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wales_pembrokeshire

Atlantic Puffin Fraterculus arctica ©David Miller - from a sketch Website

Pembrokeshire (Welsh: Sir Benfro) is a county in the south west of Wales. It is a maritime county, bordered by the sea on three sides with borders with Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county is home to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only coastal national park of its kind in the United Kingdom. Over the years Pembrokeshire's beaches have been awarded many International Blue Flag Awards, Green Coast Awards and Seaside Awards. In 2011 it had 39 beaches recommended by the Marine Conservation Society. The county's coastline comprises internationally important seabird breeding sites.

Industry is focussed on agriculture and tourism but historically mining and fishing were important activities. The county has a diverse geography. Pembrokeshire's population was 122,400 (2011).

Pembrokeshire's wildlife is diverse, with marine, estuary, ancient woodland, moorland and farmland habitats all within the county. It is, in birding terms, mainly known for its coastal features, in particular islands such as Skomer, Skokholm, Grassholm and Ramsay.

In the 'Top Sites' section below are details on the very best birding sites in Pembrokeshire, but here are some other top birding localities in the county: Amroth [between Pendine and Saundersfoot] (Scoters galore). Caldey Island [from Tenby] (a few breeding auks & gulls, Choughs, etc.) Milford Haven [waterway] (waders , wildfowl, gulls, terns, etc.) St Annes Head (seawatching; a few breeding auks & gulls, etc.) Newgale/Solva (seawatching; Choughs, etc.) All the coast from St Davids to Strumble Head [Pembrokeshire Coast National Park]: (seawatching; breeding auks, gulls, choughs, etc.) Gwaun Valley [Nr Fishguard] (Western Woodland birds - Pied fly's, etc.) Newport /Nevern Estuary (waders, wildfowl, gulls, etc.) Llys Y Fran Reservoir (wildfowl, gulls, migrant waders, etc.).

Top Sites

Stack Rocks and Pen-y-Holt (Elegug Stacks)

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South of Pembroke Town on the B4319/4320 the access to the cliffs opposite the spectacular seabird colonies at Stack Rocks is open at weekends only except for the month of August when there is no firing on this MOD live firing range. Its a place to visit during the seabird breeding season May to late July in particular but many people visit just to look at the superb cliff scenery. The spring flowers can be stunning and there are usually Chough and Stonechat around. The nearby Bosheston Pools and Stackpole Head NNR is also worth a visit at any time of the year for ducks, heathland and woodland birds.

Strumble Head

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Strumble Head is three miles N W of Fishguard, via Goodwick. Probably Wales' best Seawatch site: Optimum conditions - strong westerlies. Vast numbers of Manx's, Storm Petrels, Gannets, etc. All four Skuas seen annually; Great, Cory's, Sooty and Med. Sheerwaters regular; also, Leach's Petrel [and, of course, one of Britain's only 2 or 3 land-observed Wilson's Petrels was sighted at Strumble].

Ramsay Island

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This RSPB reserve is accessed via St Justinians three miles west of St Davids but you must buy your tickets at the office in the centre of St Davids. The boats run most days and there is a daily limit of 80 people which means that it is possible to get well away from people quite easily and enjoy the wildlife. There are some nice seabird colonies on the west coast and several thousand Manx Shearwaters breeding but it is the large numbers of Chough (up to a dozen pairs) and Wheatear (over 100 pairs) which make the island quite special together with the abundant grey seals in the autumn when upwards of 600 pups are born on the numerous small beaches. The scrubby areas often harbour migrants and every year a few rarities turn up. Ramsey Island

Skomer Island

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Skomer has the largest colony of Manx Shearwaters in the world currently estimated at just over 300,000 pairs. There are also large colonies of Puffins, Guillemot, Razorbills, Kittiwake, Fulmar and all the large gulls and a small number of Storm Petrels. There are also breeding Short-eared owls, Peregrine, Chough and many other species and it is an excellent place for migrant birds and records many rarities every year. You are very unlikely to see Manxies during the day but there are often evening trips around the island when you can connect with some large rafts of these birds as they congregate before going ashore after dark.

