Last year we made a brief visit to Bosherston Lily Ponds as part of a day exploring Pembrokeshire, and were fortunate enough to have a very close encounter with an Otter (see here). On Sunday we headed back to spend a full day there in order to better appreciate the full range of habitats and wildlife that the area offers. Things got off to a great start with six Goldeneye and several Goosander feeding on the first lake we passed, while overhead a pair of Buzzards called loudly to each other. A very active Goldcrest came within a few meters of us but it was too dark to attempt any photography under the trees. Talking of light we had been promised a glorious days sunshine by the weather forecast but what we actually received was a bitingly cold wind and long periods of grey cloud cover.

Never one to be perturbed by yet another incorrect bulletin we left the relative shelter of the lily ponds and struck out along the cliff tops towards Stackpole Head. With the exception of a few Meadow Pipits and the odd Cormorant out at sea things were relatively quiet until we stumbled upon a pair of Fulmar’s sat on the very edge of the cliff. I got on my knees and crawled over until I was as close as I dared, fearful of their sharp beaks and ability to spit out a foul smelling oil when threatened. Clearly I was not seen as a threat as they completely ignored me allowing me to watch one of my favourite seabirds at close quarters.

23986 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

While I was there they were vigorously defending their patch from the rest of the Fulmar’s that kept gliding in on the wind. At times these passing birds were almost brushing my head with their long stiff wings they were so close.

23977 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire
23983 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

On the odd occasion that another bird tried to muscle in on the pair they were soon sent packing with a few well placed nips from that impressive beak.

23978 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

Eventually the other birds seemed to get the message and my two were left to their own devices.

23988 - Fulmar, Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

It’s not hard to see why these birds enjoy this section of coast so much when there are such fantastic cliffs to nest on.

23992 - Stackpole Coastline, Pembrokeshire

Eventually I had to drag myself away before I ended up with hundreds of very similar pictures. I once again failed to get an in-flight photo but I’m not going to complain after getting the shots above. We carried on along the coast spotting a Razorbill in the process, before turning back inland to return to the lily ponds. About half way there we passed a flock of four Chough feeding on farmland. Their numbers really seem to have been doing well in the last year or so as it is now very rare that I don’t see them on the Pembrokeshire or Gower coast. Back on the lakes Goosanders seemed to be everywhere with other diving ducks included three Little Grebe and about twenty Tufted Duck. A couple of Wigeon were an unexpected surprise.

The best birds of the day (and indeed any other day for that matter) were to be found in the reed bed that grows where the lakes flow out into the sea. After a bit of searching we managed to locate three Bittern standing motionless and almost completely camouflaged.

23973 - Bittern, Bosherston Lily Ponds

If you are wondering there is one slap bang in the middle of the photo above; it’s beak pointing vertically yet its eyes still managing to remain fixed on us. I imagine that these birds will soon be on their way back to their breeding grounds in the east of England as they only visit Wales during the winter. I wish them well on their journey and look forward to seeing them back again next winter.


18 Comments

theconstantwalker · March 8, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Lovely images. Well done with seeing the Bittern.
I have a clip on Youtube of the one I saw this winter. Great camouflage and so hard to see.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkFU4gXzR6I&feature=player_profilepage

Apologies if this link doesn't work and also for the music over the clip.

Adam Tilt · March 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Thanks Andrew and nice video. You were very lucky to see one out in the open for that long.

Sondra · March 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Thats magnificent camouflage–
That gull series is SO animated…you can almost hear the ruckous!!

eileeninmd · March 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I found the bittern right away. They like to pretend they are hiding in the tall reeds. Great shots of the gulls and I love the coastline photo.

Bob Bushell · March 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Great stuff Andrew.

Adam Tilt · March 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Sondra – It's probably one of the best camouflages I have seen in the bird world. And the Fulmars really were very noisy.

Eileeninmd – Good eyes!

mick · March 9, 2011 at 6:56 am

That is a beautiful coastline and the photos of the Fulmars are great.

Stewart M · March 9, 2011 at 6:59 am

Ah bitterns! – used to live nr. Leighton Moss and saw them on a few occasions – forgot how wonderful the camouflage is.

Great pictures; Stewart M – Australia

Unknown · March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

Nice shots, and a very nice landscape!

Adam Tilt · March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

Mick – It certainly is.

Stewart – Thanks. Cant beat Bitterns for camouflage. Always a challenge to see them when they aren't being forced out into the open by frozen water.

Øyvind Buljo – Glad you like them and thanks for stopping by.

Unknown · March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Great tour of your area and its wildlife. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

holdingmoments · March 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Love the shots of the Fulmar's Adam. Must have been great to be so close to them.
And the Bittern must be the master of disguise 😉

Fotokarusellen · March 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Very nice images. A new blogger is very impressed. Bravo!
Have a nice day.

Hilke Breder · March 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Great post, Adam! It looks like your trip really paid off! I have never seen a Fulmar up close – nice series! It took me several minutes to find the Bittern in your photo; in fact I had to enlarge the screen. What camouflage!!

Anonymous · March 9, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Excellent shots of the Fulmars – they are spectacular-looking birds! Those reeds are great camouflage for the Bittern – I didn't see him at first!

Pat Ulrich · March 10, 2011 at 4:10 am

wonderful post! the fulmars are really quite beautiful — and great shot of the bittern matching its environment!

Springman · March 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Teriffic post Adam, your way with words is second to none. But your fantastic images really take the cake. Your gray skies seemed to provide you with perfect light for capturing white seabirds. The shots of the cliffs add the perfect landscape reference. Awesome stuff!

Adam Tilt · March 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Gary – Glad you enjoyed it.

Keith – It was certainly an experience. Fulmars are surprisingly large up close.

Fotokarusellen – Glad you liked them and thanks for stopping by.

Hilke – Their camouflage really is very impressive. It took us ages to find the Bittern as the reed beds there are fairly large.

Bailey-Road – Thank you. Much appreciated.

Pat – Thanks Pat.

Springman – Thanks so much. The grey light was a bit of a godsend really as photographing the Fulmars in the full sun would have been a bit of a challenge.

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