fish from heights of 10-40m, and can reach 100km/h when they plunge,arrow-like, into the water. A network of air-sacs between the muscles and skin helps to cushion this impact but the bill is also thick, strong and sturdy. I wondered where this one came from – of the 21 colonies around the UK the closest are on Grassholm, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Scar Rock in Wigtownshire and Great Saltee in south east Ireland. All a fair distance away, but recent tracking work has shown that these birds are impressive travellers. This one will stay put, forever snow-white on the top shelf of my skull box.