Monday 5 October 2020

A week on safari in Pembrokeshire

The Safari recently had the good fortune to be able to spend a wonderful week of wildlifing in sometimes sunny  sometimes windy Pembrokeshire.

On the way down we spotted a few Red Kites. All except this quite distant one were at places we couldn't stop and pull off the road. Still great to see and moves our Photo Year List Challenge along to 178.

Our next stop was at New Quay famed for its Bottlenose Dolphins which we saw way out in the bay unfortunately far too far away to even think about getting any pics. Just beyond the harbour breakwater a Razorbill floated out with the tide.
Meanwhile a couple of lads fishing next to us were catching plenty of Mackerel for their suppers, giving us Vertebrate #179 for our Challenge - not exactly in its natural habitat is it.

With no joy committing the dolphins to the SD card it was time to move on and meet up with our friend and host for the week RL at his isolated cottage where wildlife abounds. He also knows some super and some fairly secret sites to go wildlifing.

Strumble Head where we headed on our first day out is hardly a secret. We saw plenty of Harbour Porpoises (PYLC #180) and a handful of impossible to photograph Common Dolphins but totally dipped the small pod of Risso's Dolphins that came through just beyond the tidal rip.

The rocky sheer cliffs are ideal for Shags of which we saw quite a few (PYLC #181)

Also at home on the cliffs are those most enigmatic of the crow family, Choughs (PYLC #182)

Out and about during the rest of the week we came across the following species of vertebrates
Palmate Newt

Manx Shearwater


Brent Goose



Brown Trout

That lot took our Challenge tally to 189. we had a chance of getting a bat species or two around the cottage but the plummeting temperatures compared to the previous week meant there was little bat activity. We also had a stealth cam set up along the track through the woods baited with peanuts in the hope that a Badger or two might pass by but again no such luck.

We did get taken to see a well used Badger sett in a place that surely hasn't been trodden by humans since the colossal stones of the impressive Pentre Ifan neolithic burial chamber were put in position.

The capstone weighs in at about 15 tons and is only balanced on the very tips of three uprights - it looks precarious but since it's stood  for around 5000 years so far it probably ain't going anywhere soon! The stones are the local Preseli Bluestone the same stuff that Stonehenge is made from. Makes you wonder what idiot came up with the idea "I know where we can get some great big heavy stones from - don't worry it's not THAT far away" then what about the other idiots who agreed with them "Oh OK we'll go and get them you stop here and draw the plan out on the ground"

Reptiles were high on the wish list too - we always like a scaly thing and RL has an impressive knack of finding them and so it was he found us no end of Common Lizards and two Adders, one of which was soaking up some much needed sunshine right only inches from the edge of a major path yards from the car park.

Taken with our phone

But it was a case of Adders 2 - Others 0 Try as we might we couldn't find any Grass Snakes or Slow  Worms despite several known spots being given a thorough searching.
R's pond is full to busting with Palmate Newts but again the colsd weather was having a seriously negative affect on them resulting in only a few small juveniles being found until the final night when an agult was disvovered climbing the vegetation at the base of a shrub. Clearing a patch of his pond and doing a bit of pond dipping also gave us an eft or newtlet/tadpole.
Juvenile on walkabout

The 'eft' in a Brain Jar

Love those feathery gills

The unspotted chin is diagnostic - see also earlier pic of it being wrangled to show the chin better

In no particular order here are some more pics from our week
Ponies are used to graze the cliffs to break up Bracken and Gorse thickets to provide more niches for wildflowers and feeding opportunities for the Choughs

Strumble Head lighthouse

A random Bar Headed Goose on a river estuary - probably hasn't recently flown over the Himalayas
Horribly distant Kittiwakes
Horribly distant Manx Shearwater - same individual as earlier

Horribly distant Kingfisher but a great spot by R

Horribly distant Brent Geese - there seemed to be a decent proportion of juveniles in the flock which is good

Curlew on the River Teifi

Chough - the same individual as earlier
A bit of welcome sunshine brought out a few butterflies like this Comma basking in an attempt to warm up
Rock Pipit nice and close

Guess who heard the camera!

Female Chaffinch

Flock of Gannets - one such flock of hundreds

Gannet - about the closest one we saw

Five legged Field Grasshopper

Grey Seal - rarer than African Elephants

Juvenile Grey Seal

Knot Grass moth caterpillar

A Land Hopper - similar to the Sand Hoppers found under seaweed on the beach but a terrestrial species, one we've not seen before

Leucistic female Chaffinch - a regular visitor to R's feeders


Little Grebe - they were everywhere, never seen so many in a week before

Marsh Tit

Migrant Hawker

A different one just a few feet away

Phone-scoped Moon - failed miserably to get a pic of Saturn which was showing really well as were Jupiter and Mars - - Dark Skies are a real boon

Old Ash tree - no Tawny Owls in it although there were plenty nearby

Ringed China Mark - a new moth for us - - sadly cold nights prevented us from doing any of the planned moth trapping sessions

Siskin - the first on R's feeders for several months

As with most of the bird feeder photos taken through the kitchen window

Where's all my breakfast gone? - Taken by R

Distant Stonechat - plenty about today but none of them very confiding

Water Buffalo - marshland grazers extraordinaire

And finally Llys-y-fran reservoir at dusk

We hope you've enjoyed our quick spin round Pembrokeshire and the wildlife the country has to offer. Really needed two weeks and a some better weather there's loads of the county we didn't even get close too...Maybe next year.....
Where to next? Some Siberians to tell you about

In the meantime let us know who's chewing all the grass in your outback.
Stay safe stay socially distant and get out and enjoy your local wildlife, it'll do you the world of good.