Birding in wild West Wales

I have just had a great week exploring the Pembrokeshire coast and its islands, binoculars and camera in hand.

(Photo courtesy fellow traveller : thank you!)

I visited Skomer Island, Ramsey Island, Llangloffann fen, Marloes mere and some of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path which runs from end to end of this beautiful county.

Getting there:

Skomer Island

Skomer is nowadays well and truly on the tourism map and can prove difficult to get to especially in good weather and when the schools are off. An 0630 arrival at the ticket office at Martin’s Haven may be necessary to secure a place in the queue with a chance of getting tickets when they open up at 0800. And that may be for a first crossing at 1030 or even later crossings. So patience and dedication might be needed. I was in luck, what with driving rain starting the day and deterring all but the few. I drove there for 0755, setting my Twitter feed to alert me when the Skomer boat feed tweeted on “go or no go” for the day’s crossings. This pinged “go” as I approached Martin’s Haven and the queue was only 10 or 12 deep. I avoided a total drenching queuing for 10 minutes or so and was glad to get a ticket then to retreat to Haverfordwest for breakfast and to get lunch supplies.

Skomer on a wet day would be a tough day out as there is no real shelter on the island unless you spend the entire day in the toilet block. Winds coming up from the South West (and elsewhere!) will sometimes stop the boat as this creates a swell making it less safe for embarking and landing. The boats are open and you need to prepare to get a bit splashed and also to lose your hat if not well attached! Here’s the Dale Princess heading back from Skomer after dropping us off:

We had all experienced a soaking from the last of the morning rain going over, and many had been up since the early hours, so among the people of many nations there was a great feeling of cameraderie as we climbed up from the little harbour last Sunday morning! Big smiles all round!:

The novice birder disembarking at Skomer!

Ramsey Island

Getting to Ramsey Island was altogether easier and I managed 2 day trips on boats run by the Thousand Islands company based in St David’s. They bus you to St Justinian’s where the embarkation is from the old lifeboat slipway.

The birds:

Skomer staff were welcoming and very helpful, and after briefing us on where to head to see the wildlife, and a few precautions to avoid harming ourselves and any residents (some of which are endangered species, including Manx shearwater and puffin), we spread out over the island.

Similarly Ramsey ( run by RSPB) is a welcoming place, but with far fewer visitors allowed on the island.

I have tried to group the photography according to related groups of birds. I have indulged the reader a little by the number of pictures but believe me, there were many more and these are the absolute best of my “captures”, or certainly the most precious where chances were fewer.

The last page has a few pictures of some of the other wildlife I saw. I have included any extra details in captions where possible. In due course, I will append photography details for each image for those with an interest.

Auks

Puffin (Skomer, not Ramsey)

Common Guillemot

Razorbill

Raptors/birds of prey

Owls:

Short-eared owl, Skomer Island:

Little owl, Ramsey Island:

Peregrines were also seen.

(To be continued.)