Skomer is the most accessible island, open from 1st April to the end of September, and is very popular especially at peak periods from mid May to mid July when it is advisable to arrive at Martins Haven early in order to get a ticket. . No advance booking is possible and there is a daily limit of 250 which is reached most calm days in the peak period. Tickets are now issued at Lockley Lodge which is very near the beach on the mainland and this office usually opens at 0800hrs. The island landing fees (reserve entrance fees) are payable here (credit cards accepted) but the boat charge has to be paid in cash on the boat. There is a special boat just for overnight guests at 0900hrs most days but the day trip boats start at 1000hrs and continue at half hourly intervals until the peak numbers are reached. Off season the boat usually runs at 1000, 1100 and 1200hrs. There are no boats on Mondays except on bank holidays when the island is open. There are no catering facilities for day visitors on Skomer so it is essential to arrive with enough food and drink for the day - the first boat back to the mainland is at 1500hrs. More information at: http://www.welshwildlife.org/skomer-day-trip-2/ and at the boat web site - http://www.pembrokeshire-islands.co.uk/

You can stay on Skomer for one or more nights in the self catering accommodation and experience the amazing sights and sound of the huge colonies of shearwaters and get up close to the other seabirds. The birding is often much better early in the morning than later in the day and having the overnight experience is worth the effort - just contact the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales More Information Available Here

Martin's Haven

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Martins Haven is fourteen miles west of Haverfordwest (11 miles west of Milford Haven) along B roads which are mostly signposted to Dale from the major towns. The road branches off through Marloes Village just after crossing the small Gann estuary and is signposted "Skomer and Skokholm Embarkation" as well as "Marloes" - please drive carefully through the village. Martins Haven is the boarding point for boats to Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm; all are National Nature Reserves and famous for their seabird colonies. Also at Martins Haven is the Deer Park headland where you will almost certainly find Chough and get good views of the islands, the little valley can be a hot spot for migrant birds at the appropriate times of the year.

Skokholm Island

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Skokholm was the first Bird Observatory established in Britain in 1933 but lost its status in 1976. After recent refurbishment work the island has recently been re-accredited so that there is now a daily ringing programme alongside the systematic recording of the birds on the island. There are very large Manx Shearwater colonies here (around 50,000 pairs) and the largest colonies of Storm Petrels in southern Britain - it is almost certainly the easiest place in England and Wales to watch these birds around their colonies and the wardens have some special night vision equipment which can be used to observe the large colony at the Quarry.

There are no Kittiwakes here but large colonies of puffins (the Crab Bay colony is one of the most spectacular in southern Britain) and cliff nesting Guillemot, Razorbill and Fulmar. The island regularly plays host to migrant birds including many rarities over the years and the regular ringing activity ensures that visitors can often see birds at close quarters. Other breeding birds include Chough, Peregrine, Buzzard , Wheatear and Oystercatcher and large colonies of gulls. The wardens supervise some interesting studies which visitors can get involved with.

There are no day visits to Skokholm but you can stay on the island for periods of three, four or more days in the comfortable self catering accommodation - there is a small shop on the island. Boat change over days are Friday and Mondays and leave Martins Haven early in the morning - usually at 0800hrs so visitors have to plan to be at the embarkation point around 0700hrs to get everything onto the jetty and park cars etc. More Information Available Here

Grassholm Island

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Grassholm is eleven miles offshore, an RSPB reserve and one of the largest colonies of Gannets in the world at just over 40,000 pairs, is a spectacular sight, sound and smell experience. No landing is now allowed on the reserve but there are regular boat trips from St Justinians (near St Davids) and from Martins Haven when the weather is suitable for an offshore passage. Its not a cheap trip but can be a fantastic experience often encountering pods of dolphins and, especially if you join an evening trip, large numbers of Manx Shearwaters. You can book through Dale Sailing on 01646 601636 see above websiter or through the official RSPB boat operators on 01437 721721

