Thursday, 4 June 2015

29th May - Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire

There was some more rain overnight, but this had cleared through by the time we were up.  We had planned for this, and had decided to walk once again from the cottage around the peninsula.  Rather than go the opposite direction to the one we took last time we set off in the same direction as Helen wanted the incentive of an ice cream at the Marloes Mere car park!

Walking down thee footpath towards Black Cliff the view was a lot different to the one we experienced on Sunday.  Gone was the mist and flat sea, replaced by very clear sunny conditions and lots of white horses on the sea.

As we came down to make our way onto the cliff path, yet another Stonechat scolded us from the fence and brambles.

Last Sunday we had seen Raven here, and they were present again today, three birds that appeared to be together so I am not sure what the relationship between the three is.  We first saw them sitting on the cliff below us.

But as we walked they followed us cruising just below the cliff allowing the opportunity for some nice flight views.

Looking back across Black Cliff the bay winds around towards St  Brides and looked quite spectacular with the white waves and the sunshine.

In almost the same spot as Sunday a Peregrine appeared and flew over us heading out to the east.  Once  again I willed for it to come  back, but it would appear the falcon cruises the cliffs all the way beyond Black Cliff, and we watched as it became a distant speck.

It was very, very winy, and you would have thought that if the Whitethroats were going to sing they would do so from the shelter of the bushes and bramble.  But no, this one was determined that everyone would hear him.

Down below on the water, a Shag decided it would rather like to fly into a very strong head wind.

The Marloes peninsula, like all those around the Pembrokeshire coast, is composed of harder rocks than the bays which they frame which consist more of sandstone. The islands off the coast are made of these harder rocks as well, and so have resisted the weathering effects of wind and waves. Skomer, off Marloes Point is composed of Silurian volcanic lavas dating back 435 million years.

From the path now we could see west as far as Skomer and the Garland rock on the north coast.

Another surprise in the very windy conditions was a Small Copper sitting on the coastal path as we came around a corner, obviously taking the chance to shelter.

It was midday as we came into view of Martin's Haven, the time the Dale Princess should be ferrying the last visitors to Skomer.  However today she was bobbing about in the sea, the trips to Skomer today cancelled, a victim of the strong winds and high tide.

We walked down to the beach where a dead Guillemot had been washed up on the shore line.  Despite the winds, and you can get a sense of the sea condition here, it was a lovely sunny day.

We walked up the hill to the Deer Park, and from the path I disturbed a Small Heath butterfly, my first for the year.  Like the Meadow Browns and Grayling when settled they do not open their wings, but tend to lean to one side.

There was no sign of the Chough in the area of ant hills as we walked towards the point, but as we approached the cliffs two flew in and landed on the cliff top and started to inspect the short grass.

Then they were off into the air.  Chough like the Jackdaws are wonderful acrobatic flyers and we were treated to a spectacular display.

One of the reasons for this agile ability in the air is the broad square wings which provide the necessary lift during manoeuvres at slow speed.  You can see them here along with just the legs being held down to act as brakes.

We stopped in the same spot on the cliff where on Sunday we had a bit to eat.  The Rock Pipit was still there sitting out of the wind behind a rock.

From here you can look out over Jack Sound at Midland Isle, and beyond to Skomer.  It looked splendid in the sunshine, but scanning the island it  was empty.

It was difficult to see the auks on the water, but there was a good movement of Kittiwakes both ways through the sound, adults and first summer birds being seen.

While every so often a Gannet would fly through, the deep blue green of the sea reflecting the bright white plumage.

Rested we were off again.  Naughtily we left some orange peel in one of the burrows, more of which later.

On the rocks below was yet another Raven pair, at first it looked like it might have a nest, but we soon realised that it was just collecting dead grass to take somewhere else.

While at the top of the cliff was a female Wheatear, The male was further down the rock face and he impressed me by being able to sing with a mouthful of insects.

As we walked around the top of the Deer Park we were able to get a different aspect on the view of Skomer, with the Mew Rock on the left visible

There were still birds on the cliffs, but now the focus was on the Fulmars.  We could see one sitting on the nest in amongst the thrift and grass.

And then probably the mate was flying around the cliff, coming close to the nest, and then dropping away.  As it did so it would use its legs more than any movement in the wings to control the turns and braking.

Masters of the air these are the northern hemisphere equivalent of the Albatross albeit a lot smaller.

We were both scanning the rocks below for any unusual shape, On Sunday there had been a Peregrine here but there was nothing today.  The Helen called me, above her was a falcon, and I thought "at last" only to realise it was a Kestrel.

