Thursday, 14 November 2013

Pembrokeshire- Autumn 2013

I have never been to Pembrokeshire in the Autumn before! So as you could expect, a week away was highly anticipated! We were staying in the freshwater east area and i spent much of the week searching the surrounding area.

Soon after arrival out our beach-side temporary home i was already picking up birds, with 4 Sanderling scurrying along the shoreline close to some fishermen. All of them being juvenile's and these were the first of many over the week. 5 GBBG were also on the sand with a Shag out in the bay.

The next morning i was itching to get out, so i was out at 6:30am, and was soon ammassing a healthy list of species, a 1st winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL spent some time on the Beach before flying off, as did a winter plumaged BAR-TAILED GODWIT and a single juvenile Sanderling.

As time progressed, and having had little luck on the cliffs (No seabirds moving other than Gannets) i moved back down onto the Beach, where a juvenile Sanderling was showing, which as the tide increased became more and more confiding. After a patient wait, this superb arctic wader approached within 15ft of where i was sat, giving superb and intimate views!

Nice view isnt it.

The Sanderling remained all day on the Beach, moving out on the tide then moving back in again. Another wader highlight was soon given when a WHIMBREL fly over calling, as did an Oystercatcher and eventually 2 CHOUGH were seen over the hillside.

The next morning i awoke with optimism again, and i was out searching the area from early on in the morning and i was rewarded with a superb range of species. By far the standout species was that of a superb SABINE'S GULL which hung around offshore for around 15 minuites with a large flock of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Gulls, with 11 SANDWICH TERN'S, 20 Fulmar, 5 MANX SHEARWATER and the same 1st winter MED GULL as yesterday! Hows about that for a bit of seawatching! There was a massive movement of Hirudines and easily 2000 Swallow, House and Sand Martin flew over, all going south and straight out to sea! Watching them skimming only a flew feet over the top of the headland before dropping down to sea level was breathtaking! A TREE PIPIT put on a similar preformance heading straight south calling. Actually on the headland it was quieter, with a single Stonechat, 2 Whitethroat and i flushed a GREY PARTRIDGE while walking through waist high foliage.

Here was the view from my self designated 'Seawatching spot'.

A brief watch later in the day around 12:30 revealed a dark morph ARCTIC SKUA was followed the coast heading SE.
A small flock of Gannets entered the bay, and i tried to take some digi-scoped flight shots,

Again, a nice early start had me out scouring the clifftops. The Hirudine passage was still going incredibly strong with 1000+ Swallows and about even numbers of House and Sand Martin at around 100 birds. 'Alba' Wagtails were also on the move, and 50 flew over, as did a measly 20 Meadow Pipit. In contrast to yesterday, there was very little seabird activity and an after an hour I gave up and scoured the gorse. I had closer views of the CHOUGH pair, but could not locate their feeding area. It was while doing this I heard the 'raspy' call of a Dunlin as one wizzed past over my head. Passerines were still a little hard to come by, but 2 Whitethroat and 2 Stonechat were found. Late in the day, 3 Sanderling came up on the tide, but didn't hang around for long!
A visit into Tenby town always produces Rock Pipits and I wasn't disappointed when I found 3 birds on the south beach.
Do you know those days where you really couldn't ask for much better? That one day where the slightest bit of dampness in the air and a little fog and every bush seems to have some sort of life in it. These next two days certainly lived up to that expectation, not because of the rarity of what was seen, but just for that feeling of interaction you get when you come face to face with a variety of migrants, that you know in just a few weeks would be flying across oceans, plains, deserts and countries to reach their wintering ground. That brief moment when you can almost feel that slight feeling of anxiety, that desperation to move onto pastures new.
Quickly I found 3 SPOTTED FLYCATCHER doing exactly as their name implies, flycatching off a wire fence along a hawthorn hedge only 50ft from the sea, obviously waiting for that moment to launch themselves off towards Cornwall of beyond. In the fields adjacent to this hedge, 5 WHEATEAR and at least 40 WHITE WAGTAIL were scurrying around, relentlessly searching for sustenance for its upcoming journey. Multiple Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Goldcrests, Constant streams of Linnet, Goldfinch, 'Alba' Wagtails and Meadow Pipits overhead.

A late evening jaunter on the beach was rewarded by a flythrough flock of 15 Dunlin.
If the previous day had been good, today was brilliant! 'Our' SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were still hanging on, but had been joined by a 4th bird overnight, and the hedge was absolutely teeming. 5 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaff, a Whitethroat and multiple Goldcrests were also flitting from the hedge to the wire fence, obviously a prime feeding spot. The adjacent horse paddock was similarly teeming, but with Wagtails, Pipits and Goldfinch. 30 White Wagtail remained, with small flocks of Meadow Pipits in the weeds (Although 150+ flew over) and 50 Goldfinch were feeding on Thistles.

A very good start and I quickly had itchy feet to search the rest of the coastline. A LESSER WHITETHROAT was feeding on Trewent Point, and I was briefly exited as I saw a black 'mask',blue head and a peach breast perched on the top of a hawthorn. Shrike flashed through my mind but a change of viewpoint revealed the head on bird to be a male WHEATEAR, 3 others (totalling 4) were present in more typical habitat.

6 Stonechats were found, but my personal highlight was when a bright orange autumn male REDSTART perched on a wire fence, only feet from the cliff face. Within a minute, the bird had flicked of and down the cliff face not to be seen again. Migration in Action!
And finally, after nearly 5 days, I finally located the CHOUGH feeding area, and I was treated to stunning views of the pair as they fed in a paddock!

On returning back to Freshwater East, 9 SANDWICH TERN were feeding in the bay and spent about 30 minutes doing so before flying off again. Small numbers of Gannets were also following a similar routine. Just to add to the total of 'Sarnies', much later in the day 2 more flew in and perched distantly on a Boyd.

The final day of the holiday was a brief stop at Saundersfoot, where another 3 SANDWICH TERNS were feeding, with 40 Gannet, 2 Rock Pipit and a Grey Wagtail!


Mike T said...

Great blog Craig, what an array of birds you managed.Particularly liked the videos, the Sanderling is so pretty and as for the Chough, magic bird full of character.Also liked your seawatching point, reminded me that I was walking those distant cliffs 3 weeks ago.

midlands birder said...

Cheers Mike. I was truly privileged to get such close views of the Sanderling, as you say, a stunning looking bird!
I love that part of Wales and as you say, a simple landscape photo brings back so many memories, Stackpole that you can see in the distance being one of my favorite sites!