After being virtually cooked alive in the office yesterday I was in need of some fresh air and a walk along the cliffs from Rhossili seemed like the perfect prescription. What I hadn’t expected was the massive increase in wind that had occurred throughout the day, strong enough to rock the car on its suspension when we arrived. Fortunately it was still relatively warm and after a quick picnic we made our way out to the head and found a sheltered spot to sit and watch the world go by.
Almost the very first birds to appear were a family of Dunnocks consisting of two parents and two continually begging youngsters. The latter soon disappeared into cover but the parents stayed around as they hunted for food and sang to defend their territory.
A preening Meadow Pipit and incredibly loud and vocally varied Song Thrush were up next before the familiar call of a Linnet pricked my ears. I tracked it down to a colourful male perched on one of the old stone walls. I’d like to say that I tried to be arty with the next photo by keeping the bird small in the frame, but in reality we all know my complete lack of success in getting close to this species and that it was just an attempt to get at least a record shot under my belt. Even so the red plumage is shown to great effect.
Besides the smaller birds our position also gave us commanding views across the water towards Fall Bay and beyond. I’d been hoping that today would be the day that I finally saw my first Gannets of the year, a wish that was fulfilled only a few minutes later. Two adult birds came gliding in from our right and quickly wowed us with dives straight down into the sea, quickly followed by at least three more further out. That triggered a steady passage of Gannets for the next half an hour or so which were soon joined by hundreds of Manx Shearwaters heading west. The low sun caught their pale undersides perfectly as they veered from side to side giving that classic black and white flash that I’ve come to love over the years. If I could have been on the small yacht that was right in the middle of all this action then I think I may have died and gone to heaven. Still, at least the only Fulmar we saw was closer to us than them.
Leaving our oasis of calm we once again faced into the wind for the walk back up to Rhossili and the car. We chose to follow the wall closely and found another relatively sheltered spot that was again busy with birds. A couple of Linnets made their anticipated pre-emptive dash for cover while we enjoyed watching a male Wheatear hunting for food, but it was this Meadow Pipit that proved to be incredibly photogenic.
I’d have been happy with that photo alone had it not been for a tame male Stonechat that then sat up in a nearby Gorse bush. As it chatted away I crept into position for some great views and got to add a few more classics to my burgeoning Stonechat collection. Of all the birds we see around Wales these are undoubtedly amongst my favourites.
There was also an added bonus in the shape of two Chough near the old fort. One hovered directly above us as it attempted to head into the wind before turning and disappearing in seconds.
Despite all this activity there were still a couple of signs that tell of our delayed spring this year. The major one was that the House Martins don’t seem to have returned to the Worms Head hotel yet and the other was the still limited growth of Bracken. The latter is to be applauded but it will be interesting to see if there are any longer lasting effects in the coming months.