Porthgain Quarry - Little Owl, Wheatear and Painted Ladies

Tuesday, September 06, 2016 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


Despite our small tent being a little worse for wear thanks to many years of use we enjoyed two well rested nights under a spectacular Pembrokeshire sky. Being so far from light pollution meant that the Milky Way shone brilliantly and we were also treated to a couple of shooting stars and the passage of at least one satellite. Can't beat experiences like that for showing just how small and insignificant we really are. Once tucked up in our sleeping bags the screeches of a nearby Tawny Owl replaced the more usual sounds of human habitation back home while moths and other creepy crawlies could be heard fluttering against the canvas. Yes there may have been a few more midges than I'd ideally have liked but is it any wonder that I woke feeling more refreshed than I had for many months.

If Friday hadn't been quite so active then I'd probably have leapt from my sleeping bag the following morning but in the end had to make do with a more gentle emergence. Unzipping the front of the tent revealed another glorious day and after packing up it was time to hit the road and head north to Abereiddy. Home to the British leg of Red Bull's cliff diving championship this old quarry has clearly been rising in popularity as we arrived to find the car park absolutely rammed. With people parking in ever more unlikely positions we chose the safer option and moved on to Porthgain instead. The plan had always been to walk a section of coast path between the two anyway so where we started from was rather mute. Secretly I was keener to get to Porthgain as the quarry there has been home to a Little Owl family for at least the last four years. We saw one there in 2013 and I was eager to get reacquainted. With so many handy holes to hide in it's very much a case of scanning the cliffs with fingers crossed until you get lucky. This time around it was Emma who hit the jackpot with a single bird sat out in the open enjoying some sun. Creeping along the top I got as close as I dared, conscious throughout that the owl was watching my every move.

P1040855 - Little Owl, Porthgain

The end result is pretty pleasing given the distance involved but have you ever seen a bird capable of portraying such a look of disdain? Thought not. I just love Little Owls as despite their diminutive size they pack such huge characters compared to their larger counterparts. I can't deny that the temptation to try and get even closer was great but not wanting to disturb its sunbathing we headed on our way. Definitely worth a look yourself if you're in the area as I reckon that chances of connecting are pretty high. Just be prepared for a wait.

P1040829 - Porthgain Quarry

P1040811 - Porthgain Quarry

P1040862 - Porthgain Quarry

Stepping back did allow me to take a couple of landscapes of the wider quarry (above) which show what a stunning location this really is. Last operated in 1931 today we found it simply alive with wildlife. Bees abounded, Oystercatchers called from down at sea level and Linnets were using their amphitheatre like surroundings to maximise their voices to full effect. The hope was that there would be a few late migrants around and so it proved with this Wheatear making use of one the abandoned quarry buildings as a hunting perch.

P1040818 - Wheatear, Porthgain

There were also plenty of butterflies about including remarkably my very first Painted Lady of the year. It seems that 2016 has not seen the huge migrant influx that saw millions arrive a couple of years ago. Keeping it company were several Small Tortoiseshells and upwards of thirty Common Blues. I really seem to be getting in to this butterfly lark.

P1040805 - Painted Lady, Porthgain

P1040813 - Small Tortoiseshell, Porthgain

P1040834 - Small Tortoiseshell, Porthgain

P1040822 - Common Blue, Porthgain

In the end then a perfect way to round off our mini Pembrokeshire adventure. We really must make more of an effort to get the tent out as, in my opinion at least, there really is no better way to enjoy our countryside.

2 comments:

  1. A place I know well, but only in daylight. What a fabulous Little Owl.

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