Strumble Head - The Birds

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Well I'm back from my couple of days at Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire and I have finally got the energy back to go through my photos and get a post up on here. The first thing to say is that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We had clear blue sky each day with just the right amount of wind to keep the temperatures perfect for walking.

11444 - Strumble Head Lighthouse 11445 - Strumble Head Bird Observatory

Friday saw us up early and in place at the Strumble Head bird observatory (converted from an old WW2 listening station), hopeful of adding a few lifers to my list. Unfortunately I had made a bit of a schoolboy error in that the almost perfect weather was just about the worst possible conditions to see birds from Strumble Head in. What is needed is a storm or strong wind to drive the birds closer into shore and so within viewing distance. Determined not to leave empty handed we watched for a couple of hours and were ultimately rewarded with a sighting of one of my all time bogey birds, the Common Scoter. In all we saw twenty nine individuals in a couple of flocks which was simply superb. Also present were the usual Razorbills and Guillemots, as well as twelve Manx Shearwater and fifteen or so Gannet fishing in front of the observatory. Numerous Shag and Kittiwake were also giving regular fly pasts, and a female Peregrine Falcon even put in a brief appearance.

Outside of the observatory I was very pleased to finally locate the missing Wheatear's that I mentioned in my previous post. It turns out that they aren't scarce this year, they just all seem to have decided to stay on the Pembrokeshire coast instead. There were numerous individuals all along the coast path and their calls filled in a void that had been missing from my outings these last few months.

11455 - Wheatear at Strumble Head 11448 - Wheatear at Strumble Head

Our walk along the coast delivered five Chough both feeding in a field and flying overhead calling noisily. They really do have a very distinctive call and it was great to see these birds doing so well. We even had a couple fly over our campsite while we were cooking at the end of the day. You can't really get a better ending to a day than that!

For the first time we also had a walk along Fishguard harbor near to where the ferries dock. Whilst stalking some Oystercatchers I became aware of a small wader running right past my feet. I quickly switched my attention and was able to get some superb close shots of a Dunlin. The bird seemed oblivious to my presence and gave me a wonderful sequence of shots that really made my day. I was also able to get up close and personal with some Turnstones after crawling along the beach hidden from their view by a groyne. A slightly unorthodox method but one that certainly delivered the results.

11467 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour 11472 - Turnstone at Fishguard Harbour
Dunlin (above left and below) and Turnstone (above right)
11471 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour 11470 - Dunlin at Fishguard Harbour

One bird that did give me the runaround all holiday was the Stonechat. No matter how hard I tried I could never get close enough to get a decent photograph before they took flight. I did eventually manage to get a decent shot but it was right at the end of our final day. It was also great to see a family of House Sparrows feeding near to our tent.

11499 - Stonechat at Strumble Head 11477 - House Sparrow at Strumble Head
Male Stonechat (left) and Male House Sparrow (right)

All in all it was an excellent couple of days and a great break away from the stresses of buying a house. The next couple of posts will focus on the other wildlife that we encountered, as well as one of the most stunning sunsets that I have ever witnessed.

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