Port Eynon was my destination for Bank Holiday Monday with the objective being to see as much wildlife as possible while enjoying the simply stunning weather. The drive down to Gower took us first past Penclawdd where we stopped off for a quick scan of the estuary. Small flocks of House Martin and Swallow were busy skimming over the surface of the water, presumably preparing for their long journeys south. A single Black Tailed Godwit was a nice find as were eight Little Egret and five Redshank. These numbers were dwarfed though by a roost of six hundred or so Oystercatchers. Amongst the various gathered Gulls I was pleased to note four Common Gull and six Great Black Backed Gulls. A decent haul for an early start as well as a perfect blue sky.
As we continued we took the Llanrhidian marsh road to look for the Osprey that was present last week. There was no sign this time but I did get to use the car as a mobile hide in order to take the following photograph of a juvenile Swallow.
Several groups of Linnet and Goldfinch were flitting through the bushes as we had a rather close encounter with one of the locals. I have no idea what he found so fascinating with my car but he couldn’t stop licking it and seemed very unwilling to get out of the way. In the end I had to nudge him as we moved forward or else we would still be there now!
Eventually we made it to Port Eynon and on a falling tide made our way out to the end of the exposed rocks that make up one of the areas nature reserves. A couple of Turnstones were feeding along the waters edge accompanied by sixteen Ringed Plovers. Unfortunately I didn’t spot them in time and put them all up into the air as I took one step too close. Even more skittish was a gathering of eight Wheatear in the same area. This is by far the largest number that I have seen on Gower this year and given their proximity to the sea I presume they are another migration group in waiting.
Next we climbed up to the top of Port Eynon point itself to do a bit of sea watching. I wasn’t expecting much given the total lack of wind but a single Guillemot close in to the cliffs was a nice surprise, as were two Herons over the sea and a White Wagtail on the rocks. While scanning the small waves I thought I had spotted a fin and it wasn’t long before my suspicions were proven correct. A very friendly man let us use his telescope as we watched six Common Dolphin and four Harbour Porpoise feed in the water about a mile offshore. Common Dolphins are apparently very rare around the Gower coast so this was a real treat. The fishing must have been excellent as a couple of Gannets were also getting in on the act.
Despite the temptation to watch the dolphins all day I needed some exercise so we started the walk around the coast path to Oxwich. The number of butterflies in the sand dunes was amazing with plenty of Speckled Wood, Green Veined White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Common Blue and the following Large White. I think the heat must have given them all extra energy as they were an absolute nightmare to try and photograph as they very rarely settled for long.
The unmistakable call of a Stonechat nearby led me to a juvenile bird in the bracken. I cannot believe how scarce these have been after the harsh winter we had. This is only my second sighting on Gower since the weather warmed up compared to a year ago when they were one of the commonest birds around. I hope that this winter is milder to allow the population to stabilise again. A species that certainly doesn’t seem to be suffering is the Chough as we bumped into a group of five birds sat on the cliffs just beneath the path. I think these might have been the same individuals that we saw a couple of months ago at Overton as the chances of there being a similarly sized group in the area must be slim.
The highlights of the day (apart from the dolphins obviously) were to be found in a small woodland area through which the coastal path is currently diverted due to erosion. I spotted a plain looking warbler in a nearby bush and quickly realised that is was a Garden Warbler, my first of the year. Very close by we also saw a very yellow juvenile Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff that kindly gave us a bit of song. For a moment it seemed as though we had been transported back to the spring but as the calendar ticks over to September it is autumn instead that we find ourselves at the mercy of.