Thursday, 4 June 2015

28th May - Pengelli Forest & Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire

Today it was all about heading north to some different locations with the county.  The rain from yesterday had passed through and the morning dawned sunny if not we a substantial westerly wind.

Our journey took us through Haverfordwest over the moorland that rises in the middle of the county, and then down towards Fishguard.  Our first stop was one of the South Wales Wildlife Trust reserves, Pengelli Forest.  This is an area of ancient Oak woodland, and can be divided into two areas the steep slopes whhere we would enter the wood of ancient sessile Oak, and then a denser canopy of hazel and Holly.  The wood also has many small streams throughout it.

We parked off a narrow lane and walked into the wood.  The first part was oak, and on the track in front of immediately was a male Redstart, but as was to be the way today it was gone before i could get chance to have the camera ready.  A Willow Warbler also sang from the trees just off the path.

Looking out across the valley a Buzzard was attracting alarm calls from the small song birds.



The floor of the wood was covered in small yellow flowers, which made a change from the Bluebells we had been seeing.  These were the flowers of Common Cow Wheat.  It is semi-parasitic as it attaches to the roots of other plants in order to feed.  In times gone by it was thought this plant ensured pregnant women would give birth to a boy.

The other dominant plant in the wood was the bracken and ferns looking splendid in the sunshine breaking through the canopy.



The density of the leaves and canopy was proving though to be a problem seeing birds.  We could hear them but it was almost impossible to pin them down.  Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were singing as were Song Thrush and Blackbird.  On the edge of the wood in a fallen tree I had another brief flash of the red tail of a Redstart, but that was all.  

When we reached the furthest point of the forest the ground was a lot damper to due to many streams, but this seemed to suit the Early Purple Orchids, some of which had quite tall spikes of lovely shaped purple flowers.



Some also among the odd Bluebell (you can't get away from them).



Every so often you would see movement but it would turn out to be a Great Tit, or a Blue Tit like this one that was feeding young in a nest in a hole in the tree.



Rather than bird watching it was bird listening.  We could hear Blackcap, a Garden Warbler then straight after of which we did get a glimpse.  We stopped to listen to Wood Warbler in the hope that it may come closer and were treated to the call of a Willow Tit, which did come closer but would not behave for the camera.  This was extremely frustrating as the willow Tit is that rare now and I would have loved to have got the picture.  However the call was enough for me to distinguish it from a Marsh Tit.

Helen stopped me once again in a sunny glade as there was a group of insects flying up and down in the sunlight.  Finally one stopped and landed on a leaf.



This is Nemophora Degeerella, the commonest type of Longhorn moth in the UK, they are called longhorns because the males of this species of moth have the longest antennae of all British moths. Those of the female are much shorter.  They are quite beautifully patterned with bronze and gold markings


In May and June, the males can often be seen in groups, drifting up and down in the sunshine.  Their habitat is damp deciduous woodlands and hedgerows and is quite common over much of England and Wales.

A little further on we startled a fledgling Song Thrush from the undergrowth, shame about the ill positioned branch.


As we walked the trail we continued our bird listening, but it was very nice to experience a change of habitat, and at that a Welsh woodland which is always a bit special.  I had hoped for Pied Flycatcher as they have been reported but there was no sign or sound of them anywhere.

Having reached the car we decided to take the flask and picnic to a sheltered sunny spot with a bench.  As we sat there we could hear Willow Warbler agsin, and a Sparrowhawk flew over attracting many alarm calls.  The main interest though was the Green Tiger Beetles on the ground below us.  They were clearly attracted to the warm sandy soil, and would spend time warming up, then would tear around the grass and juniper bushes.



Adult Green tiger beetles can be seen from April to September and are between 10-15 mm in length. They have long legs that make them agile when hunting for prey and large eyes making them the perfect predator. 

Green tiger beetles have strong sickle shaped jaws or mandibles that have several teeth. Adults feed on any small invertebrates they can catch including spiders, caterpillars and ants.  Quite a fearsome sight to its prey by the look of the jaws.



The sun was lighting the path, and you can see how dense the vegetation is along it.



We walked back to the car, and then spent a little time walking around the area close to it.  There were several nest boxes in the trees and I hoped I could see the Redstart again.

