We have just had an extended weekend here in the UK which fortunately coincided with some excellent weather. My girlfriends family were staying with us for the duration which meant that we got to visit some of my favourite locations on Gower, but often from a different viewpoint to our usual. For instance we are not really beach people but Emma’s parents definitely are resulting in visits to Pobbles Bay and Fall Bay, both of which were very enjoyable. A fishing sojourn out to Oxwixh Head also led to us stumbling across two new shipwrecks that I will be adding to my Gower Shipwreck website in due course, as well as an incredible encounter with a Kestrel which had to be seen to be believed.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me take you back to last Thursday when we both had a day off work and took a trip out to Pembrokeshire. Our destination was the small coastal village of Manorbier, not very Welsh sounding I know but dominated by a large 12th century castle in true Welsh fashion. We set off west along the coast and almost immediately found a small group of Swallows sat on the overhead wires. Most of them left their perch as we walked past but two young birds from this years breeding season stood their ground. With their fluffy feathers and short tails they made a very nice sight.
The other Swallows were still in the area, and every now and again one of the adults would issue a couple of high pitched squeaks before swooping in to feed one of the juveniles shown above. This was definitely a case of fast food as each feeding unfolded before our eyes in just a couple of seconds. After a while I got the feel for when one of the adults was about to arrive and was able to get a couple of decent photographs. From looking at them it would seem that the bird on the right was definitely the greediest of the pair.
Eventually we dragged ourselves away and carried on walking along what is a beautiful stretch of coastline. Unlike elsewhere in Pembrokeshire the underlying rocks here are old red sandstone which gives the cliffs a vibrant colour that can look almost purple at times. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly gorgeous weather in the panorama below as it was incredibly windy and a brief but very heavy shower was barrelling in from the sea just out of shot. When it arrived the rain was absolutely horizontal meaning that we were able to stand downwind from a hedge and remain completely dry!
The cove above is known as Swanlake Bay and apart from a nudist on the beach it delivered a Chough feeding in one of the fields as well as a superb Sparrowhawk sat on a fence post. A pair of Kestrels were also hunting in the area while out of the Gorse popped the occasional Whitethroat or Stonechat. Other than that things were relatively quiet, probably due to the strong winds keeping most of the smaller birds well hidden. The wind wasn’t helping the butterflies either who were being blown every which way as they attempted to feed. The female Common Blue below was a nice find as I think I’ve only ever photographed the males of this species before.
We looped back to Manorbier and then headed east along the coast where the cliffs got even more dramatic. The vertical nature of the strata here have led to some impressive shapes including stacks, caves and zawns. Making the most of this landscape was the following Kestrel. We saw this bird on a couple of occasions during our walk but it seemed to be having limited success in its hunting as far as we could see.
Our next port of call was a few miles along the coast at St Govan’s Chapel, a fourteenth century construction over the cave where Saint Govan himself lived as a hermit until his death in the year 586. We visited the chapel itself last year and my blog entry from that day can be found here. This time however I was more interested in the area of land to its east, owned by the Ministry of Defence and used on occasion for military manoeuvres and target practice. Unlike at Manorbier the cliffs here are Limestone, lending the landscape a bulkier and cleaner cut look.
I was hoping to find some Choughs after an encounter with a particularly tame individual during our last visit. Their unmistakable call soon led me to a pair feeding behind the old WW2 bunkers, but due to some rather ominous looking signs I couldn’t get any closer for photographs.
Unlike a lot of warning signs these ones are definitely worth obeying. It is highly likely that unexploded ordinance is present in the area, especially given that recently used targets were dotted around nearby. This military occupation is particularly evident behind the third of the bunkers that now provide ideal nesting habitat for Swallows. Here a relic of the Cold War still exists in the shape of a large target that used to be used for target practice by fixed wing aircraft in the 1960’s.
By now it was past five in the evening but I still wanted to make a visit to Bosherston Lakes before we made our way home. Heading over we could hardly imagine the encounter that we were about to have. Tune in tomorrow to find out why.