I woke with shipwrecks on the brain Sunday morning which isn’t as unusual for me as it might sound. With another gorgeous day forecast and a very low tide mid afternoon I decided a fourth attempt at photographing the City of Bristol wreck in Rhossili bay was definitely the way to go. Regular readers may remember my previous views of the ship have been limited to tantalising glimpses through the waves, but this time I was determined to get more. Thankfully I set off in good time as the summer traffic was in full flow whilst the beach resembled something more akin to the Costa del Sol than Gower.

27620 - Rhossili Beach, Gower

Dodging games of tennis and rugby that were sporadically breaking out, I made my way along the sweeping curve of Rhossili beach. It was nice to see a couple of this years Herring Gull chicks amongst the gathered gulls, presumably the only birds that could withstand being constantly disturbed. I was pleased to see a couple of Gannets out on the horizon as well as a thin passage of Manx Shearwaters heading north, whilst on the sand an occasional Carrion Crow was observed picking off various crustaceans left exposed by the retreating waters. Given their relative abundance Crows are a species I have yet to satisfactorily photograph so I took full advantage of a particularly tame individual.

27641 - Carrion Crow, Rhossili
27638 - Carrion Crow, Rhossili

At this point the City of Bristol was just starting to break through its watery cover but there was still over an hour to go before low tide. Taking a gamble that I wouldn’t miss the critical moment I pushed on to the tidal island of Burry Holms. It’s been ages since I last made it there which is a real shame as you get great views down the Bury Inlet from its ancient fort.

27625 - View from Burry Holms

It was the insect life this time which really grabbed the attention though with Meadow Browns once again very numerous. It was while waiting for one to settle that I caught sight of an unusual butterfly which I hadn’t seen before. With two pairs of wings overlapping each other and a very hairy body, the Skipper family immediately came to mind. After checking my reference books that initial hunch has proved to be correct. I present to you my first Large Skipper.

27628 - Large Skipper, Burry Holms
27630 - Large Skipper, Burry Holms

The flowers upon which it was feeding were also holding hundreds of red Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva). Although not a new species for me it’s the first time I’ve taken the time to properly photograph and identify them. They were pretty amorous as you can probably see.

27627 - Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva)

With my time up it was a mad dash back along the beach to catch the City of Bristol as she gave all she was going to. It was worth the effort as far more of her remains were visible than I have ever seen, including a section stretching away towards Worms Head that I had not previously known to exist. It’s all so tantalising that I am sorely tempted to snorkel the wreck one day to try and see just how much is down there.

27636 - City of Bristol Shipwreck, Rhossili

I wasn’t the only one interested in her as a visiting holiday maker took the effort to walk well over a quarter of a mile to where I was standing to ask if I knew what it was. Fortunately I was armed for just such an occasion having recently researched her history for my Gower Shipwrecks website. I sent him away with the address but I think some business cards are in order as it’s certainly not the first time I have needed to give someone details of my web presence when out in the field.


Gillian Olson · July 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Lovely scenes, love that Skipper, beautiful shots.

Caroline Gill · July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I also saw my first Large Skipper this year. They really are quite special! Thinking of business cards, I particularly like the ones you can make on the Photobox site. They may not be the cheapest, but they look great!

Sondra · July 27, 2012 at 2:34 am

what thrill to see that bit sticking out of the water…
Love the birds n skippers, and the landscapes are awesome too.

Adam Tilt · August 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Gillian – thanks.

Caroline – I'll have a look at Photobox thanks.

Sondra – I love a good shipwreck. This is just one of many along our coast.

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