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Sightings

Contributor

Steve Sutcliffe

Top Sites

stevesutcliffe@lineone.net

Eric Wydenbach

ericwyd@hotmail.com

County Recorder

Stephen Berry (Joint Recorder)

The Old Mill, Llanychaere, Pembrokeshire SA65 9TB

01348 875604

stephen.berry16@btinternet.com

Jon Green (Joint Recorder, Rarities)

Crud Yr Awel, Bowls Road, Blaenporth, Ceredigion SA43 2AR

01239 811561

jonrg@tiscali.co.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 354

Checklist

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Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Broad Haven - Hafan Bilidowcar Self-catering

Accommodation

Puffin Way, Broad Haven, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA62 3HP Luxury Self Catering Holiday Accommodation in West Wales

St Brides Bay Cottages

Accommodation

All the cottages are situated within easy reach of the spectacular sweep of St. Bride's Bay, with its beautiful sandy beaches, magnificent coast path and nearby island bird sanctuaries.

Broad Haven - Keens Cottage at Timber Hill

Accommodation

Welcome to KeensCottage, our self-catering holiday home at Timber Hill, which is situated near Broad Haven in Pembrokeshire and stands within the boundaries of the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Broad Haven - Timber Hill Holiday Cottage

Accommodation

You'll find Timber Hill in a beautiful setting near to the popular resort of Broad Haven on West Wales' Atlantic coast. The detached cedar wood lodges are attractively placed on the southern facing slopes adjoining the farmhouse, with views over the peaceful hills and valley. Set within 130 acres of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Timber Hill has been designed by the family who own and run it to cater for those who wish to enjoy the tranquil surroundings in this, one of the most beautiful counties in Wales. It is an ideal centre for exploring the whole of Pembrokeshire.

Organisations

The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales

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The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK. We are the fourth largest in area, covering from Cardiff and Caerphilly in the east to Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire in the west, and include 3 of the West Wales islands amongst our 90 or so nature reserves - Nature Centre, Parc Slip, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan CF32 0EH…

Pembrokeshire Bird Group

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We have recently set up a website in the form of a blog for the Pembrokeshire Bird Group. It has info about the group, birding sites in Pembrokeshire and links to bird sightings in Pembrokeshire, etc…

Reserves

Ramsey Island RSPB

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The characteristic island birds all nest here- auks, kittiwakes, shearwaters, peregrines, choughs, ravens, lapwings, wheatears and many more. Large numbers of birds, including many unusual species, rest briefly on the island during the spring and autumn migrations. Ramsey Island is now free of rats and mice, which means that ground-nesting birds like wheatears and burrow-nesting seabirds like Manx shearwaters can breed safely.

Skomer Island

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The 730-or-so acres (292 hectares) of Skomer offer extremely important breeding grounds for a great variety of seabirds. This fact is recognised in Skomer having been made a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area under European Law…

Skokholm Island NNR

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The wildlife year starts in March when Manx Shearwaters begin their return to Skokholm. Nearly 50,000 pairs breed in burrows all over the island. They are remarkable seabirds that spend the Welsh winter on the food rich waters off the coast of South America completing an epic 14,000 mile round journey to Skokholm each year.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

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Although many of us associate Pembrokeshire with the puffin, for birdwatchers it is more significant because of its population of rare birds, such as the chough.

Grassholm RSPB

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The island comes alive in early spring, with gannets returning to the island from late February onwards. The air is filled with males returning with nesting materials keen to establish territory ready to attract a female. A single egg is laid in April and chicks begin to hatch in early June. The chicks are then fed by both parents for 90 days until they are fully grown and ready to leave the island in late August and throughout September.

Blogs

Pembrokeshire Birds

Blog

…the only site on the web specifically for recording bird sightings in Pembrokeshire… run by Richard Crossen