Before Waxwing fever gripped us a couple of weekends ago we’d already had quite a successful days birding and walking at Bosherston lily ponds in Pembrokeshire. It seems like an absolute age since we were last there, a visit which sticks in the mind due to the then drought conditions and extremely low water levels. As UK readers will know drought is not something that we’re currently suffering from, so it came as no surprise to find the ponds full to bursting with several of their low bridges completely submerged. Given our plan was for a circular loop that meant at some point we were in for a paddle.
We started by heading down to the coast along a route lined with Robins, several of which were sufficiently tame to take a seed from Emma’s hand. There was also a sizeable flock of Long Tailed Tits and a couple of Goldcrests, but the real interest was to be found out on the water where several Goldeneye were fishing. We counted six females and four males along with a single Pochard which was closely associating with the group. Our attention was soon taken however by a splash and the appearance of an Otters head. It was gone again in the blink of an eye only to reappear a little further out complete with fish in mouth. That was soon devoured and an even bigger fish produced in what must be excellent hunting grounds. Instead of getting stuck in though the Otter swam directly to the opposite shore where it submerged and didn’t reappear. I presume it has a burrow in the bank there which is the first time I’ve been able to identify such a site. It was also the first time I’ve managed to see the Otters in the morning as past encounters have always taken place late afternoon or at dusk. The one constant was a lack of light so no photos this time, but you can watch videos from previous sightings here and here.
As the views above show, we were being treated to some very pleasant early morning sun but the dark clouds gave a hint that all was not to be plain sailing. Nevertheless we carried on and soon came to Broad Haven where the stream that drains the pools was more of a raging torrent than the gentle trickle we are used to. Fortunately the bridge that crosses it was clear of water and we were soon enjoying the solitude of a Welsh beach in winter.
A pair of Choughs feeding on the hillside was a nice find as we headed round to Stackpole Head, as were the Ravens that noisily flew past. Slightly less welcome was the prevailing smell of petrol which hung heavy in the still, cool air. The nearest oil refinery is several miles away from Bosherston but conditions must have been perfect to spread its odour in our direction. Thankfully after a few spectacular showers it cleared but it makes you wonder what those who live a lot closer have to put up with.
On Stackpole Head itself I was delighted to find at least thirty Guillemots perched on a ledge beneath us. They were making the most of a large horizontal crack which allowed them to be almost completely sheltered from the elements whilst maintaining a view out over the ocean. The vast majority were in full plumage including a single Bridled Guillemot. Although these are a colour morph rather than a separate sub-species I still look out for them each year and this was my first for 2012. Talk about leaving it late.
Another couple of Choughs at Stackpole Quay kept us ticking along until we found twelve Goosander up from the eight arch bridge. They kept their distance but showed extremely well along with a couple of Teal and four Little Grebes. A few Cormorants drying their wings and a perched Buzzard rounded off the days birding before finally we were faced with the prospect of wading across a submerged bridge to reach the car. I’m amazed to say that despite being ankle deep neither of our boots let in a drop of moisture. In fact they were so watertight that it took effort to force them through the water such was their buoyancy. Needless to say Mammut definitely get my recommendation if you are in the market for new footwear.