Martin’s Haven is, for all intents and purposes, a fairly innocuous looking cove located on Pembrokeshire’s Dale Peninsula. If not for nearby Skomer island I doubt many of us would even have heard of it but with daily sailings across to the wildlife mecca it sees its fair share of footfall throughout the year.
Having arrived a couple of hours early for our own Skomer adventure we had plenty of time to kill and spent much of it exploring the rocky foreshore and neighbouring twentieth century Deer Park (a failed venture I might add). First port of call though were the toilets, not far any relief following a long journey but instead to watch the Swallows which build their nests within. Having these birds flying inches from your head or seeing a row of youngsters peering out of their nest whilst you do your business is certainly an interesting experience and one that raises even more eyebrows should you try and whip out a camera to capture the spectacle for prosperity. I can’t imagine why. Thankfully there was no need for such antics on this occasion as the adults were still in the relatively early stages of nest building and were happy to spend time perched outside in the early morning sun. Watching them preen and chatter away to each other was an excellent way to start the day and I ended up getting my best photos of the species to date.
Up at the Deer Park there were even more Swallows feeding along with a noisy yet mobile family of Stonechats. I tried my best to get a photo of one of the youngsters but only managed a shot of its back. A real shame as the lighting was superb as well. The Linnets were playing their usual trick of taking flight just as I got near and although heard the local Choughs remained invisible. No such problem with this Whitethroat which had a rather juicy caterpillar for its breakfast. In fact my first thought was that it may have been returning to a nest but if it had any intentions in that direction they were soon abandoned for the sake of a quick meal.
Also about were a couple of relatively pure looking Rock Doves and we couldn’t resist taking in our first views of Skomer island itself. In the turbulent waters between we could pick out hundreds of Guillemots and Puffins plus a couple of Kittiwakes and distant Gannets.
With appetites suitably whetted it was back down to Martin’s Haven where even the boat slipway offered a wealth of wildlife treats. The first was a nice collection of Lackey Moth caterpillars still on the characteristic webbing which protects them from predation during their early development. I’ve never seen this anywhere else apart from Pembrokeshire, and even there not for a couple of years, so it was nice to find these. As a side note what at first glance may appear to be smaller black caterpillars are in fact shed skins discarded through a process known as moulting. Caterpillars do this several times as they grow.
There were also a couple of interesting plants about including Navelwort and Sea Thrift. Both can be found in good abundance around Martin’s Haven and their inclusion here shows that my path into the world of botany continues apace.
In the end we only just managed to squeeze everything in before it was time to board the Dale Princess and head for Skomer. It did remind me however how much I enjoy exploring this stretch of coastline and we’ll try and get back for a much longer walk before the year is out.