Wednesday, 27 May 2015

24th May- Marloes Peninsula. Pembrokeshire

There was overnight rain that lingered into the mid morning so it was a lazy breakfast while the weather cleared up then we decided to walk from the cottage around the area we were staying in. From the cottage we followed the road west and then took a footpath north towards the coastal path.  It was overcast, and out in St Bride's Bay there was a little mist.

We reached the coastal path at Black Cliff and turned left or west towards martin's Haven.  As we walked there was a steady stream of Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls both ways along side the cliff.  Coming from the nesting colonies on Skomer these gulls were probably in search of food.

A pair of Ravens announced their presence on the cliffs with the gronking call, and we were surprised by a pair of Peregrine that appeared and flew past us before I could raise the camera.  They came very close and we were able to get some good views.

In the bramble and bushes Wrens sang, and every so often you would catch a Whitethroat singing from the top of the gorse before it would burst into the sky singing and then drop out of sight in the bushes.

It was still overcast but the view west towards Skomer was quite impressive.

Surprisingly the cliffs had been quite quiet, with only the movement of gulls to provide interest.  There had also been nothing on the sea, so as we approached Martin's Haven we were quite pleased to see a Shag in the water below us.

A lot slighter than a Cormorant without the white gape.  Another tell tale sign is the fact a Shag when it dives leaps out of the water to do so while a Cormorant just slips under.

As we walked down the the Haven, the bushes by the path were covered in the silk nests of the Gypsy Moth caterpillars.

The walk now took us up through the Deer Park, so called because at one time the intention was to have deer here.  The deer never came and every so often the National Trust let Welsh Mountain ponies graze here to keep the vegetation down.  There were clumps of bramble and gorse, and this suited the Meadow Pipits well with plenty about displaying with their parachute flight, or perched on the gorse with food for young.

In the more open areas there was plenty of ant hills, and as we came through an open area a black bird appeared quite close to us.  It was pecking quite hard at the ant hill, and as it lifted its head we could easily see the red curved bill of a Chough.

The black feathers give off a bluish sheen in the light.  As it was totally occupied with the destroying the ant hill we were able to get quite close.

And we could now see the red legs.  It moved to another area and we could again get closer.

As it pecked away every so often it would stop and check there was no danger about.

There are three pairs nesting here on the peninsula, and this is considered the best place to see them as they do not appear to be concerned about people.  

Choughs like all corvids are excellent acrobatic flyers, using the up drafts from the cliffs to tumble and wheel around in the air.  After leaving the Chough to finish its meal of ants in comfort we came upon another that flew up in front of us.

We walked across the park towards Wooltack point.  From here we could look out across jack Sound towards Skomer.  Around the cliffs on Skomer we could see many auks flying around and huge rafts on the water.  They were much too far away to identify, but with over 21,000 Puffins nesting on the island there must have been some there.  

Helen picked out a small wader on one of the rocks, and as we watched it flew in closer.  I could see it was a Sanderling in summer plumage, but I had forgotten to change the exposure on the camera back after photographing the flying Choughs, so the pictures were rubbish.

On the rocks with the Sanderling were several Oystercatchers, and just as Oystercatchers do they were very noisy.

Looking down the cliff top towards the sound there was a carpet of lovely pink thrift.

We decided to sit on the cliff looking out across Jack Sound and have a drink and snack.  As we sat there a Rock Pipit appeared on the rocks in front of us.

While out in the sound a single Gannet flew past.

Back on our feet we headed south towards the southern tip of the Deer Park, a different song was coming out of one of the ravines, the last time I had heard it was in Iceland.  It was a male Wheatear singing from one of the rocks.

There were several pairs in the area, so it would be safe to assume they all were breeding.  Another song bird on the cliffs was the Linnet.  We had passed many but this male allowed me to get quite close.

The cliffs here were quite high, and looking down you could see the amazing geology of the area in the exposed cliffs.

layers of rock twisted and tilted and then the weaker layers worn away by the pounding of the sea which has created caves and arches.

We had seen one or two Fulmars fly by but here with the high cliffs they were making the most of the updrafts, flying in close to the cliff on stiffened wings.

Somebody ran towards the cliff edge and called me to look down.  He though there might be a Peregrine on the rocks, and there was a large immature bird was sitting in the open, but as ever as the camera came up it was off.

It dropped down low out over the rough sea.

And then flew powerfully over the water towards the rocks off Skomer.

We carried on and rounded the south tip of the peninsula, looking back you could now almost see all of Skomer.  It was our intention to visit there tomorrow as long as the weather held to ensure we could cross by boat.

As you looked at the island you could see quite clearly the blue haze of Bluebells on the top of the island.

We picked up the coastal path again, and headed off east towards Marloes Sands.  The bird life dropped off on the cliffs and on the cliff tops there was only the Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and the song of the Skylarks.

A blob in the sea below us looked unusual, and it turned out to be the head of Grey Seal, bobbing in the water and looking around.

In total we saw three different seals as we walked towards the small peninsula at Albion Sands.  This looks out towards gateholm island, and piece of land that ath low tide is still joined to the mainland, but at high tide becomes an island.

On the peninsula a pair of ravens were displaying to each other, one was begging for food.

It was at this point we turned inland, heading once again for Marloes Mere.  Before we did so we stopped to look across to the sands.

There was not as much clear sky as yesterday, and consequently it was quite cool in the open areas.  As a result we had not seen many butterflies, but as we turned along the path past the mere a Small Copper appeared on the path in front of us where it was warm and sheltered.

As we walked along we could hear a Sedge Warbler, and for once it was singing in the open, and was not the least bit bothered by us.

Just determined to deliver its song.

After a stop for an ice dream we walked the road back to Marloes.  There was one final thing of interest on the road, a Fox Moth caterpillar, we ensure it was safe in the verge away from the cars that were leaving the car park.

So despite the wet start we were able to get out and complete a lovely walk.  Hopefully the weather will be just as kind tomorrow and we can have a good day on Skomer

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