Porth Clais is a 12th century harbour nestled in a small inlet on the Pembrokeshire coast. It was originally built to allow imported coal and timber to be brought to Saint David’s, officially the UK’s smallest city both in terms of physical size and population which barely exceeds 1,700 people. Porth Clais is notable for being lined with several superbly preserved lime kilns and is still used by a small band of fishermen and local tourists. On top of all that it’s also one of the most attractive ports that I have ever had the pleasure to visit.
After failing to find the long staying Isabelline Shrike (see previous post) we set off from the port to take in an area of Pembrokeshire’s coastal path that we had yet to walk. Only a few minutes had passed before we spotted a Great Northern Diver fishing just outside the sea wall, the first of several sea bird species seen on the day which included Gannets, Cormorants and winter plumaged Guillemots. It was also nice to find a couple of flocks of Long Tailed Tits feeding on gorse near the cliff tops, as well as a pair of Mute Swans on a large farm pond which was again very near to the cliff edge. Surprise of the day though has to go to the fantastic male Hen Harrier that came soaring into view just in front of us before proceeding to quarter the footpath for a good distance ahead. Perhaps it was enjoying the views from this spectacular part of the coast, something that if I hadn’t been doing may have resulted in me being able to get my camera out in time to photograph him.
With an incoming tide we popped down to the beach at Porthlysgi Bay to watch the waters approach in what turned out to be an inspired move. We spent a good while exploring the rapidly vanishing rock pools and trying to identify the various bird footprints in the sand before moving to the top of the beach to check the map for our onward journey. In doing so I caught a small movement from the corner of my eye between two large rocks above the strand-line. At first all looked normal until one of the rocks moved again and then produced a head! It quickly became apparent that we had found a small Grey Seal pup dozing in the warm sunshine.
The pup was completely disinterested in our presence and just seemed to be trying to get comfortable on the rocks. It would occasionally have a fidget before settling down, closing its eyes and dropping back off to sleep. The temptation when finding a seal pup alone like this is to assume that it has been abandoned or is in trouble. In most situations this is simply not the case as parents often leave their pups hidden on beaches while they go off hunting. Interfering in any way could actually result in the parents rejecting the pup if they detect any human scent on it. I did however make a quick visual check and after satisfying myself that the pup was not in any distress we left it to snooze away the afternoon. Seeing a fully grown Grey Seal a little further along the coast made me all the more certain that we had taken the right course of action.
The Seals hiding place truly was a piece of art as from almost all vantage points it was completely hidden, even when we were back up on the cliffs and looking down. As an example I had been trying to photograph some of the Rock Pipits on the beach and must have come within a couple of meters on a number of occasions and had been none the wiser.
We looped back to our starting point via an inland route and with our final glimpse of the sea were treated to two Choughs flying past. The perfect way to round off a very memorable day.