It was hanging in the air above us, again using the legs to stabilise it as it just stayed in one place.  We had remarked earlier that we were surprised we had not seen any Kestrels, usually they would be along the cliffs like this.  It must be the high number of Peregrines around that keep them away.  With this here today there was probably no chance of finding a Peregrine, unless of course the Kestrel hasn't seen it too.

We looked back along the cliffs and saw two blackbirds which we thought could be Choughs as we watched them we realised that they were at the stop where we had at for a break, and then one appeared with orange in its bill, it had found the discarded orange peel.  They weren't Chough but crows, but what are the chances of that?

As you turn to the east and head down towards the coastal path the mount of sea birds reduces quickly until all you see are Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls passing.

The cliffs though are very interesting, his low lying gorse contrasting in the sunshine with the blue of the sea.

In places the cliffs are a sheer rock face but tilted as a slope slipping down into the sea.  These are old igneous rock, and the sea is not able to influence these too much.

In places there were also some strange rock falls with boulders caught hanging above the cliffs.

Looking east along the coast you can see the collection of rocks in the sea. Where the layers of rock show that they have been tilted by geological action, and the sea has eroded them away, these are probably sedimentary rocks laid down millions of years ago before undergoing the tilt that formed the cliffs and bays.

Looking west through the gap between Skomer and Mew Rock there was an excellent view of the guano covered island of Grassholm, the guano being caused by the thousands of Gannets that nest there.

The path moves a little inland from the cliff edge and there is thicker grass.  It was in this grass that Helen found this Mother Shipton Moth, a first for both of us.

The popular, English name for this moth comes from the pattern on its forewing. This pattern resembles the iconic representation of Ursula Southeil, known as Mother Shipton – a sixteenth-century prophetess and witch.  Mother Shipton is a mostly mythical character, who supposedly foretold the death of Cardinal Wolsey in 1530.

It flies by day, normally taking only short, rapid flights, Among its foods is the nectar of the white clover and the creeping buttercup, plenty of which could be found here.

As the path went down into a valley and then up the other side, we came across yet another party of three Ravens.  I was beginning to think these were either non-breeding birds or a young bird from last year refusing to leave its parents.

The path then goes through the remains of an old Iron Age fort, and the ground undulates in places where ramparts were built.  It was in one of these banks, where it was sheltered we came across several butterflies.

First was a Wall Brown.

Which then engaged in a duel with a Common Blue.

Which in turn was set upon by a Small Heath,

and a Small Copper.

All this and there was a Broad-bodied Chaser on the bramble which took off as I tried to get a picture.

Leaving the butterflies the path goes past the island of Gateholm, which is not an island at low tide.

Then after climbing the cliff path, we paused to admire the scene looking out across Marloes Sands, a wonderful beach when the tide is not in.

We turn off and head inland towards Marloes Mere.  Once again we found a pair of Ravens in the field, with only the head showing above the long grass.

Passing the Mere the sky and over the water there are lots of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts.

The ice cream van is there so we stop for Helen's reward, and then set off along the road towards the village.  A Red Admiral puts in an appearance along with many more Wall Browns.  The Red Admiral was the first of the trip that sat still long enough even if it was behind a grass leaf.

The farmyard here has been good for swallows and House Martins all week, and as we walked up to it we could see two Swallows sitting apart on the wire.

The left hand bird then decides to shuffle across towards the other twittering and calling as it does so.

The right hand bird does not seem impressed while the left hand one realises the challenge he has.  He calls again trying to look coy.

But the target of its affection is not impressed and he is given a right ear bashing.

To which he slowly shuffles back to where it came from leaving a suitable distance between them, and a very forlorn look, while the other seems quite satisfied the message got through.

Leaving the Swallows we made our way back to the cottage.  There was still time though for some new butterflies, a very tatty Small Tortoiseshell.

And at the entrance to the path back to Marloes, a Green-veined White.

Back at the cottage the Swallows and Swifts were flying around the church calling.  The clouds were almost all gone now and it was a lovely day.  It was now time for us to pack up and get ready for the journey back home.  It had been a wonderful week in which we had been extremely lucky with the weather, and enjoyed some amazing wildlife and some superb coastal scenery.

Birds Seen On The Trip:

Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Manx Shearwater
Grey Heron
Red Kite
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Collared Dove
Little Owl
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Willow Tit
Sand Martin
House Martin
Long-tailed Tit
Wood Warbler
Willow Warbler
Garden Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Spotted Flycatcher
House Sparrow
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Reed Bunting

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