I was a man with a watertight plan on Saturday. I had the contact details for a lady in Milford Haven who for the last week had been treated to a Hoopoe feeding in her garden and who had also very kindly agreed to let me come and see it. The plan was to hang around Milford Haven until the bird put in an appearance at which point we would pop over to her house for a look. As you can probably gather from a quick scan of the pictures in this post the reality was very different. Despite waiting all day the Hoopoe didn’t put in a single appearance, and hasn’t since. All was not lost though as we saw several Little Egret, twenty or so Redshank and this very attractive Small Copper butterfly.

22434 - Small Copper. Milford Haven

During the waiting we also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to St Govan’s chapel, a place that I have always wanted to visit ever since seeing a photograph of it on the BBC news website.

22439 - St Govans Chapel, Pembrokeshire

As you can see I now have my own photo to remember this unique location by. The chapel is completely hidden from view until you are at the edge of the cliffs above, at which point a steep flight of stairs weaves its way down the hill and through the building itself. I wasn’t expecting the building to be in such great condition or so accessible but it was a very nice way to spend an hour. Back up at the top the familiar calls of Chough led my eyes skywards as one swooped down and landed not far away. A quick bit of stealthy maneuvering had me in camera range just as the sun went in. Typical.

22442 - Chough, Pembrokeshire
22436 - Chough, Pembrokeshire
22435 - Chough, Pembrokeshire

I always find Chough incredibly difficult to capture well as they are so black that the camera often struggles to get the colour balance spot on. A strong wind and lack of sun doesn’t help either but these are my best shots of the species to date.

We finally gave up on the Hoopoe at four o’clock, disappointed but not disheartened. Despite not seeing the bird we’d had a great time exploring Milford Haven and its surrounds and have plenty of places that we want to go back and see again.

But that is not the end of this particular adventure. With sunset only a couple of hours away we headed over to Bosherston Lilly Ponds, another place that I have wanted to visit for some time. I had a vague recollection that Chris Packham had watched Otters from one of the stone bridges there and fancied my chances. Some would call me an optimist and most would be correct as after a forced march around to the far side of the lakes and an hour or so of waiting we had seen only a Kingfisher and a couple of Cormorants drying their wings. We started to head back when Emma spotted something in the water. Initially I couldn’t see anything but moments later a head popped up before slipping back down. It was an Otter! We raced back to the bridge just in time to watch the Otter swim right underneath us and pop up on the other side. For the next five minutes all we could do was watch transfixed as it played in the water just feet away, often pausing to stare curiously at us before carrying on with its activities.

22443 Otter, Bosherston Lilly Ponds, Pembrokeshire

It was almost dark at this point so I switched from stills to video in an effort to capture the moment.

Without a doubt that is one of the single greatest wildlife encounters that I have ever had. To be in a valley, completely alone other than the birds and an Otter as the sun goes down is something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. It was simply magical.


J · September 24, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Wow, what a great experience, and nicely captured. What camera did you use for the filming?
By the way, the Turtle Dove was still at West Cross by the West Cross Inn this evening. Seemed to go to roost at 6.30 p.m., so may still be around tomorrow.

Adam Tilt · September 25, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Thanks Jeremy. I did the filming on my normal stills camera which is a Panasonic Lumix FZ28. Fantastic camera for something which isn't an SLR. I went to see the Turtle Dove this afternoon and fortunately it was still there. Great find and thanks for sharing it.

Caroline Gill · September 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm

This is absolutely phenomenal, Adam. We watched Otters on Skye at close range … but they were so quick and hard to capture. You must be thrilled.

The Choughs are great, too. I have just added a link from the one I saw nearer St Davids this last w/e – here.

We are just back from Southern Greece, where I had HOPED (in vain) that we might have seen a Hoopoe. The closest we got was a Crested Lark!

Adam Tilt · September 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Thanks Caroline. The Otter was amazing. Closest view I have ever had despite regular visits to the Isle of Mull. I like your picture of the Choughs as well. Great to have captured two together.

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