There was no sign of the Redstart but we did have two finds that were worthwhile.  First was the appearance of a Spotted Flycatcher on an oak branch.  Not the Flycatcher I wanted to see but welcome nonetheless.



Then we noticed a small warbler that was staying close to us and carrying food.  We stood back and watched as it flitted about nervously waiting for the right moment when it considered it safe.



It was a Willow Warbler and we watched it fly into a small holly bush and then drop to the base of it.  It then came out without the caterpillar.  Helen went closer to have a look and as she did so another bird came out and we could see the nest at the base of the small holly bush close to the path.



On closer inspection we could see two tiny young birds in the nest that was made of grass, moss and tucked well away at the bottom of the tree in amongst the ivy.

We backed away and watched the adults come and go, then decided to leave them as other people came along the path.  we had a short wander around the area again but couldn't find the hoped for Pied Flycatchers so we decided it was time to move on to the next destination.

We headed north west towards Dinas Island, which is located between Fishguard and Newport.  Dinas Island is a promontory partially detached from the mainland - hence its name; on its landward side it is bordered by a swampy valley cut by meltwater overflow from a glacial lake, melt water freed from reservoirs in the Prescelly Hills by the dwindling ice.

We arrived in the car park at Pwllgwaelod, and from here we headed towards the bay and beach, and then up the coastal path.  The eintent was to walk around the island and return to the car.  As we set off it was very windy, and coll requiring to start with a hat for me.  The path soon begins to climb sharply and includes 40 steps, passing through heather and gorse on either side.

Helen called me back, she had seen a Chough on the cliff and it looked like there was a nest.  We moved to a closer position (!) and I was able to get a shot of a nest with young in it.



We stood and waited to see if the adults would return but they didn't so we moved on up the path.  After a stiff climb we reached a stile and the path became easier. Our reward was an wonderful view across Fishguard Bay.



Looking down the cliffs were high and steep.




Plant cover on Dinas Island is typical of a windswept cliff environment, with gorse, bracken and bramble, scrubby trees of hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel, and small oak and ash where there is shelter from the wind. There are also coastal wildflowers such as scabious, thyme, heather, thrift, and foxgloves. Bluebells were in bloom on both slopes, but probably more dominat on the east.

We carried on in a strong wind and approached Dinas Head, the highest point on the island.  To our left, past Fishguard, is Carreg Wasted, scene of the last French invasion of Britain in 1797.



Dinas Head afforded wonderful views all around us, and with the air being so clear today we could see literally for miles.

Looking north you could see the cliffs at Pen-yr-Afr.



 And inland to the Preselis, and Newport, and the summit of Carn Ingli above Newport.



We now started down the path the wind easing as we moved into the lee of the island.  The path led us down through a carpet of Bluebells.



Whitethroats sang from the Bramble, but the dominant birds were Linnets with several flocks in excess of six birds flying around.  This male was singing from the bracken on the cliff edge.



The path splits here, the left hand track taking you lower on the cliff, and closer to Needle Rock where there were Razorbills and Guillemots nesting.  The higher path continues at the top of the cliff near the fields.

Not surprisingly we took the lower path, and spent sometime watching the auks on the cliff ledges.



The ledges were dominated by Guillemots, but there were also Razorbills, and these could also be seen flying around.  As well as the auks there were Fulmars cruising around the cliff faces and on the rock itself we could see nesting Herring Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull that had prime position on the top of the rock for its nest.

Not so close in, but also photographable was a Gannet that seemed to be flying up and down the cliffs.  As always wonderful to watch as they cruise by.




The bay at Cwm-yr-Eglwys then came into view, framed by the yellow gorse bushes that lined the cliff path.


At the beach there was a n Ice Cream van that was very welcome and did a "mental" service, and from there we made our way through a caravan park, and then along a tarmac path back to the car park.  On our left hand side there was a marsh and stream that was the reason why this is known as an island, if the sea ever rises it will cut the headland off from the mainland here.

As we walked into the car park a pair of Ravens flew overhead, calling as only Ravens can.  From there we headed back to Marloes after yet another lovely day, in contrasting and different but equally beautiful environments.

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