After the torrential downpour that was bank holiday Monday I was very happy to wake up the following morning to glorious sunshine. Fortunately for me I’d booked the day off work so headed down to Gower with the aim of walking the coast from Port Eynon to Oxwich. What I hadn’t anticipated were the frankly extortionate car parking charges that are in place now that the tourist season has begun, so a quick change of plan found me instead at Rhossili. As a backup it’s hard to fault.
On my walk down the headland I was assaulted on all sides by bird calls, first from a Pied Wagtail atop the pub, then by singing Dunnocks and finally by the aggressive croaks of a territorial Raven. From past experience I’ve found that if you want to see the local residents of these cliff tops then its best to arrive early. Once the masses descend everything quickly goes into hiding, only emerging again in the early evening.
Looking over to Worms Head it was clear that I was going to have to wait a while for the tide to drop sufficiently to expose the causeway and let me cross.
While the forces of nature went through their cycles I spent my time exploring the gorse bushes above Fall Bay. A Stonechat carrying what looked to be a caterpillar in its beak was a sure sign that there is at least one hatched brood nearby, but there are likely to be several more with at least three pairs seemingly on territory.
A pair of Linnets were also in the vicinity and looked to be collecting nesting material. They seemed to be roaming widely across the whole slope so I have no idea where they may have actually been building but it was a very nice sight indeed. Remarkably they were also the first Linnets I have seen this year.
A couple of other 2012 ticks were about to fall as my first Swallow of the year came racing in off the sea and promptly disappeared over the cliffs above me, soon followed by a brief glimpse of two white rumps dropping out of sight. At this time of year white rumps on small birds typically only mean one thing; Wheatears.
Sure enough I rounded the corner to find the fantastic male Wheatear above. I just had chance for a quick record shot before it shot off up the cliffs. Eager as I was to get another view I climbed up after it, confident in the fact that the chances of me relocating it were pretty slim. Sometimes I hate being right but the expended energy was worth it for the sight of these two mating Black Oil Beetles.
By now the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow a first tentative crossing of the rocky causeway over to Worms Head, a trip that I was eager to be the first to complete. I had some competition from a couple of children on the way but after a daring leap across a water filled chasm that they could not traverse, victory was mine. I was swiftly rewarded by the sight of three Sandwich Terns flying in off the bay which then started to fish a few meters from where I stood. Of all our UK Tern species this is my favourite, so it was a real treat to get such great views.
The main reason for my eagerness to be the first across was the hope that I could reach the basking Grey Seals before they’d had chance to be disturbed. In this I was successful and I got to spend a peaceful quarter of an hour with just them and me.
The view looking out along the length of the Worm was as stunning as ever, and after a quick refuel I was back on my way.
At the very end, or as far as you can go during breeding season anyway, I plopped myself down on the ground and spent half an hour or so watching the sea. The air was absolutely crystal clear and the sea a dead calm meaning that I had clear views right out to the horizon. Gannets were passing by at the rate of one or two every five minutes whilst auks were far more regular. Given their small size I was only able to identify a couple as Guillemots. A trio of Fulmars on the other hand were much easier to pin down, but it looks like it is still a bit early for most of the birds to have arrived on the outer head. In a way that’s great news as I have a perfect excuse for a return visit in the not too distant future.