Puffins via a Pratincole

For Tuesday and Wednesday I had planned in a trip to Pembrokeshire to hopefully add Chough and Puffin to my year-list. I had a hospital appointment in Marlborough at twelve and my intention was to go directly from there to Wales with the RSPB reserve at Dinas being my first port of call. However with the Collared Pratincole still at Ham Wall I decided to head to Somerset first. I didn’t get a way from the hospital until almost half one so after an extremely good journey didn’t get to Ham Wall until almost half three. I headed of along the canal choosing to cross over and watch from the opposite side to the second viewing screen. When I got to the appropriate spot I was informed that it hadn’t shown for a couple of hours. Hoping that it was therefore due to be up and about soon it was looking good for me to get back on the road to Wales. Unfortunately the bird had other ideas and it was almost five before it showed. It was only up for a few seconds and a fleeting glimpse although enough to identify the bird really wasn’t good enough for a new life tick. I decided to walk around to the viewing platform hoping the slight extra elevation would allow a sighting of it on the ground. So it was back to the waiting game which was enlivened by frequent appearances by Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers and a single flyby from a Glossy Ibis. Finally at gone six someone found the Pratincloe on the ground. It was however only viewable from my original spot across the canal so off we all trooped. Once there it took a bit of finding as it was hunkered down in the grass. It did eventually get up and move allowing all some good views. Despite it now being well gone six I walked further down the track to the spot where the Little Bitterns were. I could hear one barking away deep in the reeds but as there hadn’t been a sighting for several hours didn’t stay. I eventually set of for Wales at almost half-seven and arrived at Martins Haven after dark. It was a sleep in the car job so after setting the alarm for half-five I settled down for some shut-eye. The alarm woke me to a lovely morning so it was up and off on the short walk to the edge of the cliffs overlooking Skomer. On the way I saw may Linnets and Mipits and a couple of Stonechats. A group of five Choughs were noisily feeding on the short grass near to the cliff-edge. They flew off as I got closer. Unusually these were the only ones that I saw here, normally they are around all of the time. A quick scan of the sea found plenty of Gannets and gulls but no auks. I set up the scope and soon found large rafts of them much nearer to Skomer than the mainland. There were many Puffins, a fair few Razorbill and just a few Gullemots. Several Fulmars were passing by along with just a couple of Kittiwakes. Five Ravens were also seen. This is one of my favourite places to just sit and chill but I had a busy day ahead of me so at around seven I headed on back to the car.

I first headed for the Gann where a quick scan of the beach found Curlew, Whimbrel Redhank and Oystercatchers. Then it was off to Fishguard, firstly for breakfast and then to search for Black Guillemot in the harbour. This was my first visit to Fishguard and for I had been expecting a shabby faded dock town but was pleasantly surprised to find it to be an attractive little place. Most importantly I found a nice cafe where I had a good breakfast. I then headed to the harbour which is actually in Goodrich. For the princely sum of forty pence I parked by the front and headed off along the causeway between the two parts of the harbour. Reaching the end I set up the scope and started to scan. I started with the dock wall on the far side as I had been told that the nesting area was along here. With no luck I carried on scanning the harbour and as I did a Black Guillemot flew across my field of view. I followed it noting the obvious white wing patches until It flew up under some pilings near to the ferry terminal. A great result as I has guessed this wouldn’t be an easy one to get. Incidentally these are apparently the southermost nesting ones in the UK.

From here I headed off to the fabulous Strumble Head for a bit of seawatching from the famous WW2 bunker. Other than many Gannets and a few Manx Shearwaters it was very quiet here but it was a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half. After watching the Irish Ferry pass and seeing a juvenile Wheatear it was back into the car and off to Dinas.

This involved an enjoyable drive through the Welsh countryside and into the Cambrian Mountains. Three in the afternoon in mid July is not the best time for birdwatching in woodlands but it is a fabulous reserve and worth visitng just for the walk around. I had been hoping for a lingering Pied Flycatcher but from the sightings board it appeared that they had been hard to find all year. I had seen a couple of Redstarts on the drive in and saw three more here. Single Spotted Flycatcher and Marsh Tit, some Yellow Wagtails along the river and Buzzards and Peregrine overhead were the only notable birds her. I was disappointed not to see Dipper or Common Sandpiper along the river but it was still a worthwhile visit.

Then it was time to head for home and after another uneventful journey I got back at just before eight. With just over five hundred miles covered, sixty-three species on the trip list including one lifer and three-year ticks it was another successful couple of days.

2 responses to “Puffins via a Pratincole

  1. Richard Williams

    Thanks Malcolm for another great write up. Managed to get to Pembrokeshire last autumn – beautiful area.

    • Thanks Richard Thanks for that. A worthwhile trip. As you say a great place. I would happily live there. Malcolm

      Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

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