A couple of weeks ago we headed West to Bosherston and the Stackpole Estate in search of Otters, birds and whatever else chose to cross our path. Normally our visits here are during mid-winter so it was a bit of a shock to the system to find the car park manned and hordes of people heading down to the beach. And who could blame them? The weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny and in truth I’ve never seen the place looking quite as good as this.
There were good numbers of lilies in flower and we certainly had plenty of time to enjoy them as we alternated our attention between several shoals of fish (Roach I think) and a collection of dragonflies scooting across the water’s surface. Common Darters were most numerous but there were also at least three Emperors patrolling territory along the path. The problem was that none of them were settling for more than a couple of seconds at a time so when the opportunity arose I had to take it. Well worth the wait I think.
That kind of kicked off an insect frenzy with Crickets and Harvestmen all spotted before we reached the dunes behind Broad Haven beach. The sudden change from thickly wooded valleys to wide, open expanses of sand in just a few footsteps always catches me off guard and it was here, in this transitional landscape, that we stumbled across a dense concentration of Butterflies.
First up were Peacocks, Red Admirals and Gatekeepers before we struck gold with a Wall Brown. The last time I saw this species was several years ago, in Pembrokeshire actually, and with their population crashing across the country this was a welcome sight indeed. It was even living up to their reputation of basking on walls though in this case the structure was less man made and more a huge slab of Welsh limestone.
There were also two species of Blue present with Common Blue being the most numerous (both males and females) plus a pair of Little Blues mating. The latter is another species I see all too rarely and I don’t think we could have asked for better views than this. Saying that though my second Common Blue shot is probably my favourite butterfly photo yet.
Birds up until this point had been a little sparse on the ground, again to be expected for this time of year. Give it a few months and waterfowl species including Goldeneye should be back in force but for now we were left with just a few Moorhens, Mallards and the ever present Grey Herons. You can usually rely on a couple of Choughs along this stretch of coast though and as I looked up from the butterflies we spied a pair of these black beauties on the skyline.
This wasn’t to be our only sighting either with an impressive flock of six Choughs over Stackpole Warren and another pair out on Stackpole Head. Only the latter were close enough for a photo but what a place to perch up.
Other species along the stretch of coast to Barafundle included a couple of Wheatears, Linnets, Buzzard and even a Gannet soaring in close to the cliffs. An occasional Fulmar mixed things up with the commoner Gull species and provided a suitable foreground against some of the best scenery Wales has to offer. There were even a few Moths about which I think we have keyed out to an Ear species of some sort.
Heading back inland from Stackpole Quay (still the most audacious harbour I’ve ever seen) we waited for a while at eight arch bridge in the hope of spying an Otter. Given the quantity of footfall our hopes weren’t high and we ended up drawing a blank, but just a short distance away we turned up both a Spotted Flycatcher and one lone Wigeon. Whether or not the latter has stayed throughout the summer or if it’s the start of autumn migration I can’t be sure but an interesting record nonetheless. Together they would have probably taken top bird of the day had it not been for a family of young Wrens feeding along one of the weirs. The abundance of insects was clearly a major attraction and best of all the birds had absolutely no fear at our presence. In fact at times they came so close that I couldn’t get the camera to focus and I ended up having probably my best wildlife encounter of the year. You simply can’t fail to be captivated when nature allows you in to its world like this.
We finished our day off by scooping up a couple of Geocaches on the estate that we’d yet to bag and then it was off home for a well earned rest. Great day in an excellent part